Safe Ground - Using drama to educate prisoners and young people at risk in the community


Thebes Land

Sergio Blanco’s Thebes Land cleverly utilises the ‘play within a play’ format popularised by Luigi Pirandello’s ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’. The play tells the story of two men, Martin who is in prison serving a life sentence for killing his father, and Trevor a playwright who is interviewing Martin to write a play about a man who kills his father. The heart of the subject matter is dark. How did Martin kill his father, why?  What is it like to understand such a man?

The play makes repeated references to Sophocles Oedipus Rex, perhaps overly so but the connection is fluid and reinterpreted within a new context. The answers are still disturbing but more grey than black or white. By creating a context and a history for Martin, playwright Blanco humanises him and makes him a multi-dimensional being, like the rest of us. Someone we can understand and possibly even empathise with?  And such is the nature of stories about people in prison and the waves of circumstance that brought them there, they challenge us.

Thebes Land is enthralling theatre. The use of space, effectively theatre in the round is well executed and visually stimulating. Both actors hold our attention throughout, particular credit must go to Austin who plays Martin the murderer and Freddie the actor who Trevor hires to enact Martin’s story for his play. Austin slips seamlessly between these characters through clever vocal masking and body language. We are always chillingly clear whether we are watching martin or Freddie. The play within a play format is a clever conceit and allows the constant replaying of scenes giving the audience a different perspective on Martin and Trevor’s evolution as playwright, researcher and ultimately concerned mentor to Martin.

Blanco explores dark subject matter deceptively well without drawing any easy or obvious conclusions.

Thebes Land has now finished its run at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney, East London.


Written by Hugh Stultz


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