A roundup of our reactions to Guilty Party’s Conviction, the one act play presented by Made in Bristol. Based on real life events, four young convicts escape from prison and take refuge in a small English town by the sea.
Conviction sets itself up as a character led story, and never lets go of this idea – from the start, we have a clear picture of each of the four main characters, whether they’re a troublemaker or secretly emotionally fragile, and it’s both the chemistry and friction caused by the group dynamics which keeps our interest. Besides this, Made in Bristol relish in experimenting with physical theatre and other visual flourishes, such as excessive slow motion and layered scenes, as in the instance of an interview with the prison psychiatrist. The transport of events from it’s original setting in the USA to the UK is seamless with the inherent concepts of offenders being incarcerated far away from family and social stereotypes being brought intermittently into the spotlight. Though I found the frequent references to an inevitable fate quite tiresome, and increasingly distracting, Conviction remains an invigorating show – laced, crucially, with a sense of humour – from young talent in Bristol.
The thing I liked the most about Conviction was the clever use of props; the stage wasn’t overcrowded and also wasn’t bare. The main set was pretty much a back space but there were 4 white benches about 2 foot tall and 6 foot long and were set on wheels. They were used as dividers to create separate spaces of a prison and also put together to make a bed (as in the above picture). Overall, Conviction was a great performance.
Earlier this week, I had read the book “Vernon God Little” by DBC Pierre (which I would definitely recommend), about a 15 year-old Texan who finds himself wrongly accused of a recent killing-spree committed by his best friend. The book sustains, with sharp satirical wit, the feeling of angst and dread of being accused of a serious crime. So when I went to see the performance of “Conviction”, I already had thoughts of the difficult lives of convicts lingering on my mind. I think the actors that played the roles of the escaping offenders did great jobs of depicting the frustration and anger of not only being imprisoned, but of being troubled young men who are misunderstood and condemned by those around them. I thought the performance was brilliantly made in terms of creating a sense of inevitability and anguish that the characters were facing through the atmospheric music and inventive physical staging (mentioned by Charlie), and in the way that it kept a sense of humour and optimism.
Emma Blake M:
I’m still struggling to fully construct actual sentences to explain how I feel about Conviction. As much as I enjoy performance art, I rarely get around to seeing it in action and it’s like I’ve falling in love with it all over again. Conviction had EVERYthing I love, the right amount of comedy and profanity with such genuine acting I just lost myself with how well it was done. Even the small practicalities, like the setting; props, lighting and music was captivating. Using acapella for the music was just brilliant, it fitted so authentically. I’d honestly encourage everyone to go see Conviction, it would easily pay to see it twice.
My favourite part of conviction was the clever way that the cast showed the passing of time – by visually speeding up their movements so the play looks like it is being fast forwarded. I’ve seen this done unsuccessfully before, and am pleased to say that the cast were very believable and funny within these moments. A thoughtful and well-executed effect.
Conviction’s soundtrack felt like a performance of its own, consisting mostly of live vocals (and a loop pedal). This involved a lot of beatboxing which, due to a close friend being a beatboxer, has unfortunately become something fairly ordinary for me but seeing it in a different scenario for the first time was very refreshing. Unlike the performances I’ve seen, the focus was less on the beatboxer but more on the complete “orchestra”, thus this meant him having to be responsible and more subtle; not overpowering his peers and freestyling like crazy – but also at the same time not being under-powered like I’ve seen in a band with beatboxers.