For forty years we have produced ground-breaking plays by some of Britain’s best playwrights. We've gathered a selection of these progressive, brilliant artists come together to share what they have learnt from working with us, what the future holds for women playwrights and why complicated, multifaceted representations of women on our stages are more essential than ever.
Clean Break's Writers: Here. There. Then. Now. is hosted by Jane Fallowfield and Paulette Randall, with guests Stacey Gregg (co-creator, Inside Bitch), Tanika Gupta (Inside Out), Sonya Hale (Blis-ta), Jacqueline Holborough (Co-Founder, Clean Break and writer of Killers), Lucy Kirkwood (it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now), Tash Marshall (Clean Break Writer in Residence 2018) Winsome Pinnock (Mules), Rebecca Prichard (Yard Gal), and Somalia Seaton (House).
Anna Herrmann, Joint Artistic Director commented:
‘‘We are thrilled to be convening this special event as part of our 40th Anniversary Year, drawing together a selection of inspiring, brilliant Clean Break writers, hosted by the Royal Court, which has been a home to us many times over the past four decades. We look forward to hearing the reflections of our writers and sharing a conversation about the future of theatre in terms of voice, gender and representation.’’
Clean Break’s Writers: Here. There. Then. Now. is part of a series of events presented as part of our 40th Anniversary Year, which launched with Inside Bitch at the Royal Court Theatre with further highlights including the publication of Rebel Voices – Monologues for Women by Women (published by Methuen Drama), Chloë Moss’ Sweatbox, touring the UK in a prison van, and [BLANK] by Alice Birch, a Clean Break and Donmar Warehouse co-production (premiering at Donmar Warehouse in October).
We're looking for new volunteers to bring their skills to help us help women with experience of the criminal justice system.
We provide an opportunity for you to develop your skills in a welcoming all female environment, whilst also allowing you the chance to learn more about the way in which we work.
We're currently looking for a Development and Members Admin Volunteer, this is an opportunity for an individual looking to build their administrative skills across fundraising, marketing and participation support, as part of a lively, dedicated team. Our volunteers are integral to the work that we do and are an incredibly important part of the Clean Break team.
To find out more information about the role please send a CV and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Clean Break provided me with the platform to develop my skills as a practitioner. They provide fantastic support and represent what I feel is missing in the arts, raw talent. The environment they have created is a safe and homely one. They show the world that the arts are for everyone. They also gave me the confidence to go out and produce my own company!" - Volunteer 2016
In 2016, over one hundred years after it first opened its gates, HMP Holloway said goodbye to its last female prisoner and closed the final chapter of a famously controversial history. It has since been sold for over £80m and will be levelled to make way for 1,000 new affordable homes. Until redevelopment begins, HMP Holloway remains a scar of the North London skyline, a reminder for many of a justice system which maligned and failed women. Within its now deserted corridors remain fragments of stories which will soon be lost to history, but which remain very much alive for the women who were once held there.
Earlier this year, five Clean Break Members who each served time in HMP Holloway, envisioned such possibilities in a collaborative short-film project with documentary film maker Clare Richards. Part of the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) and created by Ft’work in collaboration with Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, Without Walls explores the experiences of our Members in Holloway, the impact it has had on their lives and the tensions caused when social and physical boundaries collide. Giving a voice to those who are often marginalized and silenced by society, the project sought to involve women in the conversation surrounding penal reform and asks them to share their own ideas about how our criminal justice system could better support women who offend.
In a series of hard-hitting, poignant, and at times funny conversations, Members discuss the harsh realities of prison life; from the claustrophobia of confinement in shared cells, antagonistic staff, nauseating sounds, daily stampedes just to get clean and the debilitating effects that prison has on a person’s state of mind. Each woman shared the sentiment that confinement within prison has far more detrimental affects than positive, and that alternative rehabilitative systems must be put in place.
So, what is the alternative? Our Members, and other advocates for reform, such as Women in Prison, and the Prison Reform Trust, pose women’s centres as the logical answer. Women’s centres are a sensitive and holistic approach to rehabilitation, providing support for mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, and employment to break the cycle of deprivation and offending. A 2015 report by the Ministry of Justice found that rates of re-offending were reduced among women who had been given the support of a women’s centre, versus those who had not, while an impact study conducted by the Centre for Welfare Reform, discovered that all participants felt an improvement in their lives as a whole.
