We’re delighted to announce that we have launched our very first podcast series! The mini -series has been created and recorded by Clean Break members and delves deeper into some of the main issues and themes from our co-production with Theatr Clwyd, Thick As Thieves.
The podcasts were created after a week’s intensive workshop which was hosted by digital artist and podcast producer Milly Chowles and theatre artist Rania Jumaily. During this week Clean Break members delved deeper into the issues which arose from Thick As Thieves and also learned recording and producing skills.
There are three episodes which follow the themes of Sisterhood, Damage and Blood each of which is comprised of poetry, personal writing, interviews and discussion. Episode One is now available for download using the links below.
LISTEN TO THE CLEAN BREAK PODCAST ON:
We are continuing our 40th anniversary celebrations with a second season featuring a Donmar Warehouse co-production, a Methuen anthology of monologues, a production touring the UK in a prison van plus talks, events and workshops.
We've teamed up with the Donmar Warehouse to commission [BLANK] a striking new full-length play written by Alice Birch and directed by Maria Aberg which takes a kaleidoscopic view of what happens when a woman goes to prison. This production will run from Friday 11 October – Saturday 30 November 2019.
Clean Break celebrates 40 years of producing ground-breaking women writers and writing by its Members with this anthology of 40 monologues from 40 Clean Break voices.
To mark the release of the anthology, we will host an evening of readings highlighting the rich tapestry of Clean Break’s history of working with some of the most vibrant, daring women writers in British society, as performed by some of the UK’s most treasured women actors. The cast includes Jackie Clune, Michelle Greenidge, Jennifer Joseph, Ann Mitchell and Lia Williams.
We are delighted to announce that we will be reviving Sweatbox in our 40th year. Travelling across the UK, Chloë Moss’s Sweatbox invites you to enter the back of a prison van in which three women share their stories of arrival and anticipation as they are transported from court to prison, from prison to prison and from prison to court.
2019 is a landmark year for Clean Break as we celebrate 40 years of holding a megaphone up to the voices of marginalised women and making our mark on the theatrical world. At HighTide this year, we will share a special sneak peek at what’s in the pipeline for 2020 and beyond with a series of rehearsed readings from writers including Sonya Hale and Natasha Marshall.
To celebrate our 40th year we will be hosting various leadership events which interrogate women's position in the criminal justice system and the arts.
To kick off these leadership events we will be discussing activism, women and power with Southall Black Sisters. Dr Farah Karim-Cooper (Shakespeare’s Globe) will chair a panel which explores themes of justice facing women, the current context and the strategies both organisations have adopted to affect change and reclaim power.
We will then see Deborah Coles and Sonali Naik QC in conversation at Garden Court Chambers. This special event sees Sonali in conversation with Deborah Coles as she shares stories of her personal motivation and passion for human rights and justice, her journey within the legal profession and her reflections on the role that Clean Break has played in women’s lives that have been affected by the justice system.
We took some time to catch up with Lucy Edkins cast member and co-deviser of Inside Bitch which is currently playing at The Royal Court Theatre. She shared some thoughts on the process of devising, being on stage and of course, the representation of women in prison in the media.
Fact is, I’ve spent a long time trying to be someone else. What I mean by that is, in order to avoid difficult questions, which lead to a position of no employment and uncomfortable situations which lead to … distance, one keeps one’s past at arm’s length. So, yes, I was interested in this process but, not without some trepidation.
Society is not cool about accepting people’s past mistakes or understanding the reasons behind the life choices they take. I guess where I’m coming from is, yes, I’ve made some bad choices; I’ve done some stupid things, but the history behind it usually adds up. Is this me talking, a version of me or an aversion to me? I dunno, you decide.
With Inside Bitch I knew what I was getting involved with from the start. Yeah, I knew some of it would be about me. I didn’t know for sure if I’d end up in it, I thought it was only going to be a couple of us, so the fact that nobody got weeded out from the initial four was a plus, ‘cause we’re all quite different, so it would have felt strange to lose one of our stories.
Well, I've got to admit I screen out quite a lot of mainstream TV. Probably ‘cause I couldn’t stand watching the crude depictions of criminals. Women and men and let’s face it, a lot of what gets shown is sensationalist (dare I say it?) rubbish.
However, having an interest in foreign drama (I do enjoy a well put together crime thriller, a lot of the foreign imports, maybe because they’ve already been through a bit of weeding) I quickly lapped up the first series of Locked Up, the lurid Spanish equivalent to the US ‘comedy’ Orange is the New Black. Both have in common the protagonist being the annoying stereotype of a slim well-to-do blonde who trips up in a moment of mischief and finds herself embroiled in a world of shock! horror! poor and depraved characters. A world she would not normally enter into; one of ethnic diversity and grotesque power struggles, one which is apparently a ‘way in’ for middle class audiences who want to take a peek behind bars. Needless to say, I have yet to get round to series two.
Spin off to …
Been a while since you were there but the essential bizarre cruelty still remains the same - one set of people are given the right to contain another set of people. The clichéd image expresses what we all fear: the door is shut on us and we are not allowed out. A state-imposed deprivation of liberty. A sinking feeling as we realise our lives are going down the pan; we are apparently so bad, so irredeemably evil that the only recourse our society has is to remove us from its midst and hold us hostage for an agreed period of time.
We are delighted to announce that Rebel Voices: Monologues for Women by Women is now available for pre-order. The book released as part of our 40th Anniversary celebration, contains 40 monologues picked from our plays past, present and future as well as original pieces written by women who have experience of the criminal justice system.
