Today’s play was Sharon Pollock’s One Tiger to a Hill. First produced in 1980, this is a drama set inside a prison during a hostage situation.
Despite external reviews and recommendations for the prison, the management refuse to make any changes. As a result, an inmate has died in suspicious circumstances which leads to the hostage taking.
Two prisoners, Paul and Gillie, take two rehabilitation officers and a school teacher hostage. Their demands are for an inquiry into the death of the prisoner in solitary confinement, for the prison to implement the changes it’s supposed to be implementing and for a flight out for the two of them.
Being privy to the machinations behind the scenes as the security firm and the prison’s management decide how to respond, means that you know the likely outcome from the beginning. The hope comes from the two people brought from outside to try to negotiate. The play begins with a monologue from one of them.
CHALMERS: For nine years, twice a day, almost every day, I drove past the pen. Grey stone walls, turrets at the corners, bleak, oppressive, looked like a medieval fortress. Whenever I noticed the place, it always seemed to be raining. Sometimes I wondered what it was like being inside, locked up. I suppose there was always this question at the back of my mind and the question went like this – what if? What if the things you hear, the things you don’t want to hear, the things they won’t let you hear, what if those things really happen inside? Would I be any different in essence from all those good Germans who passed Dachau and Buchenwald, and never asked questions?
One Tiger to a Hill is a play about the penal system, about power and about what people will do to maintain it. The thirty years since it was written have aged it: I’d hope that prisons can no longer get away with the sort of abuse that appears to have been rife, and I know that men can no longer talk to women the way the officers speak to one of the lone women in this play (they’d be up on harassment charges if they did).
Publisher: NeWest Press (published in Blood Relations and other plays)
Cast: 8M, 2F