Review: Intra Muros, Park Theatre

Intra Muros takes you on a journey, from what starts as a fairly ordinary plot, into a highly intriguing and multi-faceted story. This narrative then projects a fascinating and original idea.

It all begins when a mismatch of personas are brought together at an acting workshop for prisoners. This includes Richard (Ché Walker), the acting teacher; Alice (Summer Strallen), a social worker; Jane (Emma Pallant), an assistant; and two prisoners Angel and Kevin (Victor Gardener and Declan Perring) – whose character traits couldn’t be further away from each other’s if they tried. We then watch as each stereotyped person tells the story of how they arrived at the prison today. But these anecdotes are just a vehicle to deliver a much deeper and riveting idea. This is that an actor lives two lives, the character they play and their own real life. The play dips in and out of realistic scenes and addressing the audience directly. By the end, it’s difficult to establish the actors’ lives and stories from those of the character they are playing. This is a perfect metaphor for the point they are making, which is that there is very little distinction between a real human life and an actor playing a character, as their brain and full being are totally invested in the persona they are interpreting. A lovely message that feels unsaid in the world of theatre.

The production itself is extremely clever and has a gripping plot. Each actor steps onto the stage completely immersed in their character’s life. I particularly enjoy Walker, whose obnoxious portrayal of the orchestrator of the whole thing keeps the energy high throughout. He even becomes so jovial that it becomes irritating. But the stark contrast to him then playing the rough brother of Angel is admirable.

Pallant is breathtaking in her performance. She captivates during beautiful scenes on stage that feel earnest and highly realistic. Only Perring matches this level of acting in this production as he swaps between contrasting roles so swiftly and smoothly. Both deliver a naturalistic and charismatic performance.

Gardener gives a heartbreaking performance and truly takes you on Angel’s journey from a young 18-year-old, to a 30-year-old man in prison. He unlocks many different sides to this character, which are fascinating to see. Angel goes from a tough no-nonsense guy to completely breaking down and showing vulnerability.

Strallen, who plays Alice and a number of other roles, is also excellent among a strong cast. However, in moments of true sincerity, her acting feels a bit jarring and not quite truthful enough. This is very difficult to achieve in an intimate setting like the Park Theatre, but something is too dramatic in her acting to feel truly authentic. However, the whole cast gel together brilliantly and produce highly convincing moments of these characters’ lives.

As previously mentioned, the plot is intricate and fantastically constructed. However, the actual language in the script feels obvious and a bit clunky. It therefore doesn’t quite capture truthful moments in some of the earlier scenes and feels a bit pantomime-esque. But as the story progresses and you get deeper into the characters’ lives, the odd script becomes less noticeable.

Rio Kai acts as the on stage DJ to create atmospheric sound effects and music, a clever touch to make the whole show more immersive and tense throughout.

Overall, Intra Muros starts as what seems like a fairly ordinary play, before developing into a shocking and engrossing story, as well as delivering a compelling argument about the life of an actor. I highly enjoyed the 95 minute journey these actors took me on.

Intra Muros is playing The Park Theatre  until 4 May. For more information and tickets, see the Park Theatre website.