Rebel Voices: Monologues for Women by Women celebrates the opportunities inherent when women represent themselves. Offering female performers a diverse set of monologues reflecting a range of characters in age, ethnicity and lived experience, the material is drawn from a mix of published and unpublished works.
This book is for any performer who does not see themselves represented in mainstream plays, for lovers of radical women's theatre and for rebels everywhere who believe that the act of speaking and being heard can create change.
We asked Paula Varjack to write us a short blog on her work on All The Lights Are On, Cardboard Citizens and Clean Break's multi-media provocation. It's the first time the two companies have created a piece of theatre together, and we're excited that Members from both companies have had the chance to work with an artist like Paula! Here's what she had to say:
"Over the course of this project I have been thinking a great deal about space. The space we feel belongs to us, the space we feel safe in, the space that some desperately need (that others take for granted) and the spaces we can come together to create.
Clean Break is normally a women’s only space. While Cardboard Citizens is not, during this project the rehearsal studio generally was. Working within both has made me reflect on why women’s only spaces matter, and how they can help amplify voices that are often unheard.
Over nine days I have had the great privilege of working with thirteen women who I had never met before, who mostly did not know one another. I have been driven by a desire to create a space for their stories; as honest, open hearted, and hilarious
as they were
In return, they honoured our process with an extraordinary amount of faith. Most have been asked to create in a way they never have before. The result reflects both the hope and uncertainty in the lives they have lived, and are still living. It is an amalgamation and interpretation of stories shared by them, devised in response to my prompts.
I was interested in working site specifically partly because it felt powerful to give women with a tenuous relationship housing a building to occupy, but also because I wanted to make it very clear, that the women whose stories you will witness are living lives in parallel to yours, in and amongst your own."
All The Lights Are On will be performed on Friday 15 March at Clean Break.
CB: I’m here with a couple of people from Belong, could you introduce yourselves and tell me how you are involved with the project?
S: My name is Serena, I am doing show support helping with voice coaching, I am currently studying voice at Central school of speech and drama, I am here on my placement and I’m really enjoying it.
Ca: My name is Carys, I co-wrote the play with River and I’m also playing Frankie.
CB: You’re having to condense your rehearsal process into quite a tight schedule, how is it feeling in the room right now?
Ca: There’s a really great atmosphere, everyone’s coming together. We’re telling the story in quite an ensemble way, which is really great because it means we are all on stage the whole time. Telling the story together as actors obviously people play different characters, but I think that aspect of it has really helped it to be a really great experience. I’ve worked with a couple of the women for a while, but then a couple I haven’t met before so I feel we really gel as a group and it’s really nice to meet some new Clean Break faces, it’s been amazing.
CB: With this piece you are investigating youth loneliness, what do you think you are uncovering about that?
Ca: We started researching this topic last year and we looked at lots of research that has shown that young people are more lonely than old people. A common misconception is that old people are the most lonely, yes they are lonely but in a different way to young people. So, I feel that this process has uncovered that young women are a lot more strong than people give them credit for. The women are all lonely for different reasons and have their own struggles but they all realise at the end through their hardships that they have strength to get themselves through stuff. That’s my big take away because I think often young women are given a bad rep.
S: I think from a voice perspective it’s really lovely to help the process in a sort of meta theatre way. Like the getting out and connecting the voice to the text, there are different accents in the show, different ages. So it’s a really lovely vibe and a really lovely process that I feel is really connected to the themes of the play.
Ca: Yes, because it’s all about connection really, they find connection at the end. Female connection, women with women. It’s been great to have such support from voice and tech, costumes, design and movement, all the different elements coming together.
CB: I’m very excited to see it, thank you so much for speaking to me.
We were lucky enough to speak to two of the tyoung cast members performing in Belong as they prepared to open at The Arcola Theatre last week - they are performing again at The Lyric Hammersmith on 7&8 March. Tickets are available here.
CB: I’m here with a two of the cast members of Belong which is Clean Break’s young women’s company who will be opening at the Arcola this weekend. Could you introduce yourselves and tell me what your involvement with the production is?
S : I’m Sandrine, I’m an actor I play Esther
Ch: I’m Chelsea, I’m an actor, I play Lucy and the Head Teacher …. And a Security Guard … and Damian!
CB: Sandrine, how did you get involved with this?
S: I remember when we came up with the core of my character, we were just sitting down about two years ago and we said about my hair…. How short it was and stuff like that and somehow, about two years later became this character beautifully written by River and Carys. Its incredible, its been an incredible two years, I’ve been here from scratch all the way to this.
CB: And what about you Chelsea? How did you become involved?
Ch: I came here a couple of years ago to do a course, because I had an interest in acting, but now that I have such a big interest in it they emailed me and called me and asked if I would like to come down for an audition? But I missed the audition! And they still contacted me, so I came down and then that was it! The script just got put in front of me.
CB: Nice to be in demand! The play is touching on youth loneliness, that’s what you have been exploring as a company. Obviously you are yourselves young women in London - do you feel that this is an issue that affects you? That you have experienced yourselves?
S: Yes, for me in so many ways! I remember being 15 and not speaking any word of English and having to go to a school that had so many mixes of people that I’ve never seen. Different people from different ethnicities I have never even thought of, I literally had to sprint to learn English! I don’t know how I got through it!
CB: That must have been really something!
