What the prisoners said…

Pearse  (Thenadier)

Hi Wasfi – You asked us to write a bit about how this experience made me feel, Here goes !

Since the first day I walked into the workshop and met everyone, I felt happy for the first time in a long time.

I say from the bottom of my heart, if I was given a choice to be given bail and leave prison or see out your removal time and finish out the play, 100% I am staying.
I have made really good friends with other house block prisoners, top lads. Learnt so much about myself too.
Meeting Nikki (director) and Dan (conductor) who I think are geniuses by the way, it is humbling how much dedication they have. Stuart and the whole cast and crew are such good people it wears off on me. Prison dehumanises you the isolation can destroy your personality. This experience has counteracted that.

The officers Julie and Ms Williams were the perfect people to keep an eye on us lot, as they treated us fairly and respectfully.

Dan and Matt’s (gym officers) relationship with the prisoners can not be understated and be recognised for what it is. Their laid back friendly approach made me and all the lads forget the divide of our situation, they supported us as opposed to restricting us, they actually created a better buzz and it made for a better environment. Their personalities has alot got to do with the success of that play in how they interacted with the prisoners. Top lads.

I came to prison in July 2017 a very angry man blaming everyone and anything for my situation. Now I’m healthy, clear minded and happy and it’s amazing that I had to come to prison to feel this good about myself.

What you have done for me by putting on this play has truly changed my life for the better, I will never forget my time here but I won’t look back at it as a negative dark time in my life but a time that gave me self worth, happy times and a sense of achievement and for that I thank you and everybody involved for a future life time of Great memory’s.

I’ll leave it at that. Thanks a million. Pearse

I say from the bottom of my heart, if I was given a choice to be given bail and leave prison or finish out the play, 100% I am staying.

Mohammed S. (constable / Bamatabois / beggar)

It is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I would never have imagined myself as an actor who sings. Being part of the production and hearing people give us applause was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. It felt good to be appreciated in the right way for once. It has influenced me to try and earn money in the right way doing something I enjoy. Seeing my family and friends appreciate the hard work I put in has given me hope that I can change for the better.

Ricky F. (convict / beggar / Fauchelvant / sailor)

I would like to thank everybody involved in this experience. It has been very special and feel very privileged to be able to be part of it. It will always have many great memories. It was something I would of never expected inside a prison. It has helped me to keep my spirits up and others. Also talking to many other inmates, who have spent their time listening to me. Having some laughs about all aspects, over the last few weeks, on a day to day basis many others asking how’s the play going Ricky. You realise at the end of the first live performance we are all team. Very big thanks to all involved.

Hysni C. (Bishop / convict / beggar / student)

The question was describe your feelings, in a quarter of a page. That is same as you have to riding a bicycle with one leg 🙂 just a joke 🙂
The emotions that I had during the show, are similar to the first time that I fall in “LOVE” which makes you believe that the “WORLD” is yours and no one can take from you. I used the word love because that is the only word for me which has the power to explain my moments in that “scene or show”.
And how lucky I’m to enjoy those moment for the second time in my life, in a different way.

The beauty of it, is that I found those feelings in a place that I would never search or think about it. It can’t not be more extraordinary than that.

Thank you for the opportunity. Faléminderit Per Mundesin (Thank you in Albanian)

Servet H. (convict / sailor / beggar / student)

First time I arrived there my thoughts was: I can’t do none of this things !
A week later I recognized that with people like Nikki and Dan you can do everything !

Every different day was something new and beautiful that’s the reason I enjoyed more and more.Here is the end of the first show when I saw 300 people on their feet, some of them crying and applauding for us. It was that time when I started thinking more than ever, first thing that came in my mind was that you don’t need money, a seaside home or an extraordinary life to be happy !

All you need is to do something good so peoples gonna remeber you forever ! Only words can’t explain my feelings that day but the only thing I know is that I never felt like this in my life ! Thank you all.

Seeing my family and friends appreciate the hard work I put in has given me hope that I can change for the better.

Delando S. (officer / beggar / student)

I opened the show as I am the first to walk out as a guard escorting the convicts. I felt nervous ’cause I could see it was a big audience. I was hesitant to look ahead at first and could feel the audience in my peripheral. As the show went on I got a bit more confident because I tried to imagine the audience wasn’t there. When we got the first applause it brought a smile to my face even though I was meant to be in character. At the end of the show we got a standing ovation which told me we did a good job.

