Established in 2000 Synergy Theatre Project works towards rehabilitation and resettlement with prisoners, ex-prisoners and young people at risk of offending through theatre and related activities whilst placing the wider issues surrounding criminal justice in the public arena.
Our work is founded on the belief that theatre can be transformative and challenges perceptions of both prisoners and society, building a more positive future. Synergy is committed to artistic excellence, believing it to be an integral part of achieving this purpose.
Synergy’s work impacts approximately 120 prisoners/ex-prisoners, 300 young people at risk of offending and audiences of 3,500 (including 2,500 young people) per year and comprises the following strands of activity: theatre productions, new writing and an education programme. To date our work includes 26 productions with prisoners and ex-prisoners including 10 touring productions for young people, 30 projects for young people, 3 national prison script writing competitions, 40 playwriting courses, 50 rehearsed readings, 2 radio projects and a short film. Over 1,100 prisoners/ex-prisoners and 1,800 young people have participated in projects reaching audiences of over 24,000.
The impact on those we work with can be profound. Many have long histories of offending, have struggled with addictions, have deeply rooted emotional issues and have never worked. As a result of taking part in the company’s activities many break the cycle of offending, engage with other arts projects or courses, some have gained degrees, some have had their writing produced while others are working as drama facilitators, stage managers and TV extras or enter other forms of employment.
Watch Synergy beneficiaries talk about the impact of Synergy’s work in our impact film.
BASED ON FIGURES FROM THE LAST FIVE YEARS OUR WORK HAS THE FOLLOWING IMPACT:
- A reduction in re-offending for approximately 75% of participants who work with the company
- 75% of participants report increased skills, impact on self-esteem, attitudes and future motivations
- 40% of those who work with the company go on to further education, training or employment
- 30% of those who participate in Synergy Studio go onto further work with the company
- Approximately 2,500 young people per year attend Synergy shows with 85% reporting an increased awareness of and being deterred from criminal activity
- 300 young people at risk per year participate in bespoke projects with 80% reporting a greater awareness of the impact of crime on themselves and their community
- 70% of young people at risk demonstrate improvements in timekeeping, attendance and engagement with learning
- Increased public awareness of issues surrounding criminal justice; audiences of approximately 3,500 per year attend Synergy’s work with 80% attendance at post-show discussions.
SAMPLE CASE STUDIES
- Damo is an Irish traveller who won our writing competition having only learned to write five years previously. His winning play, The Rains of Fear, was adapted to a short film and produced by Synergy and screened at Los Angeles and Krakow Film Festivals and BFI Southbank. As a direct result of the impact of the project, Damo went on to employment for the first time in 15 years.
- Lloyd was a cast member in Synergy’s production of Fallout at HMP Brixton in 2009. On release he worked for the company as a workshop facilitator and assistant stage manager and is now working backstage at the National Theatre.
- Frank was a cast member in our production of Elmina’s Kitchen in 2006 and on release he worked for Synergy as an actor and workshop facilitator. He had been in and out of prison for 20 years when we met him but has now been out for seven years and has broken the cycle of offending. Building on the skills he developed with Synergy, he has set up his own company Hard Talking Ex-Cons (www.hardtalkingexcons.com) using personal testimony to deter young people from crime.
- A project worker at Camden Single Pathways for young homeless people reported on Synergy’s ability to engage its clients who were otherwise withdrawn or disengaged, saying of one in particular : “She doesn’t usually participate in group activities, so for her to take part and produce a piece of writing is a huge step. She has been in the office asking me to get it typed up for her”.
To date, Synergy’s productions have been attended by audiences in excess of 24,000. Our audiences are diverse and include prisoners, ex-prisoners, their friends and families, prison staff, young people, students, theatre practitioners, those interested in the specific context of Synergy’s work and the general public. 2500 young people per year see Synergy’s work.
For some audience members, it may be the first time they have experienced a theatre production and, for many, the first time they have visited a prison environment or encountered prisoners, creating access to both the arts and criminal justice system.
Post show discussions form an integral part of Synergy’s work, with 80% of audiences staying for them. They always prompt lively and open exchange with audience members often stating that their preconceived ideas have been altered as a result of the experience.