It was from the much respected actor David Hobbs, who himself has appeared in many roles with the RSC, in Declan Donnellan’s legendary all-male production of ‘As You Like It’ for Cheek by Jowl, in Stephen Daldry’s hailed production of ‘Rat in the Skull’ at the Royal Court in the West End and in repertory theatres from the Nottingham Playhouse to Bolton’s Octagon, from the Liverpool Everyman to the Derby Playhouse, that I received the following, gracious letter:
“Having recently spent back-to-back seasons with the RSC,” David wrote, “the question I’ve often asked myself is: ‘Is all this doing anybody any good? And what is the point of it?’ In a successful show the rewards are evident inasmuch as you give a good night out to eighteen hundred people including some who might, just might, have felt a chord struck inside, the resonance of which will stay with them for the rest of their lives. It certainly happened to me the first time I went to Stratford thirty years ago.
Cicely Berry, the Company’s renowned voice teacher is, I know, a great believer in applying Shakespeare’s text to all kinds of initiatives including working with prisoners. For my part I have no such experience to offer other than an open mind and an extensive c.v. in classical work. The situation may well prove to be as much a learning experience for me as for anyone else. It would certainly be a challenge.”
But a few days later I received the following letter (quoted below) from Gavin, an inmate at HMP The Mount, following the 1st March LSW Prison Project Session at that same institution. The reader may be forgiven for feeling that both exactly dove-tailed in terms of fundamental need.
Prisoner’s Prerogative: Inside Out
Gavin XXXX: CMXXXX
HMP The Mount
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the excellent work you do here and for allowing me to dream again. I am extremely interested in acting and would jump at the chance to attend Drama School.
Acting, for me, has had such a positive impact on my life. It’s totally changed my way of thinking and helped me see that despite being in prison I can go on and fulfil my aspirations. I used to have a rather short temper which sometimes got the better of me, hence my residence here. I now know it was because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, where I wanted to take my life. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever what I wish to do now – drama. And I feel a lot better with myself now I know that.
To become a drama student is my dream and ambition. You’ve showed me dreams can come true. Thank you. I believe in myself again. I feel drama can help change other people’s lives for the better too. Just look at the influence you have with your Shakespeare Workout group and it’s apparent!
Once again, thank you to everyone in LSW – Alasdair, Celina, Richard, Suzy, too many to mention, but you know who you are. We are such stuff as dreams are made of!