The case for women’s centres is clear. Holistic, trauma-informed approaches to female offending have far more positive results than our current carceral system. Yet with only 50 centres of this kind in the U.K, more investment is needed to ensure vulnerable women get the support they deserve. Women in Prison’s #OPENUP campaign is calling for the reduction of the women’s prison population and the creation of healthier, safer communities for all.
You can find out more about the Clean Break Member's programme here.
On the blog this week our Assistant Producer Dezh Zhelyazkova shares her reasons taking on the London Triathlon in order to raise money for Clean Break.
As Clean Break celebrates 40 years of ground-breaking work, I chose to take part in the London Triathlon to fundraise for it.
This year Clean Break supporters are taking part in 40 challenges to raise money for our organisation and I have been looking for an impactful way to take part, motivated by the remarkable results of the company’s work with its members and the lasting mark it leaves with audiences, day after day. As a charitable organisation, I acknowledge that Clean Break would make good use of any support it receives, especially in its action-packed anniversary year, and I am thrilled to be contributing to it with my pledge to raise £1000 as part of this campaign. My biggest motivation lies in my admiration for Clean Break Member's and the amazing strength, talent, and wit they bring to everything they do.
While I am confident in all triathlon disciplines on their own, and have competed in several swimming and running events, taking part in a triathlon is a new challenge for me. It started as a joke, when after competing in a swimming event last November, a friend of mine suggested I take part in a triathlon. I was already set to be running at a half marathon race in March, but I decided I would look for an even greater challenge and create an even more impactful fundraising campaign. I have chosen to complete the Olympic Westminster distance event of the London Triathlon, which consists of a 1.5k swim at the Royal Victoria Dock, a 40km cycle from the ExCel Centre to Westminster and back (plus a smaller lap to Billingsgate) and a 10k run back at the London Docklands. I am ecstatic to be taking part in such a grand sporting event and joining thousands of athletes on this iconic route.
Taking part in London Triathlon requires numerous personal sacrifices and lifestyle adjustments but it is all worth it as I channel my appreciation for Clean Break, and the motivation to perform my best at the largest triathlon in the world.
Steph Cartwright, our Philanthropy Manager commented:
“Clean Break is extremely proud and grateful for Dezh’s support in doing the London Triathlon. Challenges are a fun and easy way to get involved with your charity, to show your support. The more people who complete a challenge for us will spread our message to new people we haven’t had a chance to meet yet. Clean Break can’t wait to see Dezh at the finish line!”
You can find out more about taking on a challenge as part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations here.
Last week marked the halfway point of our year of celebrations for our 40th Anniversary, and what a week it was. We’ve rounded up the whirlwind of activity to make sure you didn’t miss any Clean Break action.
We joined Women in Prison on Wednesday 26 June for their Mass Lobby of Parliament to mark one year since the publication of the Ministry of Justice’s ‘Female Offender Strategy’. The Lobby called on supporters of the strategy, which seeks to reduce the women’s prison population, to meet en masse at the Houses of Parliament and raise the importance of the campaign with their local MP. Women’s organisations from across the UK rallied together calling on their MP’s to increase investment (especially funds generated by the £80m sale of HMP Holloway) and support for Women’s Centres, and examine circumstances surrounding female offending. The day was a great success, with many MP’s including Dianne Abbott and Vicky Foxcroft pledging to support the campaign in parliament.
After the Mass Lobby, staff and Members continued the day at Rich Mix in Shoreditch for a screening of Without Walls, a short film created by Ft’work in collaboration with Clean Break and Sarah Wigglesworth Architects for The London Festival of Architecture. Poignant and compelling (we’re not being biased, it’s true!), the film explored the theme of boundaries, and, in the case of our Members, confinement. Five women described their experiences in stark detail, discussed the importance of Women’s Centres, and their ideas about alternatives to imprisonment. Set to haunting images from the now deserted HMP Holloway and illustrations from a former resident, Without Walls is a remarkably unique piece of storytelling.
