Marcus Hercules, Artistic Director of Hercules Productions, is the one-man wonder behind Prison Games, currently live on-stage at The Pleasance in north London having previouslybeen performed on line and at many other venues since 2013, including schools, universities and various secure units.
a powerful story that speaks for itself
Hercules includes those places on his tour and availability for a very good reason; he might just resonate with someone and change that person’s life. He developed the show by reading accounts of people’s experiences in institutions and the effects that such places have on their lives and those close to them. He doesn’t preach, but he tells a powerful story that speaks for itself.
He bounces onto the stage full of Caribbean energy, engaging with us collectively and individually. He presses the immersive button and we are all on his side telling our names and being made to feel that we are all friends and in this together. Then comes the dramatic change from carnival to the tale of the family that left their island for the promise of a bright future in the colonial homeland and the young boy who decades later becomes the focus of a tragedy.
A car accident sparks the boy’s decline but it is the system, his older brother and the associated wheeler-dealer merchants who ensure his rapid descent down the seemingly inevitable spiral of criminality and custodial sentences. Not that he doesn’t try to remove himself from the circle that will define his life; it’s just that he’s trapped inside it. Ultimately he becomes institutionalised to the point at which prison becomes a secure and safe home and release to the outside world seems alien.
If it sounds heavy, it’s not. Hercules infuses the story with moments of comedy, dance, song and movement in a performance that is dominated by its physicality. He creates characters with his face, movements and range of voices that become recognisable and familiar as the story progresses.
Prison Games ends abruptly, like the lives of those who listen to the judge’s sentence being read in court or the person who ends up in a grave. That is the reality of life and death on the streets and Hercules has captured it very well.