Can performance help provide a platform for change?

I am a second year Theatre and Performance student at University of Leeds and I have enrolled myself on a module this semester that involves using theatre and performance as a tool to rehabilitate ex-offenders back into the community. The aim of this module is to merely raise awareness and help create performative activities and workshops that can help the ex- offenders form basic social, parenting, cooking skills.

The stigma that surrounds the word ‘offender’ can act as a concrete wall when creating opportunities for the individual. ‘Offender’ immediately conjures judgement from people that do not know what individual has been through. So there is a debate on whether an ‘ex-offender’ should be called this. A girls mother , in my seminar, works with dealing with probation in Manchester etc and they call an ‘ex- offender’ a ‘service user’, purely to try and illuminate the passing judgment.

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There is a staggering evidence that suggests that ex offenders are more likely to re offend due to the lack of infrastructure in the community that can help them get, for example; a job after being released.  However, the majority of youths that do offend come from unstable backgrounds; parents are alcoholics or drug addicts or even in prison themselves. There is a huge problem with the care system as well; however, thats another post…

So, I have been going to weekly court sessions; experiencing the space of the court and the formalities. Its been such an interesting experience and so now I am really fascinated in how theatrical techniques can be implemented when dealing with social behaviour.

As a group, we want to find out from the ‘ex offenders’ what they have found hard about being integrated back into the community. We don’t want to know what they have been in prison for or there to judge them on their actions. We are purely there to cry and raise awareness of what could be done in order to give ‘ex offenders’ an opportunity to transform their lives for the better.

We are meeting the women that are in a half way house in Leeds, this is where we can hopefully start to gain an understanding of what the system is like and how it can be improved using performative tools.

Over the nest few weeks I will be discovering whether performance  can really provide a platform for change.

An interesting question to finish on is;

How can former prisoners be ‘re-integrated’ into the community when they were never integrated in the first place? How can you ever expect an individual to change when they aren’t ever given the opportunity?

I hope you found this interesting, Thank you for reading

Imy

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