Gender, Justice and Women’s Rights; Change, Progress and the Future was an inspiring event of lively discussion from Deborah Coles (Director, INQUEST) and Sonali Naik QC, both exceptional leaders in their respective fields. The event was hosted as part of the #FlyTheFlag70 celebrations which mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These two inspiring women detailed their ongoing efforts to effect women’s rights and penal reform in the age of austerity, where achieving fairness and equality seems like a never ending, but ever important battle. Over 10 years since the Corston report it’s a sad fact that very little has changed in women’s prisons. Yet the presiding message of Gender, Justice and Women’s Rights was hopeful; we must hold on to the change that has happened and continue to create it together.
Sometimes to influence change you must cause a stir. Our current production Sweatbox, written by Chloë Moss seeks to do just that, bringing audiences into the cramped, claustrophobic conditions of a prison van as three women share their stories of arrival, survival and anticipation. Audiences arrived at Clean Break on Friday and left with some serious food for thought. You can still catch Sweatbox at Snape Maltings, Suffolk, on 24 August and Orbit Festival on 19 September.
We’re halfway through the year, but don’t fear, we still have six months packed full of activity to celebrate 40 years of Clean Break. Click here to find out what’s happening over the next 6 months.
We're looking for a Head of Finance and Operations and a Finance and HR Assistant to join our team in Kentish Town!
The Head of Finance and Operations will lead and oversee the finance management, operations, and administration for Clean Break. This strategic role is part of the Senior Management Team, which consists also of the Head of Participation and the Head of Development & Communications.
The Finance and HR Assistant will support the operation and administration of the finance and human resource systems of Clean Break on a day-to-day basis to enable effective management of the company.
If you would like to join our team click the link below to read the application pack and find out how to apply.
On Wednesday 26 June we will be joining Women in Prison’s mass lobby to mark one year since the publication of the Ministry of Justice’s Female Offender Strategy.
Attendees will be lobbying their MPs, asking them to make a commitment to; investing in, growing and supporting a specialist network of women’s centre’s, that enable women to address the root causes of offending in a supportive, non-judgemental environment. They will also be focusing on the need for £80m that our HM Treasury has received from the sale of the Holloway prison site to be invested into the delivery of the strategy.
Women in Prison will be using the Emmanuel Centre as their base for the day where there will be information and stalls about campaigns and organisations who work with women with experience of the criminal justice system. The day will culminate in a rally at 4pm, which will see several speakers including representatives from the Ministry of Justice.
If you’d like to find how your can get involved in the day, or how to lobby your MP click here for more information.
Ella an Unlocked Graduate joined Clean Break on a work placement, to celebrate Volunteers Week she wrote a blog for us about her experience.
It is not often you walk into a work space and feel immediately welcomed, but the moment I began volunteering with Clean Break I was introduced into the environment with an incomparable warmth and openness. As both a work environment and a centre for creative expression Clean Break presents a safe space that supports and drives both its members and staff. The organisation runs as a well-oiled machine yet allows space for emotion, humanness and humour to be shared. The unwavering commitment that Clean Break has towards it members was inspiring and a world away from the treatment I am witness to every day in my work place.
I have spent the last 20 months completing a graduate placement working frontline in a women’s prison. It was only until I came to volunteer at Clean Break, and saw a functioning example of rehabilitation, that I realized just how dismal and damaging the current prison system’s approach is for women. The services available for women in prison are inaccessible and uninspiring, yet it is charities such as Clean Break that provide a glimmer of hope in a repressive and failing system. During my placement here I was able to observe just how transformative providing women with creative expression and a holistic safe environment can be, I have witnessed the devastating effects that the criminal justice system can have on women’s lives but during my time at Clean Break I was able to see women, who have experienced this system, heal from some of those effects and have space to tell their stories.
The women who I work with everyday have been robbed of their voices, if prisons are to provide sufficient care we need to begin to acknowledge and give centre stage to these women’s narratives. Working with Clean Break allowed me to re-configure my outlook towards my everyday work which had become defeatist and pessimistic, I was reminded of the power of the creative and the strength that a collective group of women determined to create change can exude. I have gone back to work with renewed energy, striving to emanate the hopeful and determined drive of the Clean Break Members I worked with, taking back with me both a restored faith in the potential to change a failing system and the fight to provide women in prison with creative and restorative spaces. The connection between Clean Break and the female establishment is key to this fight and I will strive to raise awareness among the women in prison about the possibilities available to them.
