‘I shall remember this bold language’
Henry VIII, William Shakespeare.
where process IS product
‘You taught me language –
and my profit on’t is I know how to curse’
The Tempest, William Shakespeare.
The fine Voice Specialist,Tess Dignan,
wrote this verse post a LUP session by LSW.
Just out of Prison - changed.
The weight of so many locks and keys
Soulless metal magnolia paint,
The smell of sweat and boredom
Waves of clanging
And a library full of dead books
And out of the fear came hope
And out of the hope came dusty souls
And we swung together
On the branches of poetry
And fresh air came into our lungs
And imagination filled the room with flowers
And we shared water and words and wit
And when we left we squeezed hands
I, to my freedom
Our residents, to a window
Which they took with them
Into their cells...
Whys & Wherefore
It was 2017. It was October. It was LSW’s 20th birthday. But how should we celebrate? What would be apt; something that hadn’t been tried already?
Why not create a new word?
What IS LUP?
That, my friend, is a very good question.
LUP seemed only part and parcel of ‘promoting confidence through the Will to Dream for ALL‘ which – as you know – is key to LSW’s stated mandate.
Thus the perfect match was born (or so we hoped). It had in fact been about for quite some time. LSW had seen to that. It had just been given a different (sub)title. An enhancement if you like. A celebration for a 20th anniversary in the 21st Century.
Still our dreams for LUP did not stop there. Stopping hasn’t ever been LSW’s way.
In 2017 we were also celebrating the 18th anniversary of our dedicated prison workouts with Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) students. Proudly in 2016 such had become a core part of the RADA curriculum.
Now we dreamed of a potential prison workout for every UK drama student. One allowing them to share in the experiential potency that so, so many professionals had already enjoyed; nay, championed over the years.
Shakespeare celebrates community above all and we were determined to extend our reach through lupping.
At LSW we believe key creative interaction to be a vital element in any actor’s training. In prison there is no question but that we learn from each other; holding as t’were a mirror up to our respective and conjoined natures. Incarceration is only ever – after all – a state of mind; and that can be imprisoning anywhere. Who among us doesn’t seek a diversity of platforms for release; for different tricks and tools of escape? This is the common denominator in all LSW circles.
Thus it was that we joined with HMP Pentonville – one of LSW’s original prison homes – in a newly defined ‘linked up programme’. (LUP again as it happens.)
LSW’s masterclasses with drama schools had, of course, gone on for decades – and often there were prison visits for a goodly number therein involved. Indeed LSW itself had run a drama school, the Dream Factory, in HMP Brixton for a year. (Again, you can see the BBC Culture Show segment on that here.) Our dedicated work over the years with E15 had additionally seen a group of Foundation students doing a production of the Bard’s Richard III at HMP Leicester as well as a selection of E15 MA acting students (pictured) travelling with LSW to Berlin and sharing their skills with both German drama students and young offenders. The tapestry was already rich.
it is hard even now to quantify the impact – nay, the joy – of this extraordinary work. There have been times where it may well have given more than it got – though usually it is a fair trade. We, of course, want more. We are Luppers, after all, and have every intention to go on Lupping. Here you will find feedback from actors in but one historic LSW prison session. These kind of responses are, of course, now legion. LUP – like its progenitor, LSW – works. After 21 years we know that. It would now be hard to suppose otherwise.
Effective Evidence ...
Still it is difficult for the written word alone to convey the comprehensive wallop of such synergy. Thus we are proud to share with you a documentary as but an additional voice It is called Killing Birds / Animating Macbeths and was built around an LSW prison production of the Bard’s famed Scottish play. At least the men here – as much as the proud actors interacting directly beside them – can be heard to speak for themselves. If you watch nothing else please watch this. Feel free to dip in and out. The link is here. Assuredly this will give you a sense of the heartbeat of LSW and certainly a road map towards the adventure of lupping.
But Does it Work for Actors?
Believe it or not that question has been posed more than a few times over the years. (That and ‘Why Shakespeare?’ – Go figure!)
