Beyond The Walls – Initiative Looking for Thespians Wanting to Move Away From Crime

The South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings has launched a new and exciting initiative through the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit that is looking for people who want to take a different direction in life away from crime.

The Beyond the Walls Initiative is part of Shakespeare Unbard, which works with those caught up in the criminal justice system and offers them the opportunity to set up and run a collaboratively owned theatre company.

The theatre company will offer people from the age of 18-years the opportunity to work together to produce Macbeth, one of William Shakespeare’s famous plays, that will be performed to family members and friends.

Sessions are running on Monday evenings from January 2021 on the Zoom platform and are open to anyone ex-offenders in South Yorkshire with access to digital equipment.  The sessions will give everyone involved the opportunity to try their hand at acting, boost their confidence and make decisions as a group as to how the production comes together. Absolutely no acting experience or knowledge of Shakespeare or of theatre is needed and full support will be given.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: “I am always looking for ways of supporting those people who have been involved in criminality to turn their lives around. This project is something really imaginative and different.

“Acting does many things for those who take part. It means they have to read and learn a script, and they have to make the imaginative leap to get inside the skin of another person. All of this builds self-confidence and a proper sense of self-worth – which is often hard for those leaving custody to build back. I firmly believe that these are essential ingredients for ex-offenders to turn their lives around.

“I am pleased we can support it through the Violence Reduction Unit.”

Founder of Shakespeare UnBard, Rowan Mackenzie runs theatre companies in various men’s prisons.  She said: “This is an opportunity for anyone to try their hand at something new in a place where labels don’t matter.  We all work together as equals to create theatre, to create something that all involved are proud of.”

One of the actors, serving a life sentence describes their theatre company as “a true sense of freedom, one that is rarely found anywhere in life, let alone within the high security estate. It offers each of us a few brief moments of Nirvana.”