It was refreshing to be part of a workforce who care for each other and strive for a joint ethos and vision, the unity among staff is testament to the care provided by management. The effective management at Clean Break made me acutely aware of the lacking welfare support and management I, and most other prison staff alike, have experienced. This is a topic which is close to my heart and one I am currently writing policy to try and change. The Members team at Clean Break made it clear that their Members are continuously the priority but had a crucial understanding that the only way Members can be prioritised is with a workforce who themselves are cared for and confident.
I knew prior to volunteering just how professional and visionary Clean Break is as a theatre company, you simply have to look at past productions to know this, however it was the everyday running of the workshops that demonstrated to me just how adept this charity is at running a trauma informed safe space for women to meet fellow creatives and explore their own narratives.
The highlight of my work placement with Clean Break was witnessing their celebration of International Women’s Day 2019 which was a chance for both staff and Members to come together, share food, stories, music and inspiration. This moment allowed me insight into the gratitude people felt towards the organisation and the strength that flourishes through creation.
Would you like to volunteer at Clean Break? Find out more about our volunteering opportunities here.
The 2019 revival of Chloë Moss’s Sweatbox will star three Clean Break Members - Funke Adeleke (On Missing, Cockpit Theatre) Jade Small (Sweatbox original cast member, Inside Bitch, Royal Court Theatre) and Posy Sterling (Belong, Arcola & Lyric Hammersmith).
From June onwards, Sweatbox will be touring the UK accompanied by a mobile exhibition created by artist Miriam Nabarro, celebrating 40 years of Clean Break’s work. For full tour dates and an opportunity to book, please visit the production page. Congratulations to our three Members who began rehearsals this week - break a leg!
From a 5k run to a sponsored silence, we are looking for people who would like to help raise money for Clean Break to mark our 40th Anniversary year. Challenges are a great way to push yourself whilst supporting the work that we do, whether it’s a fitness goal or you’re looking to give something up, why not give yourself the extra incentive by raising money for Clean Break?
If you do decide to complete a challenge for us, you’ll not be alone, many of the Clean Break staff have already signed up, started training and raring to complete their challenge. Our Assistant Producer Dezh has taken on the incredible challenge of the London Triathlon, Westminster Olympic Distance. This consists of a grueling 1500m swim, 40km bike ride finished with 10km run. Her training journey and race day will be recorded on the London Triathlon website and social media channels, so keep an eye out for pictures, blogs and videos tracking her journey.
Other members of staff have signed up to run a 10K race and one will even be completing a sky dive, we will be sharing their training journey every step of the way, so make sure to keep an eye on our Twitter.
Supporting Clean Break through a sponsored challenge helps us to spread the word about what we do and, allows us to reach more women with experience of the criminal justice system who would benefit from becoming a Clean Break Member. So, if you fancy taking up a challenge, lets work together to change hearts and minds!
If you would like to get involved in a challenge and would like to represent Clean Break please contact Stephanie.email@example.com or call 020 7482 8651. We will provide you with a sponsorship pack and support along your journey.
You can find out more about Clean Break and the work we do here.
Clean Break has been taking its artistic work into women’s prisons for decades. It has been a central tenant of our work that the plays we produce which tell the hidden stories of women who have experience of the criminal justice system should also be seen by women currently serving prison sentences, who we know rarely get the opportunity to see their own experiences portrayed sensitively or without judgement on national stages, television screens or in the media. Our belief is that by seeing these stories shown compassionately on stage, individual women’s emotions of pain and isolation in relation to their own story might, for a short time at least, be lessened and new possibilities of hope, community and feeling understood might take root.
