The Cell, which comes to the Unity for a three night run in May, is a prison drama from the pen of one who knows what they’re talking about.
Playwright Michael Crowley has been writer in residence at a young offenders’ institution for the last six years, and developed The Cell with staff and inmates there. The show originally premiered at last year’s 24:7 Theatre Festival in Manchester, before being selected for a production at Bolton Octagon as well as the You Are Here Festival in Australia last month.
Described as a hostage drama with a difference, the two central characters are long serving and long suffering officer Scully (Joe O’Byrne) and serial inmate Kelly (David Barlow). The action takes place a few days after the suicide of a vulnerable prisoner. Crowley says: “It dramatises the impact – and lack of impact – upon individuals, most particularly, upon a prison officer; drama’s most typecast occupation.”
The cast and crew, including director Ron Meadows, visited Crowley’s prison and worked on the play with prisoners and staff to make it as authentic as possible, even involving a hostage negotiator in the workshop. A performance was filmed, and has been shown in a number of prisons to raise awareness about bullying.
Crowleyalso uses the film and his script as a basis for creative writing getting young prisoners to write post-play scenes. He says: “Part of the key to working with young prisoners or any young person really, is to get them inside someone else’s skin, to try to see life through the eyes of someone very different to themselves.”
Michael Crowley will be running a drama writing workshop on Wednesday, May 8 (1pm to 6pm) , with shows from May 7 to 9. See the Unity’s website for more information.