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The Crack Magazine


One Off at Live Theatre

One Off at Live Theatre 17/11/22

I love the theatre. I can’t remember the last time I watched something I didn’t enjoy. But now and then, you encounter those plays with a difference, the ones that really strike you to your core and, though you left the theatre days ago, your mind stays firmly put in that fold-up seat. One Off is one of those plays.

What immediately fascinated me about the play is that Ric Renton, who’s true story it follows, not only wrote One Off, but actually plays himself under the alias Shepherd. As if it wasn’t enough to relive his time in HMP Durham through writing a play about it, Renton relives it in immersive detail during every performance. The authenticity cuts deep.

Joining Shepherd in the adjacent cells are Knox (Ricky Shah) and Brown (Ryan Nolan), who’s banter, black humor and passionate fixation on the results of Popstars: The Rivals (we’re way back in 2002) makes Shepherd’s time simultaneously bearable and unbearable. Shah and Nolan expertly bring to life the infectious personalities of two geordie men you’d expect to bump into at your local. On night watch is Jock (Malcolm Shields), who defies the stereotype of the brutal prison guard, his friendship a light in the darkness. The bond that grows between the four men was my favourite part of the play. But laddish behaviour can only hide so much in a prison with the highest suicide rate in the country.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but most importantly, you’ll carry with you a new empathy for those in our society who we demonise. One Off reminds us that being behind bars doesn’t erase people’s humanity, and that the ‘tough guys’ often fight the toughest battles with their mental health.

Leanna Thomson