Review: CODE: Justice in Motion. Outdoor show, 45 minutes long. On tour throughout the UK. Touring information here.
[Disclosure: I'm honoured to have recently been elected as a trustee for Justice in Motion.]
CODE is a thrilling and intense new outdoor show created by physical theatre company, Justice in Motion. CODE uses parkour and trial bike stunts, and live rap music to tell the story of a form of modern slavery called “county lines”, which is increasingly prolific in the UK.
I took this photo during the morning show in Oxford on Saturday 19 August.
County lines is the term used for the operations of criminal gangs that use sophisticated methods to prey on vulnerable young people, forcing them to distribute drugs from cities (primarily London) to rural areas – along county lines.
Around 1000 county lines operate in the UK – each county line returning an average annual profit of just under £1 million.
CODE is one of the most visceral shows I’ve seen in a long time. The story follows Nicky, a vulnerable, young boy, who is groomed by a criminal gang to distribute drugs. Slowly and insidiously, Nicky gets sucked into an increasingly frightening life, unable to leave.
The show has a strong and clear narrative that is expressed through breath taking parkour and trials bike stunts. The show is physical and raw – like nothing I’ve ever seen.
With the exception of the lead role, Justice in Motion has cast trials bikes and parkour champions instead of professional actors. Given the danger of the stunts, this decision makes sense. Despite this, the acting across the board was absolutely first rate. Fourteen year old Swiss actor, Esra Marmet gives an extraordinary performance in the lead role, as Nicky. Marmet’s performance is mature, nuanced and utterly believable. It’s an impressive professional debut for this extremely talented young actor.
From left to right, Owen Ganthorpe (4 times British Trials Bike Champion), George Mayfield (professional parkour artist) and Esra Marmet.
Another exceptional performance is by parkour champion George Mayfield who plays the gang leader. Despite not having any formal acting training, Mayfield’s performance as the gang leader was entirely authentic and chilling.
Rapper, Marcus Smith - aka - Matic Mouth.
Rapper Marcus Smith, aka Matic Mouth, gives a fierce performance – his rap is written from lived experience and this gives it real power.
In my experience, theatre with a social justice mission, can often compromise the entertainment of the audience in favour of audience education. This is not the case with CODE – which is thrilling no matter how you engage with the story. The story is visceral, brutal and real – a must see for anyone living in the UK.
Unless otherwise stated, all photos by Simon Vail.