‘Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train’ review

Theatre, Comedy
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
 (© Johan Persson)
1/9
© Johan Persson Oberon K. A. Adjepong and Ukweli Roach
 (© Johan Persson)
2/9
© Johan Persson Oberon K. A. Adjepong and Joplin Sibtain
 (© Johan Persson)
3/9
© Johan Persson Oberon K. A. Adjepong and Joplin Sibtain
 (© Johan Persson)
4/9
© Johan Persson Oberon K. A. Adjepong and Joplin Sibtain
 (© Johan Persson)
5/9
© Johan Persson Oberon K. A. Adjepong and Matthew Douglas
 (© Johan Persson)
6/9
© Johan Persson Oberon K. A. Adjepong
 (© Johan Persson)
7/9
© Johan Persson Oberon K. A. Adjepong
 (© Johan Persson)
8/9
© Johan Persson Ukweli Roach and Dervla Kirwan
 (© Johan Persson)
9/9
© Johan Persson Ukweli Roach and Dervla Kirwan

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Slick, forceful production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s abrasive prison comedy

Stephen Adly Guirgis’s abrasive, irreverent 2000 black comedy about a couple of inmates in a New York prison is something of a modern standard in the US, and it hasn’t been so long since the last London production. But as the final part of Kwame Kwei-Armah's debut Young Vic season it stands up strongly, and if there’s a lack of names in the cast, then imported US actor Oberon K A Adjepong is well worth whatever effort it took to bring him over.

He plays Lucius, an inmate we first encounter in what seems like a state of preternatural zen, having a warm, even neighbourly conversation with one of the prison guards. It is fairly obvious from the way the guard jokes about Lucius’s ‘celebrity’ that he’s done something utterly horrific; thus it proves. But in this play’s alternately sympathetic and sarcastic interrogation of faith, redemption and rehabilitation, we never exactly lose sympathy for this presumably very ill man, who has attained an enviable sense of peace behind bars. In part this comes down to Adjepong’s towering performance: his turn is almost shamanic, both more than and less than human; he doesn’t regret the appalling things he did, it’s simply outside his nature to worry about them.

In stark contrast, hotheaded young Angel (Ukweli Roach, impressively unrecognisable from his last stage role, ‘Nightfall’ at the Bridge) is on trial for murder. He intentionally only shot his victim – the leader of a cult who had brainwashed his best friend – ‘in the ass’. Unfortunately, a subsequent heart attack proved fatal, and Angel is now horrified to find himself looking at life. On paper, his only hope is his cocky defence lawyer, Mary (Dervla Kirwan). But then he encounters Lucius, and becomes indoctrinated in his strange way of looking at the world.

Bitingly, blackly funny, and with deathlessly sharp dialogue, ‘Jesus Hopped the “A” Train’ isn’t a realist play and is probably not a great primer for the US prison system. Message-wise, it is a little diffuse, and feels about two drafts away from profundity. But that's not necessarily what Guirgis was aiming for. His sardonic observations on the nature of redemption are wilfully bereft of a clear message, but they come with a battered, caustic wisdom, and the plot’s many twists and revelations are genuinely gripping, rather than gimmicky.

Kate Hewitt directs a whipsmart traverse production, pared down and brutal, with a wider world outside of Angel and Lucius’s cells conjured by Peter Rice’s excellent, battering sound design.

On any given night in America you can probably see a production of this play somewhere – but it’s a rare production that’ll have the kinetic oomph of this stylish Brit take.

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tastemaker

Incredible production of Jesus Hopped the “A” train at the Young Vic!


I booked my tickets months ago when they released the tickets. 

The theme of the play is not easy but I really like the Young Vic venue for their engaged theatre program.


I went yesterday after work. I was tired with a headache and was a bit worried that this play I booked ages ago would be hard to follow, or too political.

It was captivating, hard, not easy, but captivating. I rarely saw an audience so serious and so focus.


Jesus hopped the A train is narrating the situation prisoners face in North American prisons, following a young man accused of murder and his lawyer fighting for his release, a serial killer awaiting for his execution and a sadistic guard.


There were just enough laughs to make the subject lighter. Everyone who left the Young Vic yesterday after the representation must have had a pint in their stomach, but I have no doubt they all will recommend to see it.


watched this a few days ago. The lead Actor was a bit flat. He is handsome and slightly too assured of himself for this part. I watched the Philip Hoffman version many years ago and felt the actors made better and more believable acting choices then.