Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Up Front - WORDS PENNY McLEOD PHOTOGRAPHY LUKE BOW­DEN Con­vict Mono­logues: Pub­lic Read­ings Fea­tur­ing mem­bers of the Tas­ma­nian Theatre Com­pany and the Tas­ma­nian Sym­phony Or­ches­tra, to­mor­row at 2pm and 4pm, Ho­bart Con­vict Pen­i­ten­tiary, Bris­bane St. Tick­ets cost $10 ful

Ris­don in­mates take on a cre­ative project with an ABC ra­dio pro­ducer and the TSO

When play­wright, author and ABC Ra­dio pro­ducer Paul McIn­tyre be­gan work­ing with in­mates at Ris­don Prison on a cre­ative writ­ing and per­for­mance project early this year, he didn’t know what to ex­pect of the men and women he’d signed up to work with.

“Like any theatre project, the Con­vict Mono­logues has been as much about the jour­ney and process as it’s been about the fi­nal script,” McIn­tyre says of the 10-month project he ini­ti­ated in part­ner­ship with the Tas­ma­nian Sym­phony Or­ches­tra and Ris­don Prison sport and re­cre­ation of­fi­cer Natasha Woods.

“Friend­ships have been made, bar­ri­ers bro­ken down, and it’s an ex­pe­ri­ence I will keep with me for the rest of my life. When we started the writ­ing classes, there was a mem­ber of the group who said he might write some­thing but could never, ever per­form it. A few months later, when he was in full cos­tume re­hears­ing, I re­minded him about that.

“Who better to write about the con­vict ex­pe­ri­ence than men and women who know what it’s like to be in prison?”

The se­ries of mono­logues, in­spired by the lives of early Aus­tralian con­victs, pre­miered at Ris­don Prison on Wed­nes­day. TSO per­form­ers and Tas­ma­nia Theatre Com­pany ac­tors will present the work to the pub­lic to­mor­row in Ho­bart.

The pris­on­ers pre­sented their work set to mu­sic writ­ten by com­poser Chris Willi­ams, and per­formed by TSO mu­si­cians.

“The TSO has done pre­vi­ous col­lab­o­ra­tions at the prison, but this is re­ally dif­fer­ent to those and far more ex­ten­sive,” TSO ed­u­ca­tion ex­ec­u­tive Jenny Comp­ton says. “A lot of the mu­sic [in Con­vict Mono­logues] is ei­ther set­ting the scene for the next mono­logue or it is tran­si­tion mu­sic. The mu­sic in­di­cates geo­graph­i­cal and emo­tional changes. Some of the mono­logues are funny, some of them are very, very dark.”

The project was de­signed to help in­mates at Ris­don de­velop their writ­ten, oral and in­ter­per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills dur­ing work­shops pre­sented by McIn­tyre and Woods, and through ex­po­sure to guest speak­ers on the con­vict ex­pe­ri­ence in­clud­ing au­thors and his­to­ri­ans Ali­son Alexan­der, Ni­cola Goc and Stefan Petrow.

“It was a two-way process — as the his­to­ri­ans dis­cussed con­vict life in the early 19th cen­tury, so they also learnt about con­vict life in the early 21st cen­tury,” McIn­tyre says.

Comp­ton says it has been a rev­e­la­tory project for all in­volved.

“There are rea­sons why the arts are re­ally ben­e­fi­cial in help­ing peo­ple re­solve things and grow,” she says. “Learn­ing how to fix a car up isn’t go­ing to ad­dress why some­one is so an­gry. Writ­ing a mono­logue [on the other hand] will chal­lenge a per­son to take a long, hard look at them­selves.”

TSO ed­u­ca­tion ex­ec­u­tive Jenny Comp­ton, left, Paul McIn­tyre from the ABC, and Natasha Woods from Cor­rec­tive Ser­vices have col­lab­o­rated with pris­on­ers at Ris­don Prison to cre­ate the Con­vict Mono­logues. Pic­ture: LUKE BOW­DEN

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