In 1970, Billy Hayes was imprisoned for attempting to smuggle cannabis out of Istanbul. In this production, the man himself recounts his experiences in prison, their psychological impact and his various escape plans, which culminate in an incredible feat which has since inspired an Oscar-winning movie. His story is utterly and unequivocally remarkable; one feels privileged as an audience member to be taken with him on this expansive, retrospective journey.
Billy Hayes is an incredible man with an even more incredible story.
The show’s power comes almost exclusively from the events described. Hayes is a good performer, but not outstanding. Likewise, his writing style is unexceptional, his use of language working purely as a vehicle for the story. Changes in lighting states are clumsy and unnecessary: his audience simply doesn’t need the colour of the room to switch from red to blue as the night of his escape is described, for Hayes’ words are far more vibrant than the space they inhabit.
There is little else to say without simply describing Hayes’ story, which is to ruin what makes this show so compelling. Billy Hayes is an incredible man with an even more incredible story. Even given the imperfect nature of this retelling, his performance is captivating from start to finish.