Review: In ‘The Prisoner,’ Peter Brook Ponders Crime and Punishment

Review: In ‘The Prisoner,’ Peter Brook Ponders Crime and Punishment


In an interview with Artforum, Mr. Brook said he never learned the nature of the crime committed by the man he had met in Afghanistan. In “The Prisoner,” however, we discover early what Mavuso’s offense was. He found his sister, Nadia, in bed with his father, whom he killed on the spot.

It is implied that Mavuso, too, harbored sexual feelings for Nadia (Kalieaswari Srinivasan). It is she who heals Mavuso after their uncle, Ezekiel, has punished him physically, and she seeks him out during his exile. Mavuso sends her away in disgust.

Instead, he holds his vigil amid a landscape in which the scenic elements (by David Violi) are limited to parts of trees — a trunk, staff-like branches and wood shavings. Darkness falls and day dawns in a cosmic cycle of lighting (by Philippe Vialatte). Mavuso befriends — then kills and eats — a rat and is visited by townspeople and employees of the prison (portrayed by Ms. Srinivasan, Omar Silva and Hayley Carmichael, who also plays the Peter Brook-like narrator).

These encounters vary the show’s pace, but they aren’t particularly illuminating. Though it lasts only 75 minutes, the production feels long and oddly cluttered by its gnomic dialogue. (Ezekiel: “We dream, we think that what we do is right, but we are so often wrong, we want to possess everything without seeing that we have nothing.”)

Mavuso must learn to repair (not repent), we are told. Nadia tells her brother that his patricide was motivated by intolerance (of incest?) and a hate that “ate you.” Presumably, these are the feelings he must expunge.

Mr. Abeysekera has an appropriately haunted gaze. And the production is most involving when we watch him staring into space, silent, and perhaps thinking of that lovely, long-gone, fleeting moment when he was allowed to play in a forest like the innocent boy he once was.


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