RELEASE explores the lives of three prisoners in their first few months after release, as they attempt to reconnect with the people and remnants of life they left behind.

At a time when two thirds of UK prisoners re-offend within two years, RELEASE fuses high energy physical theatre, an original score and mixed media to create an explosive insight into just how hard it is to go straight.

Winner – Fringe First Award
Shortlisted – Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award
Shortlisted – Brighton Festival Fringe Emerging Talent Award

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

★★★★  The Times


★★★★  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.’ ****

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

‘A moving and compelling piece of theatre’ ****

‘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’ .

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

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The production was created through a two year process of research and interviews with ex-offenders, probation officers, criminologists and hostel managers, as well as site visits to hostels, prisons and probation offices.

It had development support from the South Hill Park Arts Centre, Dartington Hall, the Brook Theatre Chatham, the Toynbee Studios, an R&D award from Arts Council England South East and a work-in-progress showing at the Young Vic.

It toured nationally in 2012 to Dartington Hall, the Arcola, South Hill Park Arts, Mercury Theatre in Colchester, Square Chapel Arts Centre (Halifax), Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (Cardiff), Corn Exchange (Newbury), Hat Factory Luton, Oxford Playhouse (Oxford) & Courtyard Theatre (Hereford). It was premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011 at the Pleasance Dome.

Jason Harvey / Performer
Verity Hewlett / Performer
Shane Shambhu / Performer
Paul Tinto / Performer