S: Oh it was a fight, I had to fight, I was frustrated because I couldn’t express anything. I spoke a different language from my family as well. I had been to several countries so I had spoken different languages, so it was just really confusing. When you ask a question in my language then I had to go back to translate it in my head. It was quite difficult. So it just came out as anger, just rage, because I couldn’t express how lonely I was.
CB: That must have been so frustrating.
S: Yes it was, but I had books, books definitely shaped me into who I am and turned that rage and I realised that it was more than just rage it was loneliness. So books really became my friends.
CB: And what about you Chelsea? Do you feel like that’s something that’s affected you too?
Ch: I feel like most of the characters, I can touch base with them really. Mix and blend, just a little bit of each, it’s real life. These things happen. The more we dig into the story ourselves as actors the more we are like “Oh my gosh!”.
CB: Do you feel you are learning about yourselves as you go?
CB: It must be quite an experience to go through together.
Ch: It is and it’s so challenging for me as well because I am playing characters that I’m like, just, “Oh my days”, that’s not me as a person. But me trying to be a different person as a character, I’m just like “Oh my gosh”. So I’ve literally thrown myself into the deep end here.
CB: Yes, but what an amazing challenge and potential to absolutely smash the game, its fantastic. And how do you guys feel about performing at two well respected London theatres?
Ch: Not thinking about it! Not thinking about it! I was calm, I was feeling alright until you mentioned that, now I’ve got butterflies.
CB: I’m so sorry!
S: I remember when they said it’s the Arcola, we just went “Ah yeah! It’s the Arcola” Because we were like – there’s no way, it’s the Arcola, it’s world renowned – people see incredible work there. Even to this day it’s not real.
Ch: Yeah when I heard the Arcola, I said “What?”
CB: Then you’re getting a transfer …
Ch: To the Lyric in Hammersmith!
CB: Which is another prestigious London stage, which is amazing! You’re being taken seriously as artists.
Ch: It’s nice, the nerves are real, but the nerves are good.
CB: It will give you energy.
S: That’s why everywhere, every environment I go to I keep saying “Come to Clean Break, come to Clean Break.” That’s why I come to Clean Break, because I get this kind of opportunity with this amazing script.
CB: Thank you both very much for speaking with me.
We're delighted to report that Inside Bitch is proving to be a critical success!
We had this from The Stage:
***** "Inside Bitch grinds hard against the rigidity of the theatre landscape. And it is glorious in all its disruptive, chaotic, provocative, fourth-wall-poking energy."
and this from Time Out:
**** "an immaculately well-managed kind of laughter, and when the fun comes to a juddering halt, it winds you."
and this from Culture Whisper:
"a celebratory piece, bouncing from laugh-out-loud gags to tender, honest insights into what prison life has been like for these charismatic women"
and this from Lyn Gardner at StageDoor!
"gleefully explodes the preconceptions and stereotypes of popular culture... a snarky joy"
The reviews are still coming in, so we'll keep you posted if there are any other belters. In the meantime, there are still a few tickets left - what are you waiting for?!
We are delighted to welcome playwright and dramaturg Gillian Greer as our new Creative Asssociate as part of our 40th Anniversary. Within her role, Gillian will extend the dramaturgical and developmental rigour of our core commissions during and beyond its celebratory year.
Anna Herrmann and Róisín McBrinn, Joint Artistic Directors commented, "We are absolutely thrilled that Gill has joined us for our 40th anniversary year. We are deeply impressed by Gill’s energy, passion, knowledge of theatre and strong dramaturgical skills. We know she will make a significant contribution to the company, working with our current commissioned writers, developing our Members’ voices and helping to connect us with new and unique female artists."
Gillian Greer noted, "It’s an absolute honour to be joining the team at Clean Break for their landmark 40th year. The company is a powerhouse of formidable women with an incredible mission at its heart that I have admired and I look forward to supporting the amazing work that they do."
As a script reader, Gillian has worked with the artistic teams at Theatre503, The Abbey Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Mercury Theatre, National Theatre and more. In 2018, she joined the team at Vault Festival as Head of Theatre and Performance, where she programmed over 400 productions in collaboration with the Vault Festival creative team. As a playwright, her debut play Petals was nominated for the Irish Times Theatre Award for Best New Play in 2015, and she has since seen her short work performed and published in Ireland, London, Edinburgh and New York. Last year her second full length play Meat was shortlisted for the Theatre503 International Playwriting Award.
We would like to extend special thanks to Jon and NoraLee Sedmak for their support of this role.
Click here to find out more information on what’s happening across the company as part of our 40th Anniversary.
Our work on stage, in prisons and in the community could not happen without the generous support of our donors. Each year we need to raise over £1 million, and every donation, no matter what size, makes our work possible.
“Not sure how I would have got through if it was not for Clean Break” - Clean Break Member
Become a Friend of Clean Break today and help us change women's lives.
Here are the different ways you can make an impact:
The Compassionate £5 monthly or £60 annually
Your support at this level could provide lunch for Members participating in a Theatre Making workshop for up to a month
The Collaborative £25 monthly or £300 annually
This level could facilitate 3 days’ outreach work with women in prisons and community settings
The Courageous £50 monthly or £600 annually
This level could inspire Members with a masterclass from a leading theatre artist
The Creative £100 monthly or £1,200 annually
This level could give women full access to our Members programme for one season: and the chance to build confidence, skills and creativity and access tailored support, all within Clean Break’s inspiring, trauma-informed and women-only studios
All donations are fully gift aid-able. By signing up to Clean Break’s Friends scheme you will receive e-news bulletins with updates, opportunities to join us for performances and events, and invitations to explore further support for Clean Break’s work.
