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.
Following BOLDtext’s very successful site-specific production Behind Bars – Ghosts of the Lock-Up in October, we wanted to continue our focus on law and order – but this time in a modern context by looking at sentencing.  The BOLDtext writers had scripted three short plays on that theme, which would be followed by a panel discussion.
Liz John introduced us to the fictional character of Miss Deborah Foling, a breast surgeon found guilty of unlawful wounding of her patients, having performed major surgery to remove cancers which didn’t exist . This was inspired by a recent case in our region.  Quizzed by a young lawyer as she awaits sentencing, the fictional Miss Foling gradually reveals her ‘justification’ for her unjustifiable actions.  Whatever sentence she receives, the lawyer points out, her traumatised patients’ face a future many times worse…
Vanessa Oakes was intrigued by the variety of sentences and the quirks of law that deem one action innocent and another guilty, despite their similarities. One of the strangest was the sentence for handling a stolen book which was longer than a sentence for murder.  There was some logic to it, but it still didn’t feel like justice.
Julia Wright (that’s me) looked at the most common reasons women are in jail and found the cause to be shoplifting or debt.  Often the sentence can be only six months but that is enough to disrupt the rest of her family and cause loss of employment and home in that time – as her adult daughter reminded her in the play.
Our director, Vicki Duckett, had prepared well for this hectic day and worked through calmly and professionally, determined to get the best from the scripts and the actors. And our actors had to work their socks off.  Bharti Patel, known for her role in BBC Doctors among others, proved once again her ability to inhabit a whole range of characters. Miriam Edwards, fresh from Over The Top at The Belgrade Theatre Coventry, was equally creative and the two actors sparked off each other brilliantly.
The discussion afterwards with Warwick University law professor Jackie Hodgson and probation officer Keith Stokeld, offered a thoughtful and interesting end to the evening. We heard about ‘weekend prison’, the impact of privatisation on the probation service, sentencing in domestic violence cases, and more.
Thanks to our audience for their questions and for all the lovely comments made afterwards to the writers, director and actors.   We’re glad you enjoyed it (phew!) and we’ll see you next time!
Julia Wright
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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.

For discounted tickets CLICK HERE or if there or none left try the link below:

 

 

 

Electricity

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. Helen Kelly writes about one of them…

Evelyn Miles was one of the first police women in England, taking up the uniform after her troubled husband was dispatched to Handsworth Asylum.  An unwed mother at 18, the housekeeper to a doctor, the wife of a police sergeant suffering from mental illness – my reading of her character is that she was an empathetic person, drawn to Birmingham’s coal face of poverty and social deprivation, like Dorothy Peto after her (also featured in Ghosts of the Lock Up).

 

 

 

 

 

 

With no template or notion of social services, the justice system was society’s last net for lost souls, deeply flawed, maybe, but with a burgeoning complement of compassionate women coming through in the early Twentieth Century, to bring some sense of  social responsibility towards those who had been abandoned by society, and lost their way.

I loved it that Evelyn was in her fifties when she embarked on her new life (hope for us all) and still holds the record for the oldest serving female officer in the West Midlands aged 77 when she retired.

You can meet Evelyn and many other fascinating characters in BEHIND BARS: Ghosts of the Lock-Up 19th – 21st October.

For discounted tickets CLICK HERE or if there or none left try the link below: