A heartfelt thanks to all involved in this summer's production of West Side Story in Dartmoor Prison, not least the 18 inmates who gave their all, singing, dancing and playing all the Jets and Sharks. It was truly humbling to watch the development of this project from handing out the parts to the final performance in the prison in early August to a packed house of more than 250 fellow inmates, friends and family of the performers, prison staff and supporters of the Prison Choir Project.
A particular thanks to Bill Hadfield (Officer Krupke no less) who combined this important role with his full-time commitment as a member of Prison Staff, to the Governor Bridie Oakes-Richards, to Martin Earl and the Chaplaincy for the use of the Chapel and to all those that came to watch a show. As one audience member (a professional musician) wrote:
Honestly, that experience today was one of my top two ever experiences in music drama in my entire life. Such an incredibly uplifting performance. The pros were absolutely ideal - what a difference it makes having performers at that level: the audience can relax into it and marvel at what's achieved around it. The inmates were stupendous - god alone knows how you got them there to that level in that time, but you bloody did! Heather and I wept from about five minutes in to the very end. I've never seen Heather cry like that! At one point near the end of the first act I didn't know what to do with myself - I thought my heart would burst. The sound and the energy and the positivity in that room were a tidal wave of emotion - it was beyond words.......
A big thank you too to all the professionals that brought such honesty, enthusiasm, talent and good nature to the process. You have made an enormous impact on the lives of so many.
Below a few comments made by the inmates involved. We all miss them and will be back soon to plan the next project:
'I am absolutely overawed at how happy I was for signing up. In the 15 years I've spent behind bars this is one project I would do again and again.'
It has taken me right out of my comfort zone and I have enjoyed every minute.'
'Please hire me when I get out.'