“Touches us in a way that news stories and reportage can’t” - The Guardian on Clean Break production Joanne, 2016
Sign up today and start making change, to join click here
We’re delighted to announce the creative team for our Royal Court Theatre co-production Inside Bitch. Conceived by Stacey Gregg and Deborah Pearson, the production is devised by Clean Break Members Lucy Edkins, Jennifer Joseph, TerriAnn Oudjar and Jade Small. Design is by Camilla Clarke (winner of the 2015 Linbury Prize for Stage Design), with lighting design by Natasha Chivers (recipient of an Olivier Award for Sunday in the Park with George), sound design by Ella Wahlström (DV8’s John), and choreography by Yassmin V Foster (Queens of Sheba). Milli Bhatia (Trainee Director at the Royal Court, with credits including Shine) is Assistant Director.
Created by women who aren’t guessing, Inside Bitch is a devised ensemble performance from Clean Break’s Members, a playful subversion of the representation of women in prison and how things aren’t quite as seen on TV.
"We’ve got the real shit, and trust me, it’s dark as fuck, and it will knock your socks off!”
2018 has been a brilliant and incredibly busy year for Clean Break. As Christmas draws closer we’ve taken a moment to celebrate all the company has achieved this year and reflect on the changes that have happened across the organisation.
This year we have moved into delivering our new business model, producing new work and launching a new Members’ programme which puts them at the heart of the company and all our theatre making, creating even more opportunities for women with experience of the criminal justice system.
At the beginning of the year, we were humbled to receive a Tonic Award for our dedication to changing women’s lives through theatre and our commitment to new writing. Clean Break was recognised for forty years of work on the theme of women and the criminal justice system, giving opportunities to generation after generation of female creatives, and giving voice to women whose experiences are all too often silenced by society.
In the summer we were chosen as one of 50 women’s organisations who were asked to create a banner and take part in PROCESSIONS a celebratory mass participation artwork commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and produced by Artichoke. Our Members worked tirelessly with Miriam Nabarro to create a banner to celebrate one hundred years since the first UK women got the right to vote. Clean Break chanted, danced and sang through the streets of London and the day was hands down one of the most memorable in Clean Break history.
It was a sad moment in July when we said goodbye to the phenomenal Lucy Perman MBE who led Clean Break over a phenomenal 21 years. Earlier this year Lucy was presented with the Criminal Justice Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to the sector.
2018 also marked our return to the stage after a two-year hiatus with a firecracker of a co-production with Theatr Clwyd, Thick As Thieves written by award-winning playwright Katherine Chandler. The production also marked our first tour in four years, as our cast and crew took the production to audiences in Mold, Salisbury and Hull.
We've also welcomed a plethora of new women into the company. In October three new Trustees joined our board; actor and writer Ellie Kendrick and award-winning playwright Winsome Pinnock (both of whom have strong connections to the company) and management consultant Sara Forbes. In November we announced four new Patrons playwright Lucy Kirkwood and actors Zawe Ashton, Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Tanya Moodie and this month we welcomed Mimi Findlay to the team as our new Producer.
Most importantly for us, 2018 has allowed us to work with so many talented women across the arts sector and we are delighted and incredibly proud of the work we've produced and the changes we've made alongside them.
We’re now looking forward to 2019, our 40th Anniversary year which is gearing up to be an amazing year of celebration and is set to see some amazing artistic work. From the release of our monologue book to a new co-production with the Royal Court, 2019 is set to be one of Clean Break’s best years yet.
But until then, from everyone at Clean Break we wish you a restful Christmas and a happy and healthy new year. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks for some more exciting announcements and the start of our 40th birthday celebrations!
We have appointed Mimi Findlay as Producer, ahead of our 40th anniversary season in 2019. She takes up the position from January.
Mimi joins us with a background in producing and theatre administration. She has worked for companies including Fuel, Talawa, National Theatre, Actors Touring Company and Paines Plough as producer and project manager, theatre administrator and assistant to the directors/general PA. She is also currently on the panel for the Alfred Fagon Award.
Róisín McBrinn, Joint Artistic Director, commented;
‘Anna, Erin and I are delighted to welcome Mimi to our team. She brings a wealth of experience a progressive, insightful attitude to who gets to make and see theatre and is joining the company at an important time when we are producing more and reaching out to more audiences. We look forward to creating exceptional theatre together.’
‘I am proud to join Clean Break at such a pivotal moment in its history and look forward to getting stuck into our 2019 anniversary season and beyond. It is important to me that theatre sustains careers from all corners of the industry and harnesses artists’ voices to enhance British culture for everyone and Clean Break is a vital part of this endeavour.’
The Producer role is central to Clean Break’s commitment to create extraordinary theatre that fuses the work of leading women writers and artists with the work and experiences of the company’s Members (women with experience of or on the fringes of the criminal justice system). Working closely with Clean Break’s three-women leadership team, she will take Clean Break shows and projects, at various stages of development, into production and support the team with the development of new ideas, collaborations and partnerships.
Clean Break is thrilled to announce that playwright Lucy Kirkwood and actors Zawe Ashton, Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Tanya Moodie join the company as Patrons with immediate effect.
