Leeds theatre performance helping to resettle offenders set to premiere on Bank Holiday weekend
Leeds theatre company 'imagine if' will premiere a new outdoor performance over the Bank Holiday weekend, challenging perceptions of people with convictions.
Staged at The Holbeck social club on August 28-29, ‘Is Anyone There?’ is a community performance devised by theatre professionals and members of imagine if's Phoenix programme.
The community programme uses the arts to help people with a history of offending to develop key employment and life skills.
Phoenix also provides practical support and arts-based opportunities to assist in positive resettlement, keeping up motivation to stop offending behaviour.
'Is Anyone There?' will be the first live show staged by imagine if since the Covid-19 pandemic.
The show's producer and writer, Imagine If's artistic director Francesca Joy, said: "Is Anyone There?’ isn’t about giving our Phoenix participants a voice, because they already have one.
"It’s about creating a space where they’re listened to and can tell their stories.
“Is Anyone There? breaks down the traditional barriers of theatre – we’re outside, it’s Pay What You Decide, and our audiences won’t be able to see any difference between our fantastic professional actors and our brilliant Phoenix participants.”
To open up theatre to all members of the Leeds community, tickets can be purchased on a pay-what-you-decide basis.
Francesca added: "Through Covid, although we’ve all been in the same storm, not everyone has been in the same boat - some people haven’t even had a boat.
"And all those people will come together for ‘Is Anyone There?’, bringing with them all the pain, hurt and joy they’ve experienced over the last eighteen months. To have that communal connection, that only live theatre can bring, is so important for us all.”
In addition to making up the majority of casting roles, participants from Phoenix are also taking up roles in stage management, front of house and sound design.
Ryan, a Phoenix participant and cast member, said: “Originally I came across imagine if through Bird on the Wing, [imagine if's flagship theatre and employability intervention for prisoners due for release] which encourages prisoners to try something different and think differently.
"I’d never been involved with theatre before – and it was something I’d never considered getting involved in - and I just kept going from there.
"I've loved being in rehearsals for ‘Is Anyone There?’. We’ve been listening to each other’s experiences to shape characters, ideas and stories for the show.
"I hope audiences who come to the show get some new perspectives, maybe reconsider the traditional view of prison-leavers and people with convictions, because we want to challenge the perceptions of who we are.”
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