Last week we were delighted to present ‘Sounds Like an Insult’ – byClean Break Theatre Company. ‘Sounds like an Insult’ was commissioned by Clean Break in association with NOMS and the Department of Health and performed by graduates of Clean Break’s theatre education programme. Written by Vivienne Franzmann the show explores the experience of women offenders with complex mental health needs and the challenges of diagnosis and treatment within the criminal justice system. This event was in association with the Prison Partnership Project.
The Prison Partnership Project was conceived back in September 2013 by Rachel Conlon in the theatre programme, within the Faculty of Arts at #YSJ, HMP Askham Grange and the nationally acclaimed theatre company Clean Break. It was born out of the idea and desire to provide a unique, creative arts partnership between education, the arts and the prison service.
The aims of the partnership are to support the already recognised work of Clean Break at HMP Askham Grange, to give York St John theatre and arts students an invaluable, enhanced learning experience of working in the community and to gain real-world understanding of the social impact of theatre and the arts within a criminal justice setting
Clean Break presented the work as part of our Performing House series of programmed performances on campus. Followed by a Q & A and drama workshop with Anna Herrmann (Author of Making a Leap – Theatre of Empowerment) and Head of Education for Clean Break.
Every year Level 1 BA Theatre Students make a three-day visit to Featherstone Castle, an historic building near Haltwhistle, Northumbria. This field trip allows students to make site specific theatre in response to the building, its grounds and its history. This years work notably featured a haunting array of spooky devised work, performances that concentrated on theatre images, sound and space and moved away from dramatic representation to create environments for audience to experience the live situation as a presentation of tasks, gestures and text. Two students, Alex Kaniewski and James Harris have provided reflections on their experiences (below).
“After being told that we were going to make theatre in an old, semi derelict castle in the middle of the Northumbrian countryside, most of us did not have a clue what to expect and little did we know what an amazing experience it would be. To have free reign of an entire Castle and the ability to explore its vast network of interesting rooms, corridors and stairways was nothing less than exciting and enchanting. The aim of the trip was to create work in response to the space around us, with most groups playing with the ideas of supernatural spirits, the history of past occupants and the general creepy atmosphere of the place. It was a very interesting place to work, as sound and movement could be very effective without the need for much verbal communication, a simple whistle was enough to have our audience frightened and disorientated. It was also a great opportunity to get to know each other, and the friendships we have developed by working with new people will be invaluable as the course progresses. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Featherstone Castle, and the experiences that I have shared with my course mates I feel has brought us all closer together.” (Alex Kaniewski Level 1 BA Theatre)
“A memory that I will always treasure was walking to the river. In my hands I held a glass full to the brim with water and a small stone inside. Was this a representation of life; a tiny stone in a vast sea of water? We were asked to throw the water and tiny gem back into the river and speak a meaningful word aloud or to our selves. Almost as if we were giving an offering to the gods. I screamed ‘Mercy’. I questioned my self, why did I say that? Nothing. Its no mistake that a site can contain a flood of emotions and memories, especially when you’re driven hours away from home. Featherstone Castle, like most odd looking places, was brought back to life by some measly looking theatre students for three-days and I will always remember it.” (James Harris, Level 1 BA Theatre)