The Prison Theatre module came to a close this evening with a sharing of work in Studio 3. The Applied Theatre Level 3 students performed workshop sketches, improvisation routines and snatches of verbatim text to an invited audience of potential employers and members of the prison reform trust. The focus of the work was on the difficulties many former inmates have in finding employment after release.
The module itself has been very successful. The students have met ex-offenders, criminologists, been to see the work of Pimlico Opera in HMP Send and met the artistic director, next week a handful of them are going to spend the afternoon working with some patients in a secure unit.
My only question about it is whether it should be a Level 3 module? In that the work is often being delivered to adults who have never been to a theatre or attended drama classes it takes us back to the beginning of the course and some of the Schools based work we look at at Level 1. Of course there are differences between preparing a workshop for a Secondary School and for a remand home, but essentially we've come full circle. Much of this is to do with the spiral nature of the Drama curriculum and the idea that actually once you're confident about using the approaches and techniques of a workshop leader the creative skill is in adapting these to circumstances and help develop or release the actors you're working with.
There is a frisson attached to working in a prison, with people we perceive to be a 'threat,' but in reality the real skill of drama practitioners is simply to offer a brighter alternative to the cycles of crime, violence or dependency that many people find themselves victims of. It's Drama magic question 'what if?' which helps us all to imagine a different way of living. The Prison Theatre module explores with some rigour what this might mean in reality and offers our undergraduates the chance to really discover what it means to effectively support rehabilitation.