Our answer has always been the same –
It does. Resoundingly so. Why? Because we believe for a performing artist – for ANY performing artist – there are very few things you can do where you know IMMEDIATELY that what you do is actually vitally important; is socially crucial. This incentive offers just such a rare opportunity. That is the reward; that is the payment. That is but one reason why it is – and must remain – in and of itself – a privilege. That too is why it can and must be cherished.
It was a truly inspiring experience. I will never forget it. It was so extraordinary and liberating to see the inmates release their energy in such a positive and joyful way. At the same time I felt the workshops were getting to the central pulse of Shakespeare and allowing us all to share in that extraordinary language.
John Heffernan, actor
This work is just so damned heartening.
Dame Janet Suzman, actor
What was especially wonderful about Tuesday was not just that I felt exhilarated about the Workout but also that most people around me seemed to be, even those who had taken part many times previously. I mentioned that it was a refreshing experience at the start of this ramble! What I meant was that I was privileged to take part in a non-judgemental Workout. It was brilliant to see the guys supporting and encouraging one another and to find the lovely Prison Officer, Hedge, getting involved too! Bruce’s energy for this project is infectious. It was really a very special day.
Anna Maxwell Martin, actor
When the session came to an end I looked at my watch and realised that four hours had flown by, and that it was now dark outside. We had all forgotten ourselves – all of us, actors and inmates. Marcus, one of the most enthusiastic of the group, came up to shake my hand. ‘Happy Christmas’, he said. ‘You too’, I replied, and then realised what I’d said. But maybe that’s not so bad. There is no doubt in my mind that Bruce and all involved with LSW that afternoon went some way to making all their Christmases just that little bit brighter.
Tom Hiddleston, actor
I’ve worked in every country on earth; I’ve played over 3,000 parts in my career so far and this is about the most rewarding job I’ve had in all that time.
Barry Morse, actor *
A Dedicated Annotation
[* You can hear Barry actually speak those words yourself by watching another documentary – Artistic Convictions – in which a group of dedicated LSW members – including Rob Hastie – now Artistic Director of the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield – travel to a Young Offenders Unit in HMP Rochester, the original borstal, and undertake a Workout. You will see and hear Barry lup. You will also see the young lads write with Shakespeare and – in one hugely moving moment – watch a lad’s face light up when his words are turned into a song’s lyric by a very talented actress in that day’s group, Sarah Pearman. The link is here – May the joy be yours too.]
The work that Bruce Wall is doing in prisons is more powerful and persuasive than any conventional rehab or educational approach I have ever encountered. It is transformative in the broadest sense: It uses a wide range of linguistic, theatrical and social skills to surprise and delight and – crucially – disarm hardened and defensive young men and women who have largely given up on themselves and the world around them. Working with Wall and Shakespeare is so improbable and yet so revealing. It launches the long process of transformation that is involved in changing lives.
Professor Roger Graef, CBE,
criminologist / film maker
I was surprised to see the visitors mingling with us, the inmates, as if we’d known each other for years. After going through with the Workout, I felt the mask on my face falling off because I was able to be myself without any of the drama group members making me feel like a criminal. They made me feel special. Finally, the one thing that touched my heart was when the leader of the group said that ‘Shakespeare’s language belongs to all of us and we must not let anyone take that away from us’. I really enjoyed myself and looking at the eyes of my fellow inmates I think they did enjoy the whole workout.
What About a Motto?
But – wait – we needed a motto for this enterprise, our Starship LUP; something not too shabby that might stick. But what should that be? Shakespeare, of course – but what? We put our heads together – and, together, came up with this:
MAKE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS YOUR PRISON; THOUGHT IS FREE
That’s not just one line of Shakespeare. It’s two! Double the value. The first is spoken by Octavius Caesar in Act V, Scene ii of Antony & Cleopatra The second by Stephano in Act III, Scene ii of the Bard’s last play, The Tempest. This would be a maxim which would mix comedy, tragedy and history. It would also be a full line of iambic. Somehow it seemed just the ticket.
What an incredible experience! I’ve been trying to work out why it was so emotional and other than getting to know everyone in the company – I think the sheer gratitude of the chaps from Pentonville was a privilege to be part of. I never realised just how powerful it can be to give someone hope – I feel very humbled by the whole experience. This time stands on its own. Nothing in my working life, and not too much in my personal one, comes close.
