The High Sheriff of Staffordshire

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Emergency Shakespeare: Bringing the Bard to HMP Stafford

Emergency Shakespeare is the brainchild of Rowan MacKenzie.  Her main aim is to bring the words of the Bard to people within the prison system, people with mental health issues and learning disabilities, and other marginalised groups.  Rowan has been working in prisons for several years, combining the amazing tales, characters and speeches of Shakespeare to give inmates a new way of expressing themselves.

Most recently, Rowan has been working with a group from HMP Stafford to put on their own interpretation of Shakespeare’s MacBeth and I, along with the Mayor and Mayoress of Stafford and Mrs Hifsa Iqbal MBE from the lieutenancy office, were invited to watch the final play. 

Using the tale of MacBeth as the foundation, the group had written a new script and set it in a contemporary and relatable scenario, allowing them to keep Shakespeare’s story and key speeches whilst making it relevant to a modern audience.  They had met every Sunday morning to rehearse – and the result was amazing!

The play had all the elements of MacBeth – which happens to be my favourite Shakespeare play – but it was contemporary and contained many pertinent and topical issues. 

I would like to congratulate Rowan, the staff at HMP Stafford and, most importantly, the drama group, for creating such an incredible interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.  I’m sure this will not be Emergency Shakespeare’s last performance here in Stafford.

Our thanks (from the programme)

The cast and crew would like to thank, firstly, Governor Lubkowski for supporting the Emergency Shakespeare Company.  Without his support this project would not have got off the ground.  We would also like to thank Custody Manager Liversage and M Hall for their organising and help with rehearsals.  The cast would also like to say a special thank you to Rowan, for her enthusiasm, drive and determination, not only for getting to Stafford but getting the cast going on a Sunday morning; controlling and guiding us to something we can call a performance.