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LSW & HMP Pentonville

in association with UK Drama Schools
& their attendant University Partners




or just ...



Make not your thoughts your prisons. 
... Thought is Free.

Two lines of Shakespeare.

The first is spoken by Octavius Caesar in Act 5, Scene 2 of Antony & Cleopatra
The second sung by the drunken fool Stephano in Act 3, Scene 2 of the Bard's last play, The Tempest.

Together they make up one full line of iambic pentameter
Together they are LINKED UP or 'LUPPED'. 


In celebrating this new 'LINKED UP Initiative' - as well as the occasion of LSW's 20th birthday - we are coining a new word much as the Bard himself so often did.  In this instance it is an ACTIVE verb.  It is 'LUP'.  
'To LUP' means to
- or as we have come to understand it -
bring disparate bodies together in hope

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Linked up (or lupped) thinking is not something prisons are oft celebrated for.
The theatre - most especially Shakespeare - thrives on Community.


The London Shakespeare Workout, founded in 1997,
has as its stated purpose:

'To employ the works of Shakespeare and other major writers/thinkers
as a tool towards effective interaction in order to promote confidence
through the will to dream for ALL.' 

Since 1998 LSW has been taking actors into prisons. 
LSW has taken professional actors - and those training to become such - into 100 different prisons in England alone -
and countless more inside and out of criminal justice regimes throughout the globe. 

“LSW works at the highest level …. What is most impressive is the commitment of the entire company 
and its rare passion for language” 
Michael Billington, The Guardian

You taught me language; and my profit on't 
Is, I know how to curse.

Caliban in The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2


For the past 18 years LSW has been privileged to run a prison incentive
with graduating students from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
In 2017 this officially became part of RADA's core BA curriculum.

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Now we dream of a prison interaction for EVERY UK drama student,
or certainly for as many as might be afforded that privilege.
We believe this is a vital part of their training as our future key communicators.

The play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

The title character speaking in Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2



Perhaps because - for a performing artist - for ANY performing artist - there are very few things one can do where you immediately know that what you do is actually vitally important; is socially critical.
This incentive offers just such an opportunity.
It holds, as t'were, a mirror up to many and contrasting natures; your own as much as
anyone else's.



It was a truly inspiring experience. I will never forget it. It was so extraordinary and liberating to see the inmates release their energy in such a positive and joyful way. At the same time, I felt the workshops were getting to the central pulse of Shakespeare and allowing us all to share in that extraordinary language. .... 

John Heffernan, actor,

... written while he was still a drama school student ...
taking part in a workout from which you can see a variety of other responses here.

On the way home, sitting on the tube, I suddenly stumbled upon a thought. "I wonder if we are the learners and they are the teachers?"

Rupert Evans, actor

written in a prison diary entry while still a drama student at The Drama Centre


What was especially wonderful about Tuesday was not just that I felt exhilarated about the Workout but also that most people around me seemed to be, even those who had taken part many times previously.  I mentioned that it was a refreshing experience at the start of this ramble! What I meant was that I was privileged to take part in a non-judgmental Workout.  It was brilliant to see the guys supporting and encouraging one another and to find the lovely Prison Officer Hedge getting involved too!  Bruce's energy for this project is infectious.  It was really a very special day.

Anna Maxwell Martin, actor

written in a prison diary while still a LAMDA drama student


By the end of our time together any lack of focus witnessed in our opening exercise had given-way to an almost blasé boldness. Once we were underway I almost had to remind myself that these were offenders; we were a group working together with the sole aim of enjoying ourselves as much as we could in the time we had - a time to play and to learn and perhaps help some find a new focus. As the session drew to a close and the wardens urged the men to make their way, their gratitude was quite overwhelming and I was aware how VERY privileged I was to have met them and in no time at all we were back outside in the ‘real’ world, smelling of mortality.

Zeb Soanes, BBC Radio 4 News Reader

written in a prison diary

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When the session came to an end, I looked at my watch and realised that four hours had flown by, and that it was now dark outside. We had all forgotten ourselves – all of us, actors and inmates. Marcus, one of the most enthusiastic of the group, came up to shake my hand. ‘Happy Christmas’, he said. ‘You too’, I replied, and then realised what I’d said. But maybe that’s not so bad. There is no doubt in my mind that Bruce and all involved with LSW that afternoon went some way to making all their Christmases just that little bit brighter.

Tom Hiddleston, actor

written in a prison diary while still a Classics student at Cambridge
before he went to RADA and enjoyed a prison interaction there as well.


With a sense of concerted deja vu we return to
HMP Pentonville - one of LSW's original prison homes -
for an early LSW response -

I know that for one afternoon in Pentonville prison, Shakespeare was more alive than he is in plenty of theatres around the country on any day of the week.

Lynn Gardner, The Guardian
See the full article with prisoner responses here.


One HMP Pentonville prisoner, Rendrick, puts the
history of a project he was proud to appear in into verse.
He calls it: Shakespeare in the Big House.

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I was surprised to see the visitors mingling with us, the inmates, as if we'd known each other for years.  After going through with the Workout, I felt the mask on my face falling off because I was able to be myself without any of the drama group members making me feel like a criminal.  They made me feel special.  Finally, the one thing that touched my heart was when the leader of the group said that 'Shakespeare's language, belongs to all of us and we must not let anyone take that away from us.  I really enjoyed myself and looking at the eyes of my fellow inmates, I think they did enjoy the whole Workout.

Benson, a prisoner

writes in a letter after a workout here.

