Riding the Midnight Express with Billy Hayes

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.

Reviews by Megan Dalton

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Riding the Midnight Express with Billy Hayes

★★★★
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Performances

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The Blurb

First he wrote the best-selling book, then the Oscar winning movie. Now Billy Hayes recounts his riveting, epic journey of self-discovery, live on stage. It’s a cautionary, yet uplifting tale of desperation, determination and transformation. In 1970 Billy Hayes was arrested at Istanbul Airport with two kilos of hashish taped to his body. Five years later, he made a brazen, harrowing escape from prison, rowing 17 miles across a stormy sea in the dead of night. ‘A sensational story…intrinsic power…engrossing…stirring’ (New York Times). ‘A remarkable, inherently theatrical tale’ (ThreeWeeks). ‘Prime edge-of-the-seat stuff' (CurtainUp.com).

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