A residency with HMP Channings Wood in Devon.

Lear was a project created and delivered by English Touring Opera and Dartington Hall Trust in collaboration with HMP Channings Wood in Devon. A week-long residency with two groups of men in September 2010 led to a performance in the prison for an audience of inmates. The week consisted of creative and devising workshops, in which songs and music were written, design made, and a story created. The artistic team included composer Andy Smith, director Tim Yealland, singer Abigail Kelly (as Cordelia), actor Steve Jacobs (as Lear), designer Jude Munden, and musicians Miguel Tantos, Adam Mackenzie and Rory Dempsey. With the king as a focal point and catalyst the workshops explored themes of cruelty and forgiveness. Singing, drama, artwork, and movement constituted the elements of the resulting work, all underpinned by a musical world influenced by the surrounding heath of Dartmoor.

Some 20 men took part in this project, and another 60 came to the final performance, which was a powerful and moving event. One member of the audience described the performance as ‘life-changing’. Most of the men were entirely new to acting and singing, and for some it was a genuinely huge challenge to perform in front of the other men.

An exciting strand of the project included a new collaboration with Kevicc (King Edward VI Community College) in Totnes. Working with composer Andy Smith the students composed collages and soundscapes that provided aural backdrops to some of the work in the prison.

The project was supported by Dartington Hall Trust and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

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