The Prize @ Underbelly
I can't lie, I did expect The Prize to be full of the now perfectly over familiar London 2012 babble in the newspapers and across the TV. Fortunately The Prize avoids these cliches delivering the touching and engaging narratives of real people who are either former Olympians or contenders for places in the London 2012 Olympics.
The play draws its characters from interviews with real people, which is how it escapes falling into the same tedious drone of other olympic-themed topics. The five actors (five olympic rings, five actors - see what they did there. Just a little olympics kitsch) deliver touching and amusing character illustrations based on the transcripts of the real life interviewees. They slip cleverly between a few characters each, every one distinct and unique.
The staging and direction was well executed. The understated set afforded the characters their own space to shape and mould to their narrative - understated, yes, but never bland. The use of benches created an interesting range of depth and height on a fairly shallow stage. The actors were lit in such a way to allow their faces to fully portray the characters of the play; cool and calm, which focused all attention on the characters and their different stories. From all the hype and at times excessive media attention, it is nice to watch a piece that refocuses the attention on the efforts and trials of athletes, rather than just medal tables and headlines. Not unlike Danny Boyle's opening ceremony, The Prize is complex and full of personality. This show is worth a look.