The four women have all worked with Clean Break in the past. Lucy Kirkwood’s work with the company has included her play it felt empty when the heart went at first but it’s alright now at the Arcola Theatre. Zawe Ashton was writer in residence with Clean Break for two years and has also starred in the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize award winning This Wide Night at Soho Theatre. Sharon Duncan-Brewster was in the cast of Rebecca Prichard’s Yard Gal at Royal Court Theatre and Linda Brogan’s Black Crows at Arcola Theatre. Tanya Moodie starred in the one-woman, multi-authored Joanne at Soho Theatre and Latitude.
Anna Herrmann and Róisín McBrinn, Clean Break Co-Artistic Directors: ‘We are delighted to welcome Lucy, Zawe, Sharon and Tanya as Clean Break Patrons. As we approach a 40th anniversary year full of incredible plays and activity, our Patrons are vital in supporting the company to make exciting new connections, place Clean Break at the heart of the theatre industry and ensure that the hidden stories of women are heard.’
Lucy Kirkwood: “It has been an honour and a pleasure to serve as a Trustee to Clean Break and I am delighted and grateful to be able to continue my relationship with this brilliant, vital, inspiring company as a Patron.”
Zawe Ashton: “Working with Clean Break for two years as artist in residence as a writer and performing in their incredible work on stage as an actor has been one of the most life changing professional and personal experiences of my life. To see first-hand the positive changes in women’s lives, whether in prison, as a prison leaver or someone at risk - is astonishing. Art therapy and drama therapy is real. The change they make is REAL. Society would benefit from a lot more Clean Breaks. They deserve support, they deserve visibility and the utmost respect. Deep thanks to the women I’ve worked with over the years who have overcome adversity and changed my life. Welcome, to the women we are yet to meet.”
Sharon Duncan-Brewster: “Having worked with Clean Break and witnessing the positive influences that the company makes on women within the various realms of the criminal justice system, I am delighted to be continuing my near 20-year strong relationship by becoming a Clean Break Patron.”
Tanya Moodie: “We have families that we are born into, and families that we are fortunate enough to find through profound friendships and shared visions. Clean Break is that family to me. We first come into contact via audition workshops. I jumped at coming back on my degree placement. Then I was honoured to work with them in a performance capacity. Clean Break’s staff and Members have taught me that no one’s potential is ‘other’ than mine. I treasure them, and I am committed to championing Clean Break’s essential work on behalf of women whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system.
This year we’re looking to raise £30,000 to bring Sweatbox on a UK tour to celebrate our 40th Anniversary in 2019. Thanks to the Big Give and our incredibly generous match-funders, this week every pound you donate to us through the Big Give website will be DOUBLED.
That means a donation of £10 will be worth £20, if you give £100 it will be an amazing £200 and if you give £500 it will be worth a phenomenal £1000!
Sweatbox is a performance which draws stark attention to the genuine experience that women face when navigating the criminal justice system. In cramped, dark surroundings this piece brings the reality of prison transport to audiences. Using the intrigue of a displaced prison van, Sweatbox tells the stories of women in the criminal justice system, by not only inviting audiences into the van for performances but also through open discussion and debate.
The piece will be performed by Clean Break members and will tour the UK with an aim to educate and inspire debate around the issues that women in the criminal justice system face.
So if you think you can help us hit our £30,000 target, hop over to the Big Give website to DOUBLE your donation now.
Sweatbox, by Chlöe Moss is an immersive and critically acclaimed theatre experience. Using the intrigue of a displaced prison van, Sweatbox tells the stories of women in the criminal justice system, by not only inviting audiences into the van for performances of Sweatbox but also through open discussion and debate.
Sweatbox is a performance which draws stark attention to the genuine experience that women face when navigating the criminal justice system. In cramped, dark surroundings this piece brings the reality of prison transport to audiences.
For us, ensuring that this powerful production is part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations is vital in our goal to highlight the experience of women in the criminal justice system. In a time where reports state that sending to women to prison is “almost never justifiable from the perspective of public protection” we believe that Sweatbox is vital to bring the reality of the female experience of the criminal justice system to as wide an audience as possible.
What is the Big Give and how can I help?
Between midday 27 November – 4 December any donation you make to us through the Big Give website will be DOUBLED. Yes, you read that right, a donation of £10 will be worth £20, if you give £100 it will be an amazing £200 and if you give £500 it will be worth a phenomenal £1000!
So, if you want to help us hit our £30,000 target all you need to do now is pop a reminder in your diary, for #GivingTuesday 27 November.
If you want to ensure that you’ll receive reminders closer to the date, click the button below to sign up to our newsletter and you will receive an email reminder before the Big Give begins.
The year opens with our first season under our new Artistic Directors, Anna Herrmann and Róisín McBrinn - featuring bold new plays, performances and projects created by ground-breaking artists, high profile partners and collaborators, and Clean Break Members.
"Forty years ago, two incredible women in prison set up Clean Break, believing theatre could bring the hidden stories of women to a wider audience. Over the last four decades, the company has remained true to this vision, changing women’s lives by providing opportunities, provoking conversation, and creating theatre of the highest calibre with the leading women theatre artists of the day. We are immensely proud to lead the company into its next chapter with a programme to launch our tenure that celebrates our legacy and signals a bold new future, with invaluable new relationships being forged and our Members at the heart of everything we do."
Our 40th Anniversary Spring Season will include:
A unique co-production with the Royal Court subverting media images of women in prison. Conceived by innovative theatre-makers Stacey Gregg and Deborah Pearson, devised and performed by Clean Break Members Lucy Edkins, Jennifer Joseph, Terri Ann Oudjar and Jade Small.
