William Head actors break out of ‘same-old’ mould

Latest production kicks off tonight on the prison stage

Ingrid Hansen

In an isolated old castle where nothing changes, a young man longs to break free from the tired structure.

It’s a situation inmates-turned-actors at William Head Institution can surely relate to as they get into character for their production of Gormenghast, opening tonight at the penitentiary.

The fantasy classic, based on a trilogy of novels by Mervyn Peake and adapted for stage by John Constable, follows Titus Groan, a young king who secretly wants to leave Gormenghast castle, and a kitchen boy named Steerpike, who would gladly overthrow him.

Intrepid Theatre’s Ian Case is directing the cast of nine inmates and three local actresses. He’d been holding onto a copy of the script, which a co-worker found for him in a bargain bin, eager for a chance to use it.

“The guys got right into it. We did casting and they got their lines in August, and when we started rehearsals in September they were completely off book,” said Case, who in previous years directed Elephant Man, Macbeth and Waiting for Godot at the prison.

Ingrid Hansen directed and acted in CHALK at William Head last year and returns to the prison stage in the role of Fuchsia Groan, Titus’s wild sister and Steerpike’s lover.

“I kept telling the guys they’re making us (actresses) look bad because we were still reading off the page and we’re supposed to be the professionals,” Hansen laughed.

Indeed, the William Head on Stage theatre company has much to boast about. Run completely by inmates, it’s in its 30th year and on its 50th production – the company used to put on shows twice a year, back when offenders were bused downtown for performances.

Still, the group runs without the support of any grants or external funding. The company relies on its box office sales to fund future productions.

Case says theatre fits well with the prison’s role of rehabilitating offenders to function in society.

“It teaches them to work together and trust each other,” he said. “It’s inspiring to see how they do that throughout the course of rehearsals.”

Hansen, who keeps in touch with some of last year’s actors who have since been released, said she was told by one man that before acting, he never thought he could be good at anything besides crime.

“When people come up to them after the show and tell them they did a great job night after night, they slowly start to believe it, and their barriers come down,” Hansen said.

Gormenghast opens tonight (Oct. 14) with a 7:30 p.m. show. Subsequent performances are Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 12, with Thursday shows scheduled for Nov. 3 and 10 at William Head Institution, 6000 William Head Rd. in Metchosin.

Tickets are $20 and must be purchased in advance at My Chosen Cafe, 4480 Happy Valley Rd., online through www.ticketrocket.org or by phone at 250-383-2663.

Patrons must be 19 or over and must pass through a security check. The gates open 6 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. show. No latecomers will be admitted.

news@goldstreamgazette.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Claremont Spartans win the inaugural Senior Girls’ AAAA Basketball Island Championship

Claremont Spartans win their Feb. 15 game agains the Royal Bay Ravens 71 - 64

Campus View Elementary undergoes $4.2 million in seismic upgrades

Campus View Elementary undergoes significant seismic upgrades

Sidney company tastes sweet success with sugar kelp

Cascadia Seaweed is experiencing rapid growth after launching six months ago

North Saanich floats tougher policies for buoys and moorings near Tsehum Harbour

Municipality also considers additional collaboration with Sidney and other communities

Westin Bear Mountain invests $2 million to renovate newly-named spa

‘Amatista Spa’ has yet to announce official opening date

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Most Read