Huge congratulations to everyone involved in the performance of After Time, which took place on Sunday 8th November as part of Headlong Theatre’s Signal Fires project. Signal Fires was dreamed up by Headlong with the intention of uniting the UK’s leading touring theatre companies, inspired by one of the original forms of theatre – an evening of storytelling around a fire.

The Kestrel team put their heads together back in September to think how we could take part, as Covid restrictions meant we couldn’t get back inside prisons as usual. So we embarked on a first for Kestrel – creating a project with Kestrel alumnae who had been recently released and were adjusting to life on the outside. Kestrel Associate Artist Simon Longman set to writing four ten minute monologues, in some cases loosely and in others directly inspired by conversations with the four actors about their experiences since release.

The intention was to perform outdoors in promenade at the beautiful Asthall Manor with each actor stationed around a roaring fire, accompanied by live music as the winter sun went down. In an unfortunate case of timing… national lockdown was announced just a few days before. So in an experience all too familiar to anyone who has attempted to organise a live arts event in 2020, we adjusted and moved onto everyone’s favourite video conferencing platform.

Despite the disappointment about what had been lost in the inability to perform in person, there ended up being unexpected and magical positives to the Zoom performance. Firstly, it was far more inclusive. We were able to open up our audience pool to a wider network of invited guests – at one point the audience reached over 100! Secondly, there was a more intangible magic created by the intimacy of the camera which meant the performers (both musicians and actors) really shone. As Simon said afterwards, for a medium that has the potential to be so cold, it felt very special that it was able to conjure such warmth. We were all incredibly proud.

Watch this space as this won’t be the last you see of After Time…

Eleanor Henderson –  Associate Artist