Friday, 1 June 2012


How better to celebrate the sixty joyous years of Elizabeth II's reign (I really want someone to work out how many days in that time it has actually rained - HOMOPHONE-BASED PUN!), than to reflect on the theatrical goings-on going on with certain gentlemen detained at the pleasure, or otherwise, of her maj? Actually, bearing in mind that to hold one prisoner for a year, it costs around £41,000, and the cost of each new prison place is £170,000 to build and maintain (apologies for 2010 statistics - lazy googling - please leave more update ones in the comment box if you have them to hand), I'd imagine it's not really at the pleasure of anyone. I mean, the only people who might be pleased about the number locked up (Hello, Mr Daily Mail bigot, sorry, I mean reader - OK, my political leanings and tabloid feelings aren't all that subtle) are the ones who think that the cost could be halved if we only could give them bread and water, cut the testicles off the paedophiles and have jolly well done with it. And god forbid we do DRAMA with them. Rehabilitation [scoff]? The only thing it might do is turn them into homosexuals, and then we really WILL need to rehabilitate them. OK, I'm sorry for the slight deviation (I'd never survive on 'Just a Minute'. And, yes, I am 24. And, yes, I am cool.), but I must just quickly further digress and point anyone who's never come across it in the direction of the Daily Mail-o-matic, a gorgeous little website which generates Daily Mail headlines, based on the most frequent words used, e.g.   


Oh, and if you haven't seen it, you also HAVE to watch The Daily Mail Song, by DAN & DAN:

Wow, I'm really heading off topic. Sorry. It's just I saw first-hand the impact of Jack Straw's dickish Prison Service Instruction in 2009, which stated that 'activities for prisoners' must be 'appropriate, purposeful and meet the public acceptability test', and we knew at the time what that meant, and who that public was. So shitting on the Daily Mail is actually less off topic than might be first conceived. I could totally argue my point to Nicholas Parsons....

ANYWAY, to try and back-track my way into a finished paragraph: I thought I would celebrate the Jubilee by waxing jubilant about some prison theatre I've been to in recent weeks. Most recently, on Wednesday night, just a couple of days ago, I saw an AMAZING performance of Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross; a play I had, to my shame, seen neither on stage or screen before this week. The production was put together by Synergy Theatre Project, a company I have much admiration for in their work to rehabilitate through the transformative power of theatre.

I have now seen a number of productions in various prisons across the country, and each one has its own cause for celebration, reflection and admiration. What struck me most about Synergy's production this week, however, was the enormous talent of the men performing. I know from first-hand experience that the standard of the performances in prisons and the talent amongst the cast is not to be under-estimated, or dealt with patronisingly, however the cast of Glengarry this week were probably the most talented I've so far seen behind locked doors. Not out of place in one of our top national theatres. 
Photos from Synergy Theatre Project productions
The other prison excursion I haven't quite got round to writing about on here yet is The Accidental Imposter in HMP Winchester, by Playing for Time Theatre Company, which I saw a few weeks ago. Also a fantastic production, it was very reminiscent for me of The Government Inspector (which I co-directed there in 2010), no doubt due to the overt themes of deception, crime and punishment, and corruption at its heart. With fantastically original use of multi-media throughout the production, by the talented LaunchPad Productions, it was great to see such innovative use of film employed throughout. Despite this, I personally hope next year the company think about returning to their more traditional theatrical roots, with a play set in a very different historical moment, like they did with Oh What a Lovely War! and The Convict's Opera. Just personal preference. 

Nonetheless, they all did Her Majesty proud. 

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