was one of a series of ventures by the London Shakespeare Workout Prison
Project, which gets inmates to work alongside skilled professionals in
an intense, two-week rehearsal period, and shows how Shakespeare can be
used to foster collective self-esteem. But any sense of worthiness was
rapidly overcome by the vigour of Bruce Wall's 100-minute production.
Played on a large, carpeted open space with the Lancastrians and
Yorkists kitted out in colour-coded, red and white prison uniforms, it
proved that Shakespeare's histories can work with minimal props and
without the usual rivers of Kensington gore.
also suspect the professionals get as much out of it as the inmates.
This production gave Lynn Farleigh the chance to play a genuinely
savage, tigerish Margaret of Anjou spitting venom in the face of the
captive Duke of York. And a number of upcoming young actors similarly
seized the moment. Oliver Senton's "mis-shapen Dick",
radiating chirpy malevolence and eyeing up the vacant throne for size,
hinted balefully at the future horrors of Richard III. Rupert Mason,
taking time out from The Madness of George Dubya, was a suitably shifty
Warwick and Julian D'Silva a ferociously carnal Prince Edward.
would quibble at one or two of Wall's interpolations, such as the
pantomimic, "The Earl Grey's widow is just his cup of tea."
But what was impressive was the commitment of the entire company and the
way a peculiarly savage section of English history, in which kingship
depended on brute force, was acted out with a rare passion for language.
Clearly prison is one place where people learn to love Shakespeare.