Belong is a new play by Brazen, Clean Break Young Artists as part of Arcola Creative/Disruption Festival. Examining how loneliness impacts on young women, their wellbeing, behaviours and choices, Belong is ultimately filled with hope about the power of community and connections to overcome difference.
Partnership with Cardboard Citizens
Cardboard Citizens and Clean Break join forces for the first time to explore the intersection between women’s experience of homelessness and the criminal justice system. Performance and video artist Paula Varjack and women Members from both theatre companies present a multi-media provocation asking what needs to change to improve the lives of women today.
Clean Break’s Rebel Voices
Clean Break celebrates 40 years of producing groundbreaking women writers and writing by our Members with this anthology of 40 monologues from 40 Clean Break voices. Including monologues by Alice Birch, Theresa Ikoko, Lucy Kirkwood, Bryonny Lavery and Winsome Pinnock this anthology, goes some way to embodying Clean Break's extraordinary canon and offers an exceptional resource for women actors of all ages.
Click here to find out more about Clean Break productions and events.
We sat down with Alyson Cummins, celebrated theatrical designer, to pick her brains about her work on Clean Break/Theatr Clwyd's currently touring production Thick As Thieves. Book your tickets to see the show at Theatr Clwyd, Salisbury Playhouse or Hull Truck now!
What attracted you to working on Thick As Thieves?
Well there were loads of reasons really! I’ve wanted to work with Clean Break for ages, I’m such a big fan of what they do so I was completely delighted when Róisín spoke to me about Thick as Thieves. Also I love working with Róisín, we’ve worked together quite a bit over the past few years and she’s a brilliant director as well as being great fun to hang out with. And on top of all that Róisín I worked on another play together that Kath wrote called Before it Rains which I absolutely loved. Kath is an incredible writer so I jumped at the chance to work with her again too.
What is it like to work with Clean Break and how is it different from working with other theatre companies?
Clean Break is such an important company, and one I’ve admired for a long time knowing their history and their commitment to creating work of such a high standard. It’s not only that that's so impressive but it's also their education and training schemes that are so integral to the production process. Its also really wonderful to work with a brilliant all female team, not only on the production itself but within the wider Clean Break company. I am lucky enough to have worked with lots of brilliant women over the years but I think creating a company committed to promoting and developing women in an industry that was traditionally male dominated is so important. The main difference with other companies is having the opportunity to tour the show to prisons which is a really exciting challenge. From a practical point of view they are not necessarily theatre spaces or ready made performance areas so there are certain considerations that that brings. However its so brilliant knowing you're working on something that will tour to an audience that isn’t necessarily able to get to see theatre or live performance.
What are you hoping audiences take from your design and how will that augment their experience of the show?
Whenever I’m designing a show the main thing I hope I can do is support the story that the writer has written. Its really important that my work helps to tell the story and underlines what the writer has presented. Kath has written a story with amazing characters who have been on really interesting and divergent journeys. What I hope we’ll be able to do is create a space that represents their experience and relationship with the world around them and hopefully through that also show part of their interior worlds.
Clean Break is delighted to announce three new Trustee appointments in the lead up to its 40th birthday in 2019. Actor and writer Ellie Kendrick and award-winning playwright Winsome Pinnock (both of whom have strong connections to the company) and management consultant Sara Forbes join the company’s Board with immediate effect.
Ellie was in the cast of Vivienne Franzmann’s Clean Break play Pests, which included spending time working with women affected by the criminal justice system at Clean Break’s studios and at HMP Askham Grange. Her recent acting credits include HBO’s Game of Thrones, ITV’s Vanity Fair, BBC’s Press, Gloria at Hampstead Theatre and Cyrano de Bergerac at Southwark Playhouse. As a writer, her debut play Hole opens at the Royal Court Theatre in December as part of Royal Court’s Jerwood New Playwrights Programme.
Winsome is an award-winning playwright, academic and dramaturg. Her work has been produced on the British stage and internationally since 1985. She was the first black British female writer to have a play produced by the Royal National Theatre and has been described as ‘the Godmother of black British playwrights’ by The Guardian. The prizes awarded to her work include the George Devine Award, The Pearson Plays on Stage Award and the Unity Theatre Trust Award. She was first commissioned by Clean Break in 1996 and has worked in HMP Holloway and Clean Break’s studios. Her plays for the company include Cleaning Up and Taken (at Oval House) and Mules (at Royal Court Theatre).
Sara will chair Clean Break’s Finance Committee. A Director at KPMG in their Financial Services advisory practice. She has been with KPMG since 2013 where she has worked alongside many of the top UK and Global banks. She is focussed on bringing female talent through the firm and has been recognised as a driven female role model. She has previously spent five years with the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Kim Evans OBE, Chair: ‘I am delighted that Ellie, Sara and Winsome are joining the Board of Trustees as Clean Break enters its 40th birthday year in 2019. They each bring great expertise and a real commitment to helping the company achieve its ambitions and produce exceptional work that speaks truth to power. Ellie and Winsome are exciting theatre makers who have worked with Clean Break in the past. Winsome is an award-winning playwright and Ellie a well-known actor who is now writing for the stage and screen. Sara is an experienced Director at KPMG and was recently shortlisted for a Women in Banking and Finance Award. She has been deeply involved in supporting the development of women in the financial sector and will be Chair of Clean Break's Finance Committee.'