The play is a part of the whole experience that we offer – the women see it then have the opportunity to explore the themes through a range of theatre and writing activities that we facilitate. The women are therefore not passive but very much active agents, bringing their own ideas and experiences to the work. This act of taking plays about women caught up in the criminal justice system into women’s prisons has often been questioned by others on the premise that, why would women living through the challenges of issues such as poverty, abuse or distress want to see these exact same issues on stage? Why don’t we commission plays which purely entertain and provide an outlet and a moment of escape and freedom from this? And of course, we believe that women should have this opportunity as well. There could be lots of different types of theatre inside prisons – humanising the experience of imprisonment and bringing the transformative power of arts and culture to benefit all. But our primary purpose has been to bring theatre which holds a mirror up to women’s lives and to use this as a starting point for a creative conversation with the women in the audience about their own lives, their futures and their potential.
It was with this purpose that we embarked on our Autumn prison tour 2018 with Thick as Thieves, our co-production with Theatr Clwyd written by Katherine Chandler which highlights the enduring effects of childhood abuse on the life chances of adults and asks questions about what neglect is and how do we change. It is a painful story but there is hope of change and the possibility of reconciliation at the end.
We had the intention of bringing this play to women’s prisons right from the beginning, before we knew the script. Our last prison tour had been in 2013 and we wanted to reconnect and renew this commitment to women prisoners seeing our work. Once the play itself had been written, the question of how we could responsibly bring this into prisons was at the forefront of our minds. The play was powerful, the story felt real and reflective of the many women whose stories we knew – childhoods marred by neglect and women at risk of losing their children whilst in prison. So the question begged,
How could we ensure that women prisoners seeing the play had the support structures in place to cope with any difficult and strong emotions it evoked?
One option was to only bring extracts of the play in, however, we dismissed this as it felt like short changing the audience, we felt it was important for them to have the full experience of the play and the production. So instead we set about shaping the package of creative activities that surrounded the play to ensure that the engagement was positive and safe. Our plans started with conversations held with the Education departments and key staff in each of the prisons – talking to them about the possible length of engagement, content of the play and drawing on their knowledge of how best to implement our plans.
Could we make sure that the women who sign up know in advance what the themes are and are able to make a choice about their participation?
Our biggest fear was that mothers who were going through court orders themselves would find themselves in the chapel watching this story unfold without having any idea of what they had signed up to. We also asked to work with a group of no more than twenty women – so that all the women who see the play can also take part in all the workshop activity. We decided that we also needed to run taster sessions before-hand to prepare women for the play and address any concerns they might have and give them the choice to withdraw at that point. The prisons had an option of engaging us for a minimum of one day and maximum of four consecutive days. The one-day programme featured some preparatory drama work, watching the play and then a workshop for the women to process the themes, and create their own responses. The four-day programme extended the exploration of the themes over two days and then spent the final two days facilitating the women to write their own scenes which were performed on the final afternoon by the two actors who had been in the play.
In exploring the themes, the audience were invited to talk to Gail and Karen, the characters from the play, and ask them questions about their lives. Following this we invited the women to offer the characters advice - the women were clear that Gail needed to see through the changes she wanted to make in her life, and that Karen needed to face her past in order to move on. Finally we invited them to imagine positive futures for Gail and Karen which the actors then improvised. This was important to focus on the future and to create a sense of possibility as we were careful not to feed feelings of hopelessness that might exist already. The creation of their own response pieces was the point at which we handed over the narrative to the participating women, asking them,
What do you want to write about? What do you have to say to an audience?
We didn’t ask them to write their own life stories – they worked in the realm of their imaginations – an important asset that we all have – and created characters which were sparked by the story of Thick as Thieves, and the themes that had resonated for them. Most notably, each woman told a different story and each woman’s starting premise was that she didn’t believe she could do it. When they saw the actors perform their pieces, there were many tears of joy and pride at what they had achieved. Everyone in the space was profoundly moved by this shared experience. Their feedback confirmed this. The difficult themes of the play had spoken truthfully to the audience – but it hadn’t been too much.
Bringing Thick as Thieves into prisons has reaffirmed my assertion that women in prison benefit hugely from seeing truthful plays which reflects their lives and from having the opportunity to work through the themes and have the space to express their own voice and become the writers and performers themselves.
Our next Leadership event Activism, Women and Power brings together the founders and current leaders of both Clean Break and Southall Black Sisters as each organisation spend 2019 celebrating their 40th year. The event is a moment for both to reflect on what the past forty years has meant for each company, and what the current landscape means for the future of women and justice.
