TaPRA 2019 has ended
Welcome to TaPRA 2019 at the University of Exeter!

Rowan Mackenzie

The Shakespeare Institute
PhD Researcher
‘You can’t walk down the wings without hearing Shakespeare now’ The Gallowfield Players in HMP Gartree  
What possibilities can be opened up when a drama group is formed inside a prison filled with men serving life sentences? Since March 2018 I have worked weekly with a group of men in HMP Gartree to edit, rehearse and perform adaptations of Shakespeare plays. This project is research based and approved by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probate Services’ National Research Council to consider the ways in which this activity can engage men who are not involved with therapy or formal education. This paper considers how using Shakespeare with those incarcerated can offer them the opportunity to expand their horizons despite the physical restrictions of their imprisonment. Shakespeare enables them to challenge their own limiting beliefs and also engender the potential for social change through altering the perceptions others may have of them. Building on Foucault’s concept of heterotopia and Lefebvre’s spatial triad my research considers the ways in which we are able to create a social space which differs from the physical location of the prison. The men at HMP Gartree with whom I have been working have chosen to form a Shakespeare theatre company and created the name ‘The Gallowfield Players’ and their logo as a group. Their formation into a cohesive unit whose members take ownership for the scripts, casting, props, costumes and performances has resulted in the prison staff seeing the benefit of this work both whilst they serve their sentences and upon release. This long-term project is equipping them with transferable skills such as empathy, confidence, public speaking and teamwork which impact on them in prison and will also serve them well in their future upon release.   
Rowan Mackenzie is a doctoral researcher at The Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham) working on Creating Space for Shakespeare: Non-traditional and applied theatre settings, including those with mental health issues, learning disabilities, those within the criminal justice system and the homeless. She is also a prison Shakespeare practitioner in a number of UK prisons and co-organiser of the annual Applying Shakespeare Symposium which is a collaborative event between The Shakespeare Institute and University of Surrey. 

I am a PhD researcher at The Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham) working on Creating Space for Shakespeare in non-traditional and applied theatre settings. I focus on a number of marginalised groups including people with learning disabilities, mental health issues, those within the criminal justice sector and the homeless, using the lens of spatial theory to consider how Shakespeare may create mental, physical and metaphorical space for those for whom communication is an issue.

I am a Shakespeare practitioner in a number of UK prisons, with HMPPS approval for my research, working with those incarcerated to edit, adapt, rehearse and perform Shakespearean plays whilst helping them develop a number of transferable skills. I am also the co-host of the annual Applying Shakespeare Symposium which brings together practitioners and academics to discuss topical themes in this growing field. Additionally, I am also currently collaborating with Blue Apple Theatre Company in Winchester on their production of The Tempest which has been performed this summer and will tour in 2020.