Black Mime Theatre, EDR

Review in Issue 6-1 | Spring 1994

Black Mime Theatre, under the skilful direction of Denise Wong, are a multi-talented and dynamic group of performers. I went to see their latest production EDR (Earliest Date of Release) during the London International Mime Festival 1994. I arrived with great expectations and left disappointed, despite their exceptional performances.

EDR sets out to expose the pain of confinement in Britain's draconian style prisons, which harden, brutalise and break the spirit – it's called punishment and rehabilitation.

Whilst waiting for the performance to kick off, feeling the beat of the music and staring at the set – five oblong prison cells marked out with thin strips of white tape on a plain black floor – my thoughts drifted to an old friend. He told me that whenever he was ‘inside’ the things he missed most, apart from his freedom, were music and women. He said that to him EDR conjured up an infinite wave of conflicting emotions, which were compressed into a small hard ball held in the stomach with a wrench. That's drama and life at its most compelling and explosive. Sadly there was little evidence of this in EDR. There was a lot of foreplay and no climax.

Not even Black Mime Theatre's talent and dynamism could cover up for the lack of a story, which carried too many characters, none of whom were given the time or space to develop.

EDR was told through a series of brief and fragmented episodes which attempted to provide some insight into the prison experience and which contrasted against sketches of the prisoners' social background from childhood through to adulthood and crime. By doing so, EDR tried to make comparisons between the effect of Britain's brutal prison regime and brutality and repression in the home. The play appeared to say that children from dysfunctional families turn to crime. If that's true, then there is an awful lot of people out there who should have been locked up years ago, myself included.

Whilst I agree that prison is not an effective deterrent against crime, I find it hard to accept that dysfunctional families create crime – that's rather like looking at the world from your doorstep. I believe that the cause of crime has more to do with our dysfunctional and divisive society that creates the conditions whereby people are forced to live marginalised, narrow existences.

Black Mime Theatre were attempting something new, which unfortunately didn't come off, but it is right that theatre groups should be given the space to do so. Black Mime are a creative bunch of people and I am definitely looking forward to see what they do next.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 1994

This article in the magazine

Issue 6-1
p. 17