Scared No More
Text by Jake Thornton
My first response when I found out that I was actually going to be taking a Shakespeare workshop into Bedford Prison was fear. I was scared. I don’t know why. Maybe because of the thought of working with inmates, maybe because of the idea of breaking down a barrier in Shakespeare performance or perhaps because it would mean not hiding behind a character in an environment I was unused to. I think it was a combination of all three.
We arrived at the prison and found the inmates nice enough. A few reluctant, a few eager, some just there for a laugh. However as we began to work through several exercises using Shakespearean language as a base, there was a magical moment where they actually realised ‘actually, I’m quite enjoying this’. The experience seemed to take them out of Bedford for a few hours and onto the fields of Agincourt; the palace of Richard after the death of the princes or into Elsinore. They really began to talk to each other and laugh; not at each other but with each other despite the situation they were in.
Not only do I feel that the experience was beneficial to them, but also to me as an actor. I realise why I have become an actor: to affect and inspire people. In our brief time at Bedford, we may have only made a small difference, but lots of small differences change a society.