Original Drama (Theatre)
Four Kestrel alumni worked with the writer Simon Longman to create fictional stories that looked at the experiences of finishing a prison sentence and the problems and possibilities of finding yourself in a new life. The collective piece is called AFTER TIME. This was performed with live music to an audience of over 200 people via Zoom
Writer: Simon Longman
Director: Eleanor Henderson
Co Director: Jason York
Producer: Arabella Warner
Terry Ellis (Blood and Water)
Ricardo Thomas: (Broken Dreams 1 and Signal Fires)
Brian Murphy: (Broken Dreams 1)
Pank Sethi: (Waiting)
Emma Warner with William Gardner
Here’s what the men involved said:
‘Thank you for letting me be a part of Kestrel. It really is a life changing organisation’
‘I always feel like I’m with family when I work with Kestrel and this time was no different. Thank you for letting me be a part of it.’
‘Getting involved with Kestrel is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I never dreamt that I would perform live on stage or on Zoom in brilliantly written and produced productions considering where I was up until very recently. It has totally helped me with confidence and my way of thinking about life and I know I am not the only one. A brilliant charity that actually produces results.’
‘Working with Kestrel has been instrumental in giving me the confidence to believe in myself and my ability to aim higher then I ever dreamt possible. A light that as been ignited by being part of something so phenomenally inspiring.’
‘Congratulations on such a compelling performance last evening. It was moving and inspiring at the same time. The exploration of post prison experience is so much less than the amount devoted to being locked up. ‘Watching time turn into memories’ was a phrase that really struck me. Each of them described in such forensic detail the anxiety that they carry with them always, and is so ignored by the justice system. Bravo!’
‘Amazing, inspiring stuff!’
‘So important to hear these stories. Thank you to those whose stories these were based on. Thank you for helping us understand and having the courage to share. Beautifully and sensitively put together.’
‘Such strong and incredible performances thank you! This is seriously important work’.
‘It was fab. When I compare it to some of the online theatre we have signed up for from the mainstream theatres…I know what I would rather spend a couple of hours watching.’
‘You are doing something with real human value. But you know that already!’
‘Wonderful stuff. Moving, specific, and powerful.’
In November and December 2019, over the course of four weeks under the guidance of a professional theatre director, writer and actor from Kestrel Theatre, thirteen men from HMP Springhill devised and wrote the original pantomime Rio’s Extraordinary Christmas. The project was in collaboration with The Irene Taylor Trust who worked with four men to produce five original music tracks for the show, which were performed as a live band during performances.
All men were released from their normal duties for the length of the project but continued to be paid to work on the production.
The story follows Rio, the drummer boy who after burning the Christmas turkey is sent to get a new one by his Uncle B. After meeting Buddy the elf, he finds himself on a journey to extraordinary places, meeting extraordinary people, including Banta Claus the stand up comedian, Tiny the giant, The Dumpmaster and MC Snowman with the help of a whish whoosh, a magical transporter. Needless to say it all ends happily.
Rio’s Extraordinary Christmas was performed to audiences of over 300 staff, residents, family, friends and outside guests over five performances in HMP Springhill’s Association Room which had been transformed for the occasion into a magical space scape. The music was recorded on to CD for all the participants.
You can read the testimonials from the actors, musicians and audience here.
10 evening workshops with professional playwright Simon Longman saw 5 short plays being produced by the residents on a variety of themes. Kestrel collaborated with The Royal Court Theatre to produce a performance of rehearsed readings of the plays by three professional actors to an audience of over 100 people.
Over 5 weeks fifteen men from HMP Springhill devised an original pantomime. There were 5 performances to over 300 residents, staff, family and friends. This was our first collaboration with the Irene Taylor Trust who worked with the men to compose original music and songs for the show. Staff and residents from HMP Springhill helped transform their Association Room into a magical setting with a starry night sky.
Industry professionals helped facilitate too: Jason York (actor), Daran Johnson (writer), Marcus Clarke (puppeteer), and Divya Osbon and Ros Claire (set and costume). The show was directed by our Associate Director Holly Race Roughan (seen above testing the set and costume).
A five week theatre project with eight men from HMP Springhill. Invited back to perform Broken Dreams, a play devised at Springhill with playwright Simon Longman in 2017, the men rehearsed for three weeks in Bicester. Supported by Chiltern Railways, they then headed by train to London’s West End for seven performances on the stage of Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square.
You can read testimonals about the work HERE.
You can read the article about the process written for The Stage newspaper by our Artistic Director Arabella Warner HERE.
Andrew Billen from The Times came to see Broken Dreams in rehearsal. Read his full article here.
The women turning prisoners into stage actors in Broken Dreams at the Royal Court theatre
“Broken Dreams is a play written by prisoners. ……It is not about prison life, but the helplessness and occasional moments of transcendence of working-class life outside it: fishing, drinking, social housing. Over, unnamed, looms the shell of Grenfell Tower. It is a rewarding play to read. In performance, even this morning when the staging is being worked out and the actors are reading from scripts, it becomes quite brilliant.”
“I genuinely believe being part of this group is bringing out the best in lots of people — it’s certainly bringing out the best in me.” says Giles a member of the cast. “It’s a lesson that we shouldn’t write people off.” Professional Director Holly Race Roughan believes that her cast are helping to drag theatre out of a “middle-class rut”. “We talk the talk about diversity in theatre, but actually what diversity means to me is
sharing resources and sharing platforms properly and not just as a community project where you perform one-off to an invited audience and you never hear about it again. To have the Royal Court say they take this play seriously as a proper piece of work open to a paying public, for a proper run, is a political moment in history where we say we are redefining what we mean by professional theatre.”
5 week devising project with 9 men from HMP Springhill exploring the challenges of parenthood, grief and loss and the human consequences of the Grenfell disaster. We collaborated with The Royal Court Theatre and a young writer to produce the 30 minute drama which was performed to residents and staff at HMP Springhill as well as to an invited audience at The Royal Court Theatre in London.
You can read Kestrel Graduate Nathanial Jacob’s review of the show and an update of what he is up to since leaving prison in the January edition of Inside Time here: https://insidetime.org/not-so-broken-dreams/
Five week devising project working with ten prisoners in collaboration with The Royal Court Theatre, exploring fatherhood, performed in prison to the prison community and at the Royal Court to an invited audience.
Created by residents at HMP Springhill
Four week devising project working with twelve men to write and perform a half hour play exploring the effects of the legal high Spice on a West London estate. Performed to staff and residents at the prison.