Back Behind Bars

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Graeme Rose as Tommy Tank

Following an acclaimed sell-out run last year, I’m delighted to announce that Behind Bars: Ghosts of the Lock-Up is returning to the infamous Birmingham jail this July. Not only that, but our very own Tim Stimpson will be taking over directing duties from the wonderful Jo Gleave.

It’s the first time all eight Bold Text playwrights have collaborated on a single show. We’ve each taken a character from the building’s past, including Tommy Tank (a notorious and hilarious drunk), Evelyn Miles (one of the UK’s first female police officers) and even Sarah Bernhardt (the word-famous French actress). You can read more below, but if that’s already whetted your appetite you can BOOK YOUR PLACE IN THE CLINK HERE!

Since 1891, tens of thousands of people have passed through Birmingham’s Central Lock-Up on their way to court, prison or even the noose. What brought them to this desperate point in their lives? And what memories have they left behind?

Eight of the region’s leading writers will resurrect the ghosts of The Lock-Up’s past, summoning them back to the cells, stairways and corridors where they once walked. As you move around the building you’ll meet robbers and drunkards, prostitutes and murderers, as well as the policemen and pioneering policewomen who held the keys.

Beware! The past still has lessons to teach us. Those who dare to enter The Lock-Up get taught those lessons well. Feedback from the original shows in 2018 include:

“Fabulous show! Informative and emotional, thought provoking, amazing acting and writing” Audience member

“Sent shivers down my spine several times. Loved it!” Audience member

Duration approximately 1 hour with a chance to look round and visit the shop after. Not suitable for children under the age of 12.

Please be advised the Lock-Up is an old building and is not suitable for visitors with mobility issues. Flat shoes are advised and no short skirts . Pictures may be taken during the shows for publicity purposes. There will be some chairs in each area but the show mainly consists of standing for short performances and moving around the building.

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Sentence complete

Sentence complete

BOLDtext’s first all-female Open Door – three writers, two actors and a director – arrived at The REP stage door on a frosty January morning, tasked with producing an evening of thoughtful and engaging theatre in a single day.  We knew from previous shows that we had an intense and demanding ten hours ahead of us.

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Sentencing for the Future

Sentencing for the Future

BOLDtext Playwrights are delighted to announce the panel for their audience discussion, ‘Sentencing for the Future’, which follows their latest show, The Sentence, three brand new short plays at Birmingham REP on Monday 28 January 8pm.

Paying the Price by Liz John
A disgraced surgeon awaits sentencing, when a young solicitor arrives with unexpected news.

Offences Against the Person by Vanessa Oakes
Why do sentences sometime bemuse and enrage the public?

Working Mother by Julia Wright
Karen will soon be leaving prison. Has she learned her lesson? Sophie tries to help her but is it working?

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See you in 2019 for ‘The Sentence’

It’s been quite a year for BOLDtext Playwrights with our first ever site-specific show Behind Bars: Ghosts of the Lock-Up selling out this autumn. Thank you to everyone who came and gave their support.

Our fascination with crime and punishment continues with The Sentence, three new hard-hitting short plays from some of region’s foremost writers – Liz John, Vanessa Oakes and Julia Wright on Monday 28th January 2019 @ The REP.

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Oh Maggie!

Oh Maggie!

BOLDtext Playwrights had a great day out recently, popping over to see our own Sayan Kent’s latest musical at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre, Maggie May, co-created with Bob Eaton.  Set over WW1, it was clever, moving and funny – one minute businessmen sang hilariously about capitalism, and the next,  women mourned lost babies with their shawls.  Multi-talented 11-strong cast, and the audience loved it. So did we!

Great show, now what?

Great show, now what?

BOLDtext Playwrights’ most recent show, Behind Bars – Ghosts of the Lock Up, went down a storm in Birmingham city centre last month – with sell-out audiences who loved the humorous and heart-wrenching tales we told, as well as the more everyday stories embedded in the WM Police former Lock Up building.  It felt like our contrasting voices each captured something different from the space, with wonderful performances to bring them to life.  “Emotionally transporting”,  ” Very atmospheric – shivers down my spine several times”, and “Really unique experience” were just some of the comments from our many visitors.

And it was a unique experience for us too – we absolutely loved this site-specific work and hope to do more of the same – both at the Lock Up and elsewhere around the region.  We just need to decide where – so if you have any suggestions, please do get in touch.
Our thanks to Arts Council England and Sir Barry Jackson Trust for their support with this project, and of course everyone at the proposed WM Police Museum who made us feel so welcome.

In the meantime, BOLDtext is working on another night of political shorts at Birmingham Rep on Monday 28 January 2019, so watch this space.

A Respectable Woman

Our new show ‘Behind Bars: Ghosts of the Lock-Up’ runs from the 19th-21st October for nine performances only.  Taking a theatrical journey through Birmingham’s Steelhouse Lane Lock-Up, it will raise spirits from the prison’s past. Julia Wright writes about one of them…

When we were given the possible choices for characters whose stories we could tell, I chose Maud Dillon, as she seemed at first to be a woman who was caught up in a life of prostitution. I was interested to find out why she might have been involved in that when she was a woman who had a job as a polisher – likely to be a metal polisher who worked in the jewellery industry. Was she desperate for money?

The only information about Maud Dillon is that she was 25 when she was arrested on 5/8/1921 for indecent behaviour. She was given a fine –  £4 or 25 days in prison. I then discovered that ‘indecent behaviour’ could range from shouting and swearing in public to soliciting (prostitution). So maybe she was merely shouting and swearing in public? But why? When looking into the work that police women did at the time I found it seemed to contain a lot of what we would now call social work. Young women were picked up from around the station, seeking to meet soldiers and in 1919, 25% of them were under 17. What dreadful lives drove them to that?

In June 1918 a hostel was set up in Dale End to ensure women were in a place of safety from abuse while further enquiries were made to find them work or more permanent lodgings – one of the first hostels in the country. The workhouse was where some women who were abused ended up but was feared by all and women would be separated from their children (children still legally belonged to the father until 1925 so it was difficult for many women to leave abusive relationships). For some women the workhouse was better than the abuse at home

Miss Dorothy Peto became a lady enquiry officer with the CID in Birmingham in 1920. She visited homes, investigating indecent assaults and abuse and stated ‘the relief of victims was obvious when they saw a female police officer had come to take their statement.’

I have linked together the work of Dorothy Peto and a possible explanation for Maud Dillon’s arrest to highlight the often appalling abuse that women had to endure, sometimes at the hands of their partners. The disturbed mental conditions of returning soldiers were often not recognised and PTSD was not diagnosed or understood.

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