Ellie Kendrick: ‘I am excited to join Clean Break’s Board at this important moment in its history. As an actor, I have relished the opportunity to see the inside workings of this brilliant company's theatre making process - I now look forward to taking up the position of Trustee as the organisation develops new methods to ensure its Members play an even more central role in its ground-shaking, change-making work in 2018 and beyond.’
Winsome Pinnock: ‘Clean Break has been one of the most important companies I have worked with during my career and I am proud to serve its work as part of its inspiring Board. This is an important moment in history for the company and for the theatre landscape - I want to work with the Board and team to ensure that the company leads the way.’
Sara Forbes: ‘Ensuring women’s voices are heard has been an important part of my professional experience and something that draws me to Clean Break. I am delighted to be invited to lead its Finance Committee, supporting and enhancing the company’s next steps with the skills and experience I have developed in the financial services industry, and ensuring its important stories continue to be told.’
CB: What was it like to write for Clean Break; how is it different from being commissioned by other companies?
KC:I have loved working with the company for lots of reasons. It is a different experience from working with any other company because of the process. I spent a lot of time initially at Clean Break with the women who were attending classes there and then spent time at Holloway prison with a different group of women who were there.
I tried to go into my time at both places without any thoughts about what I wanted to write about and really just came out with a lot of ideas. There was always, in both groups, continuous reference to kids and family and although we didn’t talk directly about anyone’s stories - because we were there for workshops about theatre – the kids was a big thing and were always being mentioned in chat.
It made me think a lot about motherhood and separation and the immediate judgements we make about each other based on generalised, ingrained ways of thinking and just the way we judge each other about our mothering whoever, whatever we are, so I was interested to challenge that a bit.
The commission was for two companies, Clean Break and Theatr Clwyd so that was also a consideration when I was thinking about the play because the two companies have different identities so the play had to fit with both. I just felt that I wanted to write a really big, small play!
I would say that when I had the seeds of an idea I wrote a first draft very quickly and then have spent a long time redrafting. Normally my plays are between three and six drafts and this play is currently on draft ten. It’s a play with a cast of two so I felt the script had to be really tight, it’s like a game of tennis with dialogue and every word counts so it’s taken time to get it right.
I also seem to start a play with a first draft that has murders and overly dramatic things happening and then through the drafting process the true story emerges which in this case was a reconnection of two sisters that were estranged.
CB: What are you hoping audiences will go home thinking about after seeing Thick As Thieves?
KC: I hope they go away having been entertained for an hour or so. Then if they think a bit about mothers and how we regard each other, that would be good. Themes that runs through are also about our starting points in life, paths we take, helping each other, judgement, class and family. I hope it might provoke thoughts about any of those things but I’m happy if they just like it!
CB: What have you taken away from your experience of writing Thick As Thieves and will it impact any of your future work?
KC: I feel very satisfied with the play now and when I hear it I can see the influences of my time with Clean Break and the women. It was an experience that I really value and I won’t forget it and the women and I think it’s been a really interesting way of working. For me all my plays are different and I think the process of your current one is likely to impact the way you write the next one, in one way or another. The play I wrote after Thick as Thieves was a completely fictional, comedic monologue that I went into with a solid structure and was written in two drafts, it couldn’t have been more different! I enjoy the differences. The next project I’m working on is similar in the process to Thick as Thieves.
CB: Tell us what you’re working on next!
KC: I’m working with BBC and Children in Need to develop an idea for a one off drama influenced by a project that is supported by Children in Need. I’m very excited about it, I think it’s a brilliant thing and very similar to the process with Clean Break.
Earlier this month, we launched a Twitter competition asking female photographers to retweet and reply with one of their photographs in the hopes of being awarded some free time in our photography studio. We were absolutely staggered by the wave of responses we got and the quality of the photographs. In fact, the quality was so high that we were unable to select only one winner, and have decided to award studio time to three outstanding photographers with three outstanding photographs. They are:
Yaa (#7), Heather Agyepong, 2017
Babirye, Brainchild, Myah Jeffers, 2018
Georgie, Behind The Scars Series, Sophie Mayanne, 2018
On a separate note, we also had many DMs and emails testifying as to how enormously difficult it is for even seemingly established female photographers to make headway in a still male-dominated field. We're glad to be able to help, even in this small way. Congratulations to everyone who entered!
Women from South Wales who are incarcerated are currently taken to HMP Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire. This is a massive 4 hours from Swansea by public transport. Women in north Wales are taken to HMP Styal in Cheshire which is around 3 hours from Mold on public transport.
This distance from home is a disaster for Welsh women. These distances are considerably higher than those faced by women in England. Only half of the women who had lived with, or were in contact with, their children prior to imprisonment had received a visit since going to prison (Women In Prison, 2018). “Imprisonment in Wales – A Factfile” from Cardiff University (2018) states that the average distance from home for a Welsh female was 101miles, compared to 53 miles for Welsh adult males (Jones, 2018).
The distance is drastic compared to men and English women, what impact does this have? Three-quarters of women prisoners are mothers, and two-thirds of them have children under eighteen (Maruna and Liebling, 2005). So a lot of women in prison have families that have to face this long distance. These long distances can be both inconvenient, and expensive to travel.
A Home Office study showed that for 85% of mothers, prison was the first time they had been separated from their children for any significant length of time (Women in Prison, 2018). It was reported that for mothers, separation from their children is the most painful aspect of incarceration (Maruna and Liebling, 2005). This separation of women from children is often the issue most likely to affect the mental health or well-being of female prisoners. Women in prison told Baroness Corston (2007) that separation from children was emotional “torture” (Jones, 2018). The experience of being separated from your children can be excruciating, and so this distance from home is evidently an extremely important issue for women in prisons.
