Reviews

Awards received:
Fringe First Award
Best Film – U-Screen Film Awards
Best Performing Arts – Medway Culture & Design Award
Shortlisted – Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award
Shortlisted – Brighton Festival Fringe Emerging Talent Award
2nd place – Animate-ED Festival

Selected by Lyn Gardner in her column ‘What to See: Theatre Tips’ (01/06/2012) — The Guardian

Release

★★★★  The New Statesman

‘It is easy to take for granted the acting skills of a top theatre company. But when actors embody characters as superbly as this, you can’t help but notice…’

‘Icon Theatre’s political play about ex-offenders is fringe theatre at its best…

The more people who watch it, the better. It will compel audiences to more effectively understand the ex-criminals who are so ostracised from society, and to begin a dialogue about the justice of crime and punishment…’

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★★★★  The Scotsman

‘Icon Theatre has created one of the most compelling and theatrically effective pieces of storytelling on the Fringe…’

‘As we watch with our hearts in our mouths, we are praying not only for these three characters, but for ourselves, and the whole future of the society in which we live… ’

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★★★★  The Times

‘A sharp, impeccably performed and blazingly impassioned piece of theatre…’

‘With the stench of burning barely gone from some districts, you may be thinking that locking them all up and throwing away the key is just the sort thing those rioting looters need to teach them a lesson. Well, before you do, take a look at this sharp, carefully researched, impeccably performed and blazingly impassioned piece of theatre which starts at the point when, eventually, someone has to find that key and let them out.

The ‘Release’ of the title is from prison into probationary care. You have probably heard that reoffending rates in Britain are stubbornly high; on average two thirds of prisoners within two years of their release. Icon Theatre, based in Chatham in Kent, have spent two years finding out why.

With just three actors (although by the end you will swear there were more) and some neutral but moveable pieces of set – a door, a wall – we are introduced to the perils of the half-way hostel, the all too human frailties of the probation service, the obstacles that lie in wait, no matter how hard the ex-cons try, and the millstone of their record pulling them back.

Another piece of bleeding-heart liberalism for the luvvies, then? It could so easily have been. Instead the company who, with their director Nancy Hirst and guidance from some well-chosen advisers, have devised the show themselves, create three detailed characters who are too persuasively human to ignore. It is not so much their back story that convinces. It is their psychological fragility, the way that they interact with other people, their body language. Indeed the movement, including an improbable sequence of Indian classical dance that returns in the final shocking tableau to add a touch of mythic grandeur to the whole thing, is a crucial part of it.

If the writing and plotting are convincing, the performances are simply terrific. Paul Tinto’s Kyle, hot tempered but barely literate, finds his hollow west of Scotland machismo no help to him at all. Poorly educated Becky (Verity Hewlett), who lies about her record to get a menial job in a flower shop, gives new meaning to the phrase ‘torn-faced’. And Shane Shambhu, playing a dodgy mechanic and also a hard-working Indian engineering student trapped in the same hostel, is some dancer. All play other roles, all equally well defined.

Icon Theatre started eight years ago. This is its first time in Edinburgh. The sprawling freedom-come-all-ye that is the Fringe can be a frustrating place, but as a showcase for a young company like this to bring their work to an entirely new level there is nothing quite like it.’
Robert Dawson Scott

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★★★★  British Theatre Guide

‘Stellar high energy, gritty performances, strikingly staged…a moving, forceful production…’

‘At a time when prison sentencing and rehabilitation are facing hugely controversial reforms it is timely that Release should focus on the fate of three ex-prisoners who face the pressures of coping with life on the other side of the prison gates.

The three accomplished actors give stellar high energy and gritty performances. It is strikingly staged with a dynamic soundscape and impressive projections and lighting…

This was fine, assured acting from a cast who multi-role with confidence. It is a moving, forceful production strongly directed by Nancy Hirst.’

Robin Strapp

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★★★★  Fringe Review, Edfest Mag, Broadway Baby & Three Weeks

‘One of the best Fringe performances’ – Edfest Mag

‘A shining example of how to devise and perform multi-disciplinary theatre… An important piece of theatre… ***** Fringe Review (Selected as ‘Outstanding Show’)

‘Stunning, beautifully choreographed and executed… A very engaging and thought-provoking piece of theatre, and one I would definitely recommend.’ **** www.thepublicreviews.com

‘A strong piece of writing delivered with passion and vigour’ **** Broadwaybaby

‘A moving and compelling piece of theatre’ ****www.sgfringe.com

‘A very relevant and exhilarating piece of work’ **** Remotegoat

‘Artfully choreographed and perfectly executed’ ****Three Weeks

‘This is the most captivating new play I have watched in a long time and its one of the best things I’ve seen so far at this years Fringe Festival’ . www.thegoodreview.com

‘Great cast and a really well put together show… We really enjoyed it’ BBC – CULTURE SHOW

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23 Submarines

Audience reviews via facebook

‘Definitely one of the best family highlights of 2016…’

‘We will now look out for anything else that you do, thanks…’

‘The whole thing was amazing…’

Audience reviews via facebook

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Audience member

‘Well done, a great evening…’

‘I just want to say, how much we enjoyed the performance last night of 23 Submarines at the Riverside Chatham last night. The acting was superb, the stories riveting, the singing atmospheric and wasn’t it a beautiful calm and warm night….’

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The Little Lost Frog & the Xmas Wish

The Stage

‘Wow, we’re in fairyland!’

This inspired promenade show for very young children is immersive as well as interactive and uses three different areas of the Brook auditorium. When an entranced child, aged perhaps three, is led into the third set and spontaneously gasps “Wow! We’re in fairyland”, which is what happened at the performance I saw, the cast and other creatives can rest assured they’re doing a good job.

Mark Conway’s very appealing bright green, Lycra-clad, homesick little frog who is afraid of the water – a character every child can identify with – wants to get home to his mother for Christmas. It’s a gentle, traditional quest story in which every child in the audience helps the frog to find the light and water, as they’ve decided he needs to build a rainbow that will take him home. It’s more like a game than a play.

But the very best aspect of this show is the magical – a word often overused at this time of year but apt here – sets, which envelop marvelling children in a world of forests of illuminated trees, descending lights, ribbons, coloured lanterns and a lot more. I thought I was in fairyland, too.

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The Odyssey

Head of Performing Arts, St Thomas School, Lancashire

‘A triumph of devising and direction…’

‘I just want to say what an amazing production I think the Odyssey is. It has left me with some of the most intense theatrical images of the year – it is a triumph of devising and direction – so thanks to the whole company. I’ve taken twelve theatre trips this year and at least half have disappointed… It’s not easy to find physical theatre that’s as good as yours.’

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Gradgrind

The Stage

‘Icon has achieved something remarkable…this is a theatrical treat.’

Skeleton Woman, Lady Death

TNT

‘Strong, unselfconscious performances’

The Men’s Room

Time Out

‘Funny, inventive and interesting’

Croydon Guardian

‘Male or female, I recommend a visit to The Men’s Room’