Peter Harding, actor
While I was locked away my mind was not. I first encountered LSW and Dr. Wall on the landings of C-Wing. I went to one LSW workshop and was hooked by the work they do. Before returning to prison I never had faith in my ability to take part in dramatic arts, etc. After I started with LSW my cell-mate said he could see great up-beat changes in me and further commented that Bruce was obviously reaching people that few others could reach. I actually believe that Dr. Wall reaches people that no one else WANTS to reach. That is why the work is held in such high regard by the inmates and staff alike.
Andy, (now proudly an ex-) prisoner
Lup Lads Speak
When I first came into the Workout space my two upper front teeth had been bashed out. ‘A sign of defining character’ I kept telling myself. It proved even MORE. It was a fantastic advantage in learning how to project my voice and enunciate. When I got those teeth fixed I was so much more than just ready to perform. I ‘jawed‘.
Shaw, a LUP lad
For half a year I spent most days sleeping. Now I had a reason to get up in the morning. For half a year I never read a book. Now I’ve read 14 Shakespeare plays. In so many ways I find I’m not in prison any more. I’ve created a role for myself and been able to share it with others. We interconnect.
Above all this Tranche has provided for me the chance to re-connect with my own heritage and, most especially, the Russian language itself. I’ve found new music in it. Part of that discovery was working with the musicians. Their work invigorated ours. It was, in fact, like another character.
Vlad, another LUP lad
The Eyes Have It
Fundamentally, LUP – Like its creator, LSW – is ALL about the joy of interactive collaboration with the individuals with whom we are privileged to share.
You can see it in their eyes.
They are lupping.
Thank you so much for the opportunity. It’s really fascinating and the benefit to the men is obvious. Saying that I found the benefit to my own work profound. I felt as if I had a third ear going on stage that evening and other members of the cast said they sensed this as well. They are now all eager to take part.
Eoin McAndrew, actor
Early Friday morning I was privileged to partake in a rehearsal of Bruce Wall’s (LSW) new work with the prisoners of HMP Pentonville. The morning proved to be such an insightful and rewarding experience. What the contrast and input of each voice had in common was a willingness to respond to perhaps one of their greatest needs; to be heard. The energy generated during the session was contagious. To be involved with this stunning initiative left me feeling so full of life, inspiration and awe! Using Shakespeare as a tool for transformation certainly has astoundingly positive results. This space offers people in prison the chance to come up for air; gives them the possibility to express themselves and activate their heart space and get a taste of what they have lost, the freedom to do, to say, to be. It is not love or money we all crave for. More than anything it is freedom.
Trudy Lewis, entrepreneur
A Prodigal Return
LSW has always been proud to work – and has a long history of working – with ex-offenders. (You might be interested in seeing a five minute film LSW made with a group of South African ex-offenders – mixed here with the perspective of a British prisoner – both celebrating the wit and wisdom of Nelson Mandela. The link is here.) It was with special delight that during the first full days of official LUP Sessions – filled as they were with two different sets of graduating RADA students – that one of those same should be an ex-offender himself. Step forward the luminous Michael Balogun who has since only ever covered himself in greater theatrical and media glory.
I will always remember – during the lunch break of that first July day – when Jose Aguiar – without whom this entire endeavour would not be possible – was leading our guests on a tour of the prison we would suddenly hear Michael’s name being hollered out from behind selective locked doors. It seemed some of the men had served time with him. The brotherhood is – or so it seems – ever strong. Going up to their cell’s hatch Michael would shout through that they should try to get on the next session as he would be there. I can think of no better advertisement.
One of the most moving LUP ex-offender moments for me came in the second Tranche. I had seen a young actor, Joseph Langdon, in his graduating work at Mountview and was very impressed. I reached out seeing if he might be interested in taking part in a LUP session and he kindly wrote back explaining some of his own background. Thus it was that he came in alongside a group of students from Arts Educational one December day – and even shared a slice of his Shylock which meant oh, so much to the lads. Afterwards Joe wrote:
Being at Pentonville was the most humbling experience I have had in a while. The fearlessness and commitment was truly admirable. Not to say I am surprised. Throwing themselves into any challenge, quicker and with more vigour than a lot of actors I have met. They would also find the truth, and their personal connection to the text. And when I got up and did a Shylock monologue to them, their support and attentiveness was fuelling. I felt so fortunate to be a part of the work they have been doing. I only hope they continue what they are doing inside and beyond the tall walls that surround them. It was a gentle reminder for me to count my blessings and not take my freedom for granted. Inspirational!
