Billy (James Jowett) and Alex (Andrew Roberts-Palmer) share opinions and play games to while away the time – being imprisoned in separate cells. Rob Johnston’s new play seems to argue that a totalitarian would repress human development to such an extent that going on would be pointless. But it is hard to be sure of this, as his ideas and arguments feel second hand being communicated in a script full of slogans and quotations. The third act, offering a metaphysical resolution, feels completely bolted on.
The Myth of Escape is more successful in exploring modern isolation. Although they talk to each other the characters are prevented from making a physical connection. Director John Garfield Roberts uses this aspect of the play to generate a much – needed sense of paranoia and tension. Although the actors share a stage we imagine the walls that separate the characters they play. Garfield Roberts utilises the restless energy of the caged by having the cast aggressively circle around each other whilst never making eye contact – they remain locked in themselves.
A good cast is inhibited by the limitations of the script that pushes them towards stereotypes. Jowett gives a sense of the inarticulate class rage that lies under Billy’s cheeky chappie exterior. Roberts-Palmer brings gravity and a sense of loss to the grieving Alex. But the Kafkaesque nature of the play never reveals why he has been imprisoned so it is hard to see his function as much more than a plot device.
Ironically, bearing in mind the subject matter, The Myth of Escape fails to communicate effectively.