The world behind bars in a women’s prison is one that’s unknown to many.
But a new play that’s set to make its world premiere at the Adam Smith Theatre, audiences will be able to have something of an insight.
An insight that’s unflinching, unbiased and authentic into life at Cornton Vale, Scotland’s primary prison for female offenders.
‘Dare to Care’ is a new work by Christine Lindsey and is directed by Muriel Romanes, artistic director of Stellar Quines.
The production is presented by Stellar Quines in collaboration with Fife Cultural Trust.
The play has been created by playwright and former prison warden Christine Lindsey.
Speaking to The Press, Muriel (pictured) explained: “Two years ago I met Christine who was a warden for about 15 years in Cornton Vale.
“She started to talk to me about her time and dedication to women’s stories.
“She started talking to me about very much a coalface response to these women because she was with them for so many terms.
“She decided to write a play.”
Stellar Quines as a theatre company has been championing the work of women in theatre for 21 years, and Muriel began working with Christine.
She continued: “I feel it’s very important we hear the voices of women incarcerated in prison. It’s about the intensity of the women themselves.
“It’s not a little story about women in prison, there’s no big characterisation in the piece, it’s a group of actors giving voice to those women in different ways.
“It’s not a story as such. It’s kind of really surreal. It’s a mad, surreal piece about incarcerated women.”
Arriving for a spell behind bars, where there are no secrets or boundaries, and carrying their life’s baggage, a group of women tell their stories in a sometimes crazy, often poignant insight into their lives and the price they’ll pay.
Linked by common threads of hope, fear, love and survival, Christine does not offer blame or reason but in each story highlights the difficulties faced by these women in the society of their time.
Muriel said: “I’ve been working with her on the script for the last three years. I didn’t really want to tamper with the script a lot.
“Having lived with these women for years I just let her have fun trying to fashion that text into something unique.”
Working alongside Muriel is a strong cast of actors and a good team behind the scenes.
“I like to see it for what it is and let the actors free,” she said.
“I’m working with Keith McIntyre, a visual artist who I’ve worked with before on other plays, he’s got an idea of a cattle crusher and suggested using that as the main thematic thing within the play.
“It was a bit of a struggle for me to begin with taking that on board.
“It’s really interesting taking parts of lives in prison and presenting them on the stage.”
And for Muriel, when working on a production such as this it’s the whole team that are important and the actors have a huge role to play.
She continued: “I do believe that it’s not just one person that can do it.
“Everyone acts together and begins to take ownership over the way it goes.
“I can only drop in ideas and things and be a kind of muse for them.”
In the play Christine uses a chorus of words, rhyme and comedy to tell the women’s stories.
She shines a light on inmates and wardens alike showing neither as angels or devils, but all doing the best they can in a system that expects the worst.
Stellar Quines first presented ‘Dare to Care’ at a Rehearsal Room performance at the Traverse Theatre.
The tremendous response to the performed reading encouraged Muriel to commission the play for a full production and the company are delighted to be working with co-producers Fife Cultural Trust.
Muriel added: “It is funny, very dark and there’s a lot of stand up comedy to it.
“We’re getting a very ironic look at these women’s lives.
“It’s got to be unique.
“We’re not in the business of the ordinary – we’re in the business of extraordinary.”
The opening of the production at the Adam Smith Theatre coincides with International Women’s Day and following this it will go on to tour Scotland before returning to Lochgelly Centre.