Children separated from their parents can react with feelings of rejection, loss of identity, anger and guilt. Separation was found to make the child highly vulnerable to both emotional and cognitive difficulties (Johnston and Gabel, 1995). The lack of a women’s prison in Wales has a massive impact on the children of incarcerated women, both at the time of imprisonment and in the future.
Not only does separation cause pain and anguish for the families and women, but there is also evidence to suggest that separation from children and families has effects on reoffending rates. Family relationships for prisoners have a significant influence on relapse prevention (Waul, 2003). It has been found that programs that include family members in prisoners’ treatment during incarceration can produce positive results for prisoners, families, institutions and communities (Jeffries, Menghraj, and Hairston 2001; Wright and Wright 1992). These types of programs are impossible to maintain when the distances involved are prohibitively expensive and time consuming to traverse.
Emotional strain and poor mental health for women, loss of communication, difficulties for children as well as higher reoffending; how can separation due to long distances be answered for? A more successful justice system must be found for Welsh women and families.
Johnston, G. a., 1995. Children of Incarcerated Parents. s.l.:Lexington Books.
Jones, R., 2018. The University of Cardiff. [Online]
Available at: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/1195577/Imprisonment-in-Wales-A-Factfile.pdf
[Accessed September 2018].
Maruna, L., 2005. The Effects of Imprisonment. s.l.:Routledge.
Prison, W. i., 2018. Women In Prison. [Online]
Available at: http://www.womeninprison.org.uk
[Accessed September 2018].
Waul, T. a., 2003. Prisoners Once Removed: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families and Communities. Washington: The Urban Institue Press.
Jeffries, Menghraj, and Hairston 2001; Wright and Wright 1992 found in Waul, T. a., 2003. Prisoners Once Removed: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families and Communities. Washington: The Urban Institue Press.
Rehearsals have begun for Thick As Thieves which opens at Theatr Clwyd on 11 October. Actors Siwan Morris and Polly Frame have joined the creative team in the roles of Karen and Gail as the production gets truly underway. The cast and crew will be rehearsing at Clean Break's London studios for a fortnight before a final week of rehearsals in Wales in advance of opening night. Break a leg to the whole team - we cannot wait to see the play on its feet!
Thick As Thieves will be performed at Theatr Clwyd, Salisbury Playhouse and Hull Truck: for full booking details please click here.
What has been different about working with us, how has the experience here differed to working with other theatre companies?
Clean Break is a company I have wanted to work with for years so I was so excited to have the opportunity to be a writer in residence here and forge a relationship with the women and the work. I suppose the most over riding difference at Clean Break is that the company reaches in many directions, and as a writer you find yourself working in lots of very different environments. There is the work inside prisons, work at Clean Break itself and work in theatres and outside spaces, and the work passes from one environment to another. For example, one of the most interesting projects I have been part of began with a group of women taking part in a writing group in HMP Send, and their words and ideas turned into Hear, a performance piece that was rehearsed by actors at Clean Break and then shown at The House of Lords and the National Theatre. The journey that the work embarks upon enhances and deepens it, making it feel properly connected to the ethos of Clean Break as a company.
What has been your personal highlight from your time spent working with us?
I have loved every part of the work I have done at Clean Break and learnt a lot. I suppose my personal highlight is perhaps the playwriting courses I have been part of; I have met the most incredible female writers and felt inspired by every single person that has taken part in these courses. In teaching playwriting I have learnt so much about what writing is, and what an invaluable safety valve it can provide. I have been struck by what a generous and supportive environment those writer’s groups have created – sharing your writing is a very vulnerable thing to do, and the community that these groups have provided women who write, has been moving and inspiring to me in a big way.
How have you found working in all female environment?
The non competitive, supportive, and genuinely non-judgemental atmosphere at Clean Break has felt liberating. I love it. I love being in the building and although I’m not putting all of this down to the absence of men, (I went to an all girl’s school that was nothing like this at all!) I think the all female environment contributes to a more direct, straightforward authenticity about the communication in the organisation. It is also refreshing to work in an environment that feels diverse in other ways – culturally, ethnically, across class divides – and to feel that pressing forward, positively and creatively is the unified aim.
What advice would you pass on to our members about making it in the Industry?
Keep your integrity, write or create work from a place you are properly connected to. Don’t think of ‘the industry’ as a thing over there that you will be lucky to break into, think of your contribution as something that the industry would be lucky to have. The industry is just a collection of people doing their thing, there’s room for more good ideas and hard working individuals to join in. See as much theatre as you can, read plays, make relationships and connections with companies that are making work you respect. If you write, get a group of like-minded people together to read each other’s work out loud. You don’t need permission to write, push yourself towards things that inspire you, eavesdrop, keep your eyes open to the small details, try and stay open.
As a company we would like to extend our thanks to Deborah for the amazing work she has produced and the dedication that she has shown towards our members and that is why we are delighted to announce that our relationship does not end here! In fact Deborah will be working on a full length commission for us, so watch this space.
When asked about Deborah’s contribution to Clean break Lucy Perman commented:
“Deborah has been a superb resident playwright. She’s immersed herself in every aspect of the company’s work – in prisons and in our playwriting workshops at our studios. She has been an encouraging and nurturing teacher and mentor for our Member writers as well writing several short plays for us already. We’re really looking forward to her full-length commission for Clean Break.”