I couldn’t wait for the next show to start and again I open the show but this time I stared that audience straight in the face.

Joel S. (beggar / Grantaire)

All my life I’ve been commiting crime, I’ve served over 10 years in prison. In life, my only affirmation was to get rich in the wrong way. I’ve never set any life goals for myself.

When I first started the Les Misérables production I took it on as a bet with one of my friends. On the first day I walked through the workshop I felt out of place as there was this dainty, ravishing lady bouncing about full of energy and a string of unusual faces staring at me.

Throughout the beginning stages, I was nervous and uncomfortable as I’ve never done any form of theatre acting (unless I’m in front of the police). A lady named Nikki brought a side out of me I never knew I had. She made me come out of my comfort zone and showed me it’s ok to be myself.

Towards the build up of the first night of our performance my bottom was like the filter in a fish tank (non-stop blowing bubbles). I was scared to death, like as if I was telling my mum I have been arrested for the first time.
When the lights went on and the curtain was pulled I had an out of body experience and just visualised how my first performance will go. The moment I went on stage I couldn’t look at the audience. My mouth was moving my body was stiff. I felt like a mannequin. As the performance went on I grew a bit of confidence as I passed the first stages. What didn’t help was my wife, sister and two friends was in the audience.

When my act came up, The ABC Cafe, I just said to myself, This is it, All or nothing and I went for it. As I finished I got a rapturous applause which went to my head, so much so I forgot my lines for the next scene. When that happened I wanted it to end there and then.
When the first performance came to an end I had mixed emotions, I couldn’t believe I actually did it.

Overall, I felt elated and from that moment on I decided I wanted to be an actor.
When the second performance came to ahead I took it in my stride and now I’ve found my life goal. I want to be an actor. Thank you for allowing me to be involved in this production.
Thank you ever so much for bringing this production to High Down prison. I am so grateful to be a part of this play. I never thought I would ever get involved in anything like this.

Lewis O. (convict / sailor / beggar / student)

I get nervous like I never have in my life but as soon as I come back after the convict prologue scene to get ready for “At the End of the day” I’m cleared of any nerves and I’m up for it big time !! Viva la France. Louy

The beauty of it, is that I found those feelings in a place that I would never search or think about it. It can't not be more Extraordinary than that.

David A. (Marius)

As you can imagine prison can be a very lonely place and as a remand prisoner I’m not sure where my fate lies. Before the opportunity to perform in ‘Les MisĂ©rables’ with Pimlico Opera I would be alone with just my thoughts thinking everything was over which wasn’t good for my mental state. Given the chance to be involved with the show has given me sense of purpose and hope. After the first performance I was so proud of myself and the other inmates in what we achieved in such a short space of time. To see the audience on their feet applauding our hard work gave me the boost I needed to see this through. It’s made me realise just because I’m in prison doesn’t mean it’s all over.

It’s ignited the drive within to be creative again once I’m home. There are so many creative people in prison and people who want to express themselves but not many outlets to do so. It’s a true shame Pimlico Opera can’t offer something more permanent within prisons. The whole experience has been my shining light in this dark time.

Tarex S. (Factory Foreman / convict)

I feel like I never felt before. I never felt it before, like a boost of adrenalin. The best feeling I ever had in my life after having my kids.

To start with I was very nervous and scared but after the first show the applause gave me strength.

Kevin B. (Brujon / officer)

A couple of times during the 6 week rehearsals Jeff (Javert) told me about ” THE BUZZ” you will get from performing and the gratitude you feel when the people applaud you …… Well that was a BIG understatement, calling it a “BUZZ” !!
I am still looking for words to describe the feeling that I experienced on this journey. The wisdom I acquired and the lessons I’ve learned. Fulfilled, amazing, unbelievable and out of this world !!
It was all worth it. The long days, the repetition over and over again. The hard work pays off when the audience stands up and gives you a standing ovation for what feels like forever !!

Gavin B. (Montparnasse)
To all at Pimlico Opera Company

Being involved with the production of Les Misérables whilst here in High Down has given me an understanding and sense of self-belief I honestly think I would never have experienced any where else let alone during a prison sentence.
Every person without exception have been a delight to meet and I think we quickly became a good team which then enabled us to put on a great version of a classic story. Nicki’s understanding of people and pin sharp decision making brought out the best of all the players, professionals and novices alike.
If anyone ever asked me to do something like this again I’d jump at the opportunity without hesitation and hopefully lots of other people will get the chance !
A massive thank you to everyone that made this possible.