Fringe Fest 2013: N.O.N.C.E. finds poetry and humour in a high-security institution
In the monologue N.O.N.C.E, Brit Steve Larkin recalls his time as poet in residence at Grendon Prison, a high-security, therapeutic institution that holds serious sex offenders and other violent criminals. You can feel Larkin’s rising panic as he hears that a quiet inmate’s crime involved genital mutilation, and the poet’s mantra “Murder is just a word” starts to lose its effect. There’s plenty of humour: Larkin encourages his students to assume names of admired artists and one con becomes Bertolt Brecht, in hopes of breaking down the fourth wall. Larkin’s poetry is compelling and there’s excitement as his prisoner students reveal charged depths. The play’s climax and resolution get muddy, however. Larkin explores his own irresponsible and violent impulses, but this rumination doesn’t yield much insight and the script’s second half feels about 10 minutes too long.
At the Waterfront Theatre on September 8 (9:25 p.m.), 12 (6:40 p.m.), 14 (5:50 p.m.), and 15 (2:45 p.m.).