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.
Working with a professional puppeteer, six men recorded a puppet story in the prison library for their family. This was kindly supported by The Button Moon Trust.
A series of 20 evening Drama workshops run by industry professionals.
At the end of each 10 weeks there was a sharing of the work with residents and outside guests.
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.”
Funded by The Button Moon Trust this special project saw six men from HMP Grendon work with puppeteer Marcus Clarke to produce story DVDs. These were sent back home to their families to be used as bedtime stories. Read the testimonials here:
Eight evening workshops in HMP Springhill culminating in a one off performance to staff, residents and kestrel friends.
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/
8 evening spoken word workshops in HMP Springhill on the theme of friendship culminating in a one off recorded performance to staff, residents and an invited audience.
T H E H E R O I N M E T H E H E R O I N M E