INMATES at Winchester Prison have shared Saving Face, theatre inspired by their life experiences, to an audience of staff and guests.

BearFace Theatre delivered the new intervention project in the jail from January to March, using drama to positively affect prisoners’ attitudes, thinking and behaviour.

Hampshire Cultural Trust supported and fundraised for the project, which is being researched by the Department of Criminology at Winchester University.

Kate Hadley from BearFace Theatre said: “The performance was extremely powerful. We are so proud of the group, each individual has contributed their own ideas, energy and commitment to the process. We have explored themes such as the masks we wear, as well as recognising patterns of behaviour and understanding our true selves. They should all be extremely proud of themselves for sharing so honestly and directly in the final performance.”

Made over 10 weeks in HMP/YOI Winchester, Saving Face holds the voices and experiences of 10 men, most of whom had never previously used theatre as a tool for expression.

At the end of the performance, one of the participating prisoners said: “I have never in my life felt so valued, this has been a life-changing experience. It’s amazing people actually saw our performance and liked it so much.”

The group worked together over 12 sessions. Following an early session, Dr Angus Paddison, Dean of the university’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, said: “This is a highly innovative intervention for prisoners, I have never seen anything like this before. It was inspiring to see the group connect with each other through theatre and take responsibility for themselves. It is clearly having a huge impact on the prisoners which is crucial.”

Gary Wright, head of reducing reoffending at the jail, added: “We have seen a direct impact of this programme back on the wings. Individuals who have taken part are more aware of themselves and more able to manage and change their emotional reactions. We look forward to being able to offer this to more prisoners at HMP Winchester.”