Aiming to Inspire
No organisation has a better track record in pure inspiration.
Lord David Ramsbotham
We all want to feel that our skill or art or sensibility – whatever you want to call it – can have a practical and measurable effect and your project is so close to so many actors’ hearts … One seldom feels that one’s work is vital. Yours is. …. These people’s journeys are so remarkable and give us all inspiration. They all seem to have such inner resources. They – and your work – are truly life enhancing.
Dame Harriet Walter, actor
A Final Dollop
“My Lords, yes, indeed – one arts based initiative, the London Shakespeare Workout, uses the language and themes of Shakespeare with professional theatrical performers to engage inmates, education staff and prison officers…. It is not new. …. It is not all about clamping people down, it is about opening them up and encouraging them to be positive whether they have offended or not. … This is an important issue to have been raised in the House”.
Lord Rooker, House of Lords
“Apart from breaking up the monotony of prison life, your Workout has broken up the monotony of my whole life which has basically been the pursuit of happiness through drugs since being an adult. I now realise that after years of searching for some other form of release for my energies that acting is something that gives me great feelings of fulfilment… You’ve proved to me that there are other keys to unlock the pleasures of the brain apart from chemical ones”.
Colin, HMP Risley
“LSW’s work is impressive and powerful stuff – and an excellent illustration of the impact that the arts can have on individual offenders”.
Peter Wrench, HMPS Director of Resettlement
“Paradoxically, confinement has given these young men a space in which they can be more creative than ever before”.
Tom Gatti, Journalist, TheTimes
Setting & Dressing
It would be churlish of me to finish without specific mention of the critical importance of both (i) original writing – often inspired by Shakespeare – (you can see a brief film clip of a session highlighting such with Joseph Fiennes here) and (ii) music which feeds the very core of all LSW endeavours. Both will only ever become more prominent in LSW’s future. Of necessity both set and dress all that we – all LSW Luppers – do. They always have. Much as they were for Shakespeare, these are, after all, LSW’s life-blood.
In the spirit of killing two birds with one stone – (only by way of example you understand) – I will put up a link to a brief film featuring the song RAGE. The lyric for this was written by Peter Bradbury, one of many talented prison writers LSW has been privileged to work with over the years. The music is by the extraordinary Alfie Granger-Howell, who was to win the first Tim Williams Award for composition for this very work. The performer is the equally stellar Tyrone Huntley, who we first met in a LSW workshop in Lincoln when he was but 16 years old.
As with so many things in life – certainly at LSW – the world comes – (as Shakespeare coined – or is that ‘lupped’) – ‘full circle‘. That too is part of the magic of LSW’s LUPPING.
Here is poem by Peter written in
no more than 20 minutes during an LSW session.
How oft I count the clock that tells the time
Pondering how I wasted blackened hours
Pulling syntax and metre into rhyme
'Stead of pursuing more restful bowers.
In darkest hours of long, frigid, slow night
When sleep evades the mind for far too long,
Tossed; turned: I set to put my scansion right
Until interrupted by the clock's rude song.
Perhaps time never meant to be split open
Into divisions of hour and metre.
They imprison man.They cause him to scratch
On minds by implicit laws unwritten.
Should I rest? No. I'd not so read and write.
Verse needs that light being set in blackest night.
Having featured the Killing Birds / Animated Macbeths documentary above, – which I genuinely hope you have been able to watch at least a small part of as for me it defines LSW’s heart – it seems only right and fitting that we should end with the original epilogue that completed that performance’s text. This too was written by a prisoner. In this case a woman then serving her (now finished) time, Clare Barstow. It is performed here by one of our world’s great Shakespearean champions, Sir Kenneth Branagh.
I know why I'm in prison now.
It's to do this.