Asylum – 3 Stars



Camden People’s Theatre

Reviewed – 11th November 2018


“with some editing and development could begin a really impactful conversation”


Created by Curtis Arnold-Harmer, ‘Asylum’ is a spoken word, live music production about immigration, patriotism and the refugee crisis. The piece weaves its way through three stories of people touched in very different ways by these issues. Alongside this we are taken on Curtis’ journey, engaging with these issues and creating this show about them.

Structurally there are some really strong elements to the piece. Periodically we are brought back again and again to the coffee shop in which Curtis is writing, as the customers around him change and the specificity of his setting is gradually subsumed. One of the strongest moments of the piece is the climactic poetic moment that comes only part way through. It is a moment of pace and energy that showcases Curtis’ clear writing and performance ability. As this is clearly in his arsenal, I would’ve liked to have seen more of these moments as Asylum gradually becomes more story-telling than spoken word poetry. It is also overly long, which means the message is continually repeated, the result of which is dilution. The need to extend to occupy a whole hour is to the detriment of its impact. The section where our writer is ‘burning’ as he creates feels out of place, and the performance cannot commit to prioritising the voices of others or of the writer himself leaving us stuck somewhere in between.

Alongside the poetry, Curtis creates soundscapes, a coffee shop, rain against the windows. His words are also accompanied by a constant and changing beat that throbs beneath them. He operates this himself from the stage and it is exciting to see what is usually backstage visually, although the projector could’ve been used more as a note of variety to this. The beat musical could also be more varied, as it doesn’t always relate to the rises, falls and pace changes of the words. Whilst this is not always necessary, it could be used more with strong effect.

The lighting design is really successful, contained to Curtis’ unmoving space on stage, then at moments flashing out across the audience, laying us bare, suddenly visible to those around us, suddenly complicit in these narratives.

Curtis combines sound and poetry to create an engaging and topical piece of theatre, that with some editing and development could begin a really impactful conversation.


Reviewed for



Camden People’s Theatre


Previously reviewed at this venue:
I Want You To Admire Me/But You Shouldn’t | ★★★★ | March 2018
The Absolute Truth About Absolutely Everything | ★★★ | May 2018
A Fortunate Man | ★★★½ | June 2018
Le Misanthrope | ★★½ | June 2018
Ouroboros | ★★★★ | July 2018
Did it Hurt? | ★★★ | August 2018


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