Hercules Productions with HOME Manchester and Pleasance
Marcus Hercules's self-penned solo piece is about Mike Johnson, growing up in Manchester, but actually begins when May Johnson emigrated to England in 1952 and sent for her kids later, two at a time.
Jumping forward, Mike is the youngest of a single-parent family, missing his dad being there to give him encouragement and advice. His older brother Clive is fed up of him and his mates being arrested on 'sus' and is talking about "getting militant" and going on protest marches, to his mother's horror. After an accident that keeps him off school for six months, Mike is kept back a year. Then he arrested for something he didn't do and sentenced to two years in a youth offenders' institute, which sets him on a path for the rest of his life.
Despite the title, most of the story doesn't actually take place in prison. After getting out, he joins a dance school and has a girlfriend, but he puts his trust in TQ, whom he calls a "father figure" but is clearly using young people for his various criminal activities. Mike ends up involved in a robbery, for which he is sentenced to 12 years in an adult prison. There, he decides he is going to rule the roost and rejects his brother's pleas to behave and get back to his mother as soon as he can.
Hercules's performance is certainly impressive, as he creates a host of easily distinguishable characters with just his voice and body. He has whole conversations with himself as different characters without needing to narrate between to make clear who is speaking.
The plot is rather thin, leaping from one incident to the next, sometimes with years in-between, without showing any in a great deal of depth as there are too many things happening to this person to show them all in any real detail. Some editing would undoubtedly benefit a potential interesting and possibly important story.
There are some parts that look as though they are intended as audience participation, which Hercules performs to imaginary people, as no audience is present. Visually, the recording, against a plain, black backdrop, is clear enough, but the sound seems to be recorded from the back of the room, as there is some room ambiance throughout and when he drops his voice it is very difficult to make his words out at all.
Overall, this is a piece with some great moments but which doesn't yet hang together as a complete story, but there is a great physical and vocal performance from Hercules, some of which would undoubtedly work better with a live audience present.
Reviewer: David Chadderton