Another letter from an inmate in another London prison
describes precisely the key to success in this arena:

I apologise for the length of this letter but very few people in here from the authorities to inmates understand that 'rehabilitation' will never come from incarceration or, for that matter, the domestic jobs allocation.  It will only ever come through education and to educate you must 'inspire' an interest to learn. 

Angus, a prisoner


Samples of segments of original inmate verse as
inspired by Shakespeare and created by inmates
in LSW prison sessions are here presented by
LSW's Co-Founder (alongside Dame Dorothy Tutin),
Dr. Bruce Wall.

There are today, of course, volumes of verses written in these sessions. You will find a few more samples in the 98 strong prison diaries catalogue here.  One verse by a lady prisoner serving a life sentence was here recorded by RADA graduate, Juliet Stevenson, CBE.  (Password: LSWMOTHER - all caps)  We stopped collecting diary entries long ago only because the strength of the outcomes noted - albeit hugely appreciated - simply became too repetitive.  It was clear.  The Project worked .. and the work itself ... on the ground ... its very heartbeat - was simply more important.  Proudly it now speaks for itself.  It MUST.  Practical returns WILL keep coming.

The work that Bruce Wall is doing in prisons is more powerful and persuasive than any conventional rehab or educational approach I have ever encountered.  It is transformative in the broadest sense: It uses a wide range of linguistic, theatrical and social skills to surprise and delight and - crucially - disarm hardened and defensive young men and women who have largely given up on themselves and the world around them.  Working with Wall and Shakespeare is so improbable and yet so revealing, it launches the long process of transformation that is involved in changing lives.

Criminologist & Film Maker, Prof. Roger Graef, CBE



In celebration of its 20 years toil, LSW is honoured to join
with HMP Pentonville in a hope to (a) offer a meaningful prison interaction with as many UK drama school/performance arts academy students as is possible and, in doing so, (b) offer as many inmates as possible an opportunity to share in an enhanced dramatic experience - especially for those for whom
conventional education may have failed.

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To this end LSW has LINKED UP with HMP Pentonville
(i) to allow students in major UK Drama Schools/Performance Training Academies
to share in a Shakespeare Workout.  These workouts themselves will
directly feed (in that it will source apt men) for an eight week
complimentary drama programme which itself will be LINKED UP. 
They will be well and truly LUPPED. 

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(ii) This 'in-house' drama programme will run on an ten week turnaround basis with (iii) each assigned period being governed by a dedicated theme which itself will  (iv) be directly LINKED UP/LUPPED through a presentation in (v) a bi-monthly conference run via the auspices of the Royal Society for the Arts. (vi) Pertinent themed/related materials will be generated and published where possible by the in-house HMP Pentonville magazine, THE VOICE and (vii) there will be a recording made in the hope that it - or segments therein - can be featured in some way in broadcasts throughout UK prisons on the much admired National Prison Radio (NPR) and enhance the HMP Pentonville's in-house radio training scheme on those occasions when it is operative in order that the greatest number might share in the wealth of  this LINKED UP or - as we now know it - LUPPED resource.

In time it is hoped to add (ix) a digital shooting and editing video training programme such as LSW had previously run in HMP Pentonville.  This would again be fronted by skilled film makers and/or those training to become so under the 'Dreaming Will' enterprise.  One early sample of the prisoners' work in this scheme at HMP Pentonville - a two minute film about the Listeners' programme - a prisoner to prisoner confidential initiative originally organised by The Samaritans - made in but two sessions by the inmates can be found here. (Password:  LSWLISTENER - all caps)

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Given this set-up we ultimately seek (ix) to provide scope -
where opportunity might rightfully arise and be deemed appropriate - for the interested drama school programmes themselves - or, perhaps, with alumnae outlets - to have a chance to run even more engaged/extended programmes/projects with the inmates in yet another LINKED UP or LUPPED celebration of the vital sense of Community celebrated both throughout Shakespeare's canon as much as in every meaningful
theatrical enterprise.



The second production that LSW did at HMP Pentonville
was of Shakespeare's Scottish play.  Libby Purves wrote
a review in The Times and an original epilogue penned by prisoner in a different prison was recorded by RADA President, Sir Kenneth Branagh here.  (Password: LSWEPILOGUE - all caps).  Dr. Wall made a 34 minute documentary which can be viewed here.  (Password: LSWKBAM - all caps.)  There is some fallout at the beginning but it rapidly passes and hopefully this film can speak for itself from both of its LINKED UP/LUPPED ends as referenced above.

What most assuredly does speak are two notes from project participants who had been LINKED UP/LUPPED in LSW's first extended adventure at HMP Pentonville.

One from actor, Peter Harding

“What an incredible experience!  I’ve been trying to work out why it was so emotional and other than getting to know everyone in the company very well – I think the sheer gratitude of the chaps from Pentonville was a privilege to be part of.  I never realised just how powerful it can be to give someone hope – I feel very humbled by the whole experience.  This time stands on its own.  Nothing in my working life, and not too much in my personal one, comes close.” 


The other from inmate, Roy

“The professionals and inmates alike found themselves linked in a friendship that many people might not understand, as witnessed by the tears which flowed when we finally had to part.  I thought that this would be a five-minute wonder, but for the past few days we have all found that we have been looking for each other.  Hours are spent exploring the things that we did, and many other inmates have shared these experiences as they listened and got caught up in the enthusiasm and feelings of all who were lucky enough to take part.  My one sadness is for those hundreds of guys who, for one reason or another, were unable to participate.”


Make not your thoughts your prisons.  ...
Thought is Free.

This work is just so damned heartening.
Dame Janet Suzman, actor

We are such stuff as dreams are made on.

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