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Woodhill - Lung Theatre Review

Reviewed by Lauren Russell


Woodhill by Lung Theatre Company is a harrowing verbatim piece exposing how the UK prison system is failing vulnerable prisoners over and over again, with focus on the high security prison and young offenders institution in Milton Keynes: ‘Woodhill’. This phenomenal production, directed by Matt Woodhead, is truly one of a kind.

At the start we meet the relatives, performed by dancers Tyler Brazao, Marina Climent and Miah Robinson, from different families yet all experiencing the same overwhelming grief and injustice. Each of their loved ones; Son Stephen Farrar, brother Chris Carpenter, and step-brother Kevin Scarlett, died whilst incarcerated in the infamous prison. Their accounts aretold side by side through voiceovers, physical theatre and dance

The theatre is smokey and dimly lighted, with a hard grey floor and warehouse shelves on wheels that hold variously sized cardboard boxes. Immediately a disturbing portrayal of the prisoners conditions; put into a box like room and left on a shelf to be forgotten about for 22 hours of the day. The symbolism of the set continued to evolve; resembling the unsettled grief of the relatives, the mess of the system, andthen covered with flowers to mark the dead, a poignant ending image.

Written by Woodhead and choreographed by Alexzandra SarmientoWoodhill is hard hitting, fast, and heavy. The dancers feed us motif after motif in their movement sequences, it is beautiful and heartbreaking to see the rage and confusion portrayed physically whilst the nightmare is in your ears, word for word. Names of 33 boys and men who lost their lives in Woodhill prison were said to us throughout, accompanied with a flash of confetti or a handful of dirt flung onto the ground, usually by the captivating performer Chris Otem; a ghost in prison sweats.

The soundscapeby composer Sami El-Enany and sound designer Owen Crouch, igenius. For example, we continuously hear the slamming shut and buzzing open of prison doors, the repetition of sounds representing the unanswered questions asked over and over by the desperate family members. 

The performance was mesmerising from start to finish, the pace was quick but never rushed – every beat, every word, every moment honoured the boys and their families; who’s haunting stories open our eyes to the need for change.

Woodhill played at the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe where it was reviewed. The production plays at Shoreditch Town Hall from 20th Sept to the 7th October and then at Oxford North Wall on 19th and 20th October. Visit for more information about the production and to book tickets.

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