In preparation for this leadership event we took a moment to reflect on the last 40 years and asked both the founders and leaders of Clean Break and Southall Black Sisters to offer advice; from the past and to the future.
“The advice to Clean Break now is to always be aware to listen to the experience of the women who are experiencing or have experienced prison or the criminal justice system. Try, if you can, to let go of your own expectations of what you will hear and be prepared to be surprised or shocked. Then allow that to be included in your reality. To be aware of hierarchy and decision making, to always make this as inclusive as possible. Clean Break has always been a voice for women speaking out through the layers of patriarchy.”
“It has always been my belief that play and fun is a huge and important part of the healing power of art. Freeing the soul to explore and challenge and not being afraid to speak truth to power. Advice most helpful to us in 1979 would probably be to dare to dream and don't take no for an answer.”
“Questions of racism, class, sexuality/ heteronormativity, and disability are crucial to tackle in relation to gender/ patriarchal relations.
Racist and fascist politics of the far Right are on the horizon again and struggle against them central to feminist politics. These issues were as relevant in 1979 as they are today.”
“In many ways the thought of Clean Break being alive in 40 years’ time brings with it feelings of both dismay and delight. Dismay that we will still be needed - and that this will mean women will continue in the future to be silenced, marginalised and incarcerated rather than listened to, supported and treated justly. And delight that a such a powerful organisation will continue to be championing brilliant women, carving out space for justice and equality and making ground-breaking urgent theatre. To its future leaders I say let your dismay fire your passion - never settle for anything less than justice and always, always listen to those in our midst who know from having lived it first-hand. And treasure the joy of being the temporary custodians of something so very special.”
“If Southall Black Sisters were still in existence in 2059, I feel we would have failed. The whole point of our work is to demolish unequal economic, racist, sexist and patriarchal structures of our society. If those structures were to prove so unyielding, we would urge Southall Black Sisters to continue our struggle without submission to the powers that be, to devise legal and political strategies based on universal human rights values and a careful analysis of the chinks in state and community power.”
Activism, Women and Power takes place 15 May at the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Chaired by Dr Farah Karim-Cooper, the panel will explore the themes of justice facing women, the current context and the strategies both organisations have adopted to affect change and reclaim power.
We are delighted to announce that Rebel Voices: Monologues for Women by Women is now available to purchase!
The book is 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.
To find out more about the launch event, Rebel Voices On Stage happening at The Donmar Warehouse on 12 May, click here.
Rebel Voices: Monologues for Women by Women celebrates the opportunities inherent when women represent themselves. Offering 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.
The anthology represents Clean Break’s past, present and future: with pieces from its early history by writers including co-founder Jacqueline Holborough; through the 80s, 90s and 00s including leading playwrights such as Bryony Lavery, Winsome Pinnock and Lucy Kirkwood; to its most current writers including Alice Birch and Natasha Marshall. It is edited by Clean Break’s Joint Artistic Director Róisín McBrinn and writer/producer/dramaturg Lauren Mooney, with an introduction by Lucy Perman MBE (Clean Break, Executive Director from 1997 – 2018).
To mark the release of the anthology, Clean Break hosts an evening of readings at the Donmar Warehouse on Sunday 12 May, performed by a cast including Daisy Bartle, Jackie Clune, Jacqueline Holborough, Michelle Greenidge, Jennifer Joseph, Martina Laird, Ann Mitchell, Danusia Samai, Unique Spencer, Lia Williams and Susan Wokoma.
Book your tickets to join us as we celebrate the words and stories of some incredible women HERE.
Indira Varma, Actor: ‘I fumed and laughed and cried. A rich, varied and timely anthology of monologues for Everywoman. Clean Break is giving actors of ALL ages, ethnicities and backgrounds an opportunity to shine.’
Zawe Ashton, Actor and Clean Break Patron: ‘Clean Break has an archive of incredible monologues for women; women whose voices aren't often heard and whose experience is rarely given this level of complexity and humanity... A special resource that I wish had been around when I was at drama school.’
Kathy Burke, Theatre Director: ‘Rebel Voices is a compelling anthology and a unique insight into a brilliant, ground-breaking theatre company.’
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. All episodes are 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 Drama 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