Angie Johnson attends a "claustrophobic and violent" production from Three Streets theatre company

Shortlisted for the Amnesty International Protect the Human Awards, Nick Gill’s unique exploration of torture, fiji land, is now on tour in a full production by Three Streets theatre company. With no disrespect intended, I must say that the Burton Taylor Studio Theatre was the perfect venue to stage this claustrophobic and violent exploration of brutalisation. It is set in an industrial type unit in an unnamed war zone, where Max Pappenheim’s unsettling soundtrack imposes an aura of defencelessness from start.

The building is a containment area where the ‘detainees’ are monitored by three soldiers. Bright and breezy new arrival Grainer, a rather winning portrayal by Jake Ferretti, seems quite normal at first. His ‘oppo’ Wolstead has been on the isolated station for some time and seems a little odd — taking pictures of everything with a Polaroid. Their exchanges are funny, at first. Matthew Trevannion’s Wolstead has a manic brightness that plays well against Grainer’s everyman naivety.

The third member of the team is Tanc, the supervisor. Enigmatic and increasingly creepy — a bravura performance from Stephen Bilsland – like a coiled spring waiting to unleash.

Now to the inmates of this place — they are pot plants. At first this seems comical but you soon realise it’s not facetious and accept the incongruity. As the three men follow their mysterious orders and increasingly abuse the green-leaved detainees the audience shuddered and flinched. But though it made us very uncomfortable it was a different experience to that of watching human victims, and this enabled us to look clearly at the effect inflicting the torture was having on the soldiers. The impact on the three was destabilising to the extreme — each in their own shocking way.

Not for the faint hearted, but essential to anyone who wants to consider what crimes may be being committed in the name of ‘security’, this original play was well realised by the cast, director Alice Malin and designer Ruth Hall.

fiji land
Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford