Where: HMP Earlstoke, Devizes
How much: £30 – season sold out
How long: 2 hours
Running until: 11th March
Merchandise: Small programme £3-£5 depending on which notification you read
Review performance date: Sunday 4th March 2012
How many times in your life do you get the opportunity to go into a men’s prison and watch them perform a musical? My guess is not very often so I jumped at the chance! When I found out what show they were putting on I was slightly less enthralled.
I first saw Les Miserables in 2011, thinking it was about time I went to see what all the fuss was about. By the interval I was ready to go to the pub but was dragged back into the second half kicking and screaming. They tell you it’s the longest running musical in the world but what they forget to mention is that it’s also the longest show ever at 3hrs!
Someone at Pimlico Opera (who run the annual privately funded project to teach musical theatre to inmates) decided to run the school version of this show for this performance at a much more acceptable 2hrs. Thank the lord!
After clearing security, the 300 strong audience of this sold out run of shows were marched into the prison sports hall which had been converted very well into a theatre with possibly the smallest stage in the world but also 300 tiered seats. I’m sure it wasn’t easy but it worked.
For the performance, professional actors/singers had been brought in to take the lead roles, letting the mostly tone deaf prisoners play the smaller roles. It was easy to tell who was who, the men with tattooed faces who sang out of tune whilst staring at the floor were obviously not the professionals!
I’d be writing this review all day of I were to go into the story of Les Mis so I’m going to assume you know it. Basically a man steals a loaf of bread and then changes his ways, becoming the foster carer to a girl who’s mother dies in his arms.
When you think that six weeks ago the majority of these prisoners had never seen a musical before and had probably never sung in front of an audience either, it is amazing to see how well they have done. The whole show was very professional and seeing the prisoners families run to the stage at the end to see their loved ones made you realise this was no ordinary visit for them. This is definitely something the inmates can be proud of achieving and will remember for the rest of their lives.