A Different Kind of PLay
Text: Clare Kissane
Seven of us arrived on a miserable (weather-wise) day at HMP Bullingdon and were welcomed by a very cheerful Warden Hedge and Jason Mansell from the Education Department. It was my first workshop with LSW so there were a few nervous flutters. After being searched we were taken to a small chapel, which was to be our abode for the next two and a half hours, alongside twenty inmates.
After ten minutes or so, there began a very slow emergence of men, which gave us an opportunity to chat and get to know some of them before the session was full. This certainly put both them and us at ease. As soon as all were ready, Bruce put us through a series of energetic warm-up games. Some of the inmates glanced around bashfully, with a look of ‘What the hell are they doing’? flashing across their faces. However, all soon got into it once seeing their peers do the same, and a sense of trust developed. Any semblance of initial embarrassment lessened and a unified sense of fun grew.
Most were at ease by the time we presented a bawdy rendition of ‘Chastity Belt’. The Insult Game was definitely their favourite. They relished the Shakespearean language, taking their time in delivery, allowing their faces and bodies to naturally react to the words. There was an incredible sense of teamwork amongst them, so much so that the quieter, more shy inmates became animated the more comfortable they felt, and the louder, more self-confident ones became more restrained and took part on an equal level with the others. Never was there a sense of competition – only support.
Throughout the session they were all ears, absorbing everything they could hear, especially when Bruce read out examples of Witslings written during previous LSW Prison Project Workouts. The guys listened intently nodding in appreciation – you could have heard a pin drop. And when Bruce and I delivered an example of interspersing – I felt I had the best audience I could ever have asked for. You could feel the energy in the silence.
Then later, when they read out lines from Shakespeare all taken from different speeches, different plays, it sounded ‘as though it could have been a whole new play’ as Hedge, the warden, put it. Incidentally the fact that Jason and Hedge took part made a huge, positive difference to the proceedings and the team of LSW Prison Project actors I was with; Shelley, Alasdair, Rob, Sarah and Celina were fantastic to work with and all melded brilliantly with the inmates.
Everybody seemed so in tune with each other by the end it was shame to bring it to a close. On saying our farewells many of the inmates let us know what a great time they had had and some were asking where they could get hold of some Shakespearean literature. If we helped one person in some small way that day then it was worth it. It was an extremely rewarding day and I would recommend it to anyone.