Sounds Like An Insult

Written by Vivienne Franzmann
Directed by Rebecca Manley
21 October 2014 – 31 March 2015

When I was in the first prison, they said I was schizophrenic and they gave me these tablets. When I was moved to the second place, they said they never had no tablets to give me, so I guess I wasn’t schizophrenic after all.

Written by Vivienne Franzmann
Directed by Rebecca Manley

21 October 2014 – 31 March 2015

Sarah Cowan
Caryn Stanley
Yvonne Wickham

Sounds Like An Insult

21 October 2014 – 31 March 2015

Commissioned by Clean Break in association with NOMS and the Department of Health and performed by graduates of Clean Break’s theatre education programme, Sounds Like An Insult by Vivienne Franzmann explores the experiences of women offenders with complex mental health needs, and the challenges of diagnosis and treatment within the criminal justice system.

To get in touch about booking a performance for your organisation or event, please contact Producer Dezh Zhelyazkova on

A note from playwright Vivienne Franzmann
During my research, I spoke to a psychiatrist who works with women with ‘Personality Disorder’ in the criminal justice system. He told me that while official figures were lower, he estimated that around 80% of women in prison were suffering from some kind of personality disorder. So it became important to me to represent a wide range of women in the piece Sounds Like An Insult. In my research, I spoke to one woman who had been diagnosed and given a written report in prison; yet a year on, she still didn’t know what the term Personality Disorder meant and was too afraid to ask. I spoke to another woman who felt absolute relief at the diagnosis. The more women I spoke to, it became clear that everyone had different experiences and responses, yet all of the women seemed to have lived lives characterised by chaos, a sense of isolation and a feeling of otherness. Sounds Like An Insult gives snap shots of the lives of these women and their experiences in the criminal justice system.

Vivienne Franzmann was a teacher for 13 years in London secondary schools. In 2008, she won the Bruntwood Playwriting Award with her first play Mogadishu (Manchester Royal Exchange and Lyric Hammersmith) and went on to be awarded the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright in 2010. Her second play, The Witness (Royal Court) won a Pearson Playwrights’ Bursary and an attachment to the Royal Court. Vivienne was writer in residence for Clean Break in 2012 and has taught the playwriting course several times. Clean Break commissioned Vivienne’s third play Pests (Manchester Royal Exchange, Royal Court and UK tour). She has written for Channel 4, BBC 1, Radio 4 and Radio 3, and is currently under commission to the Almeida Theatre, the Royal Court and Washington Studios.

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Cast and Creatives

Rebecca Manley – Director

Vivienne Franzmann – Writer

Sarah Cowan – Writer and Actor

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Caryn Stanley – Cast

Yvonne Wickham – Writer and Actor

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Dezh Zhelyazkova
Assistant Producer

"The performance was engaging, thought provoking and staggeringly well done"

Audience member

"It was a powerful potrayal of a range of situations that I have experienced in the female prison system. The frankness of the performance was refreshing"

Audience member

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