Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2011


Ingrid Jendrzejewski

at 11:51 on 14th Aug 2011



Ink tells the story of Helen, a woman who writes to Tom, a man on death row in Texas, and the effects their relationship has on Helen and her family. Although the subject matter is weighty, the performance has a magic, effervescent quality. Director Andrea Ling has done an incredible job of creating a fresh, intriguing world that invites the audience to leave any expectations they have about death-row love stories at the door.

Carefully choreographed moments are interspersed with scenes set both in Texas and in Helen’s home. We jump through time, watching Helen’s relationship with Tom unfold and, at the same time, waiting with her through the last hours of Tom’s life. Carefully choreographed moments make transitions in space and time clear and seamless. The actors attack these transitions with grace and intention, sometimes lending a dreamlike feel to the story as it unfolds. They create moments of pure magic on stage (my favourite involving a multitude of envelopes).

The sound and lighting designs are brilliant and the technical aspects of the show are executed flawlessly. The set perfectly balances simplicity with specificity. Every element of the show is handled with such alacrity and expertise, it’s easy to forget that Studio 2 at C Soco wasn’t designed around this production.

Overall, the story that Lois Baldry tells is tight and well-crafted. The play works best at the moments when it convinced me that I could step into any of the characters’ shoes and feel, for the most part, at home.

The moments that didn’t work as well came when we were given information that was less believable or that alienated us from the characters. I felt the officer would have been a much more complex, interesting character if he doesn’t behave the way he does at the end. I couldn’t believe that Helen’s best friend could get her hands on FBI files – nor did I think this ‘proof’ of Tom’s criminal activity necessary. I was disappointed when Helen’s actions are almost explained away by the revelation of a history of domestic abuse and I wasn’t convinced by the words Tom uses to explain to Helen why he did the things he did to earn a death-row sentence. However, these are small points and the actors did a fantastic job at keeping me with them throughout.

On the whole, Ink is a delight to watch. The company works together beautifully to create something sharp, memorable and compelling.


Leonie James

at 11:55 on 14th Aug 2011



I watched Ink as part of a six-person audience, two of which were reviewers. This play deserves to be seen by so many more people than that.

Ink is the story of Helen, a single mum who has recently been left by her abusive husband. She writes to Tom, a prisoner on death row, and their relationship begins to take over her life. What sounds like a melodramatic premise, is in fact beautifully played out on stage. Tayah Horward gives a wonderfully convincing portrayal of Helen. She conveys the character’s vulnerability across well, and throughout the play, even as she hurts those around her in her refusal to give up Tom, we still care about her. We are still on her side. The letter scenes are perfectly staged. Tom and Helen share a stage, reading the letters they have received. As Tom reads, Helen reacts, and we see clearly the distance between them, whatever false intimacy the letters, and the lines, suggest. These scenes recurred throughout the play, and created a sense of time passing. They showed us the relationship as it developed, and we could see what was happening to Helen in her home life, as this relationship progressed.

Credit also goes to Edward Walters, as a prison officer on Death Row. His scenes with Helen are tense, and his antagonism of her is enjoyable to watch.

Scene changes were seamless, and evidently well planned out. Small props and set are used effectively to create a sense of place. It was immediately clear whether we were in Helen’s kitchen, a prison cell, or a club.

One critique is that the dialogue is at times clichéd. This is a strong piece of new writing, but it is not without its faults, minor though they may be. The club scene in particular I found to include ill-advised dialogue, which came across as uncomfortable rather than naturalistic. Tom, too, I found leant towards melodrama at times: with its subject matter, this production should remain aware at all times of the risk of this.

However, that is a minor query, and on the whole I found this an extremely enjoyable piece of theatre to watch. The story was touching, the writing on the whole strong, and all the actors gave strong performances. Attention to detail was admirable: the letters to Tom were handwritten, with ‘Dear Tom’ visible at the top. A small touch, but an effective one.

I would urge you to see this play. It deserves a larger audience that I received the night I saw it. It a strong piece of new writing, and a wonderful piece of theatre. Ink is not perfect, but things rarely are. It is worth an hour of your time.


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