Culture & Events

Cellfish takes Shakespeare behind bars

Eight counts of unlawful entry using imagination, five counts of reckless use of Māori mythology, four counts possession and cultivation of Shakespeare, and one count dangerous operation of a voice class. In Cellfish, hardened inmates come face to face with a whole new nightmare: Shakespeare classes with Miss Lucy!

After sell-out seasons at Auckland’s Silo Theatre and the 2017 Auckland Arts Festival, acclaimed theatre work Cellfish will tour the country for the first time in 2019 – including a show at The Meteor.

Offset with wicked humour, Cellfish gives agency to the voiceless: characters whose lives are framed by incarceration and challenged by our punitive penal system. Starring highly acclaimed actors Jason Te Kare and Carrie Green, Cellfish shines a light on those our society keeps hidden inside.

The play is inspired by the Shakespeare Behind Bars programme, a real rehabilitation method used in the USA which had significant success in reducing reoffending. While these programmes are proven more effective than traditional punishment, the alternative approach can be hard for people to get their heads around.

“Especially emotionally for victims of crime, you feel they (offenders) need to be punished for what they have done, but at the end of the day, is that going to make our society better or worse when they get out? Because inevitably they get out,” Mr Te Kare says.

Although the show hits some hard truths, a distinctly dark comedy is woven throughout the play – one Mr Te Kare believes will leave audiences surprised at what they laugh at.

“The whole time through the play we balance that quite finely,” he says. “There’s a lot of humour, a lot of laughter, a lot of good times but it’s always on a knife edge, there’s always a moment of danger so you’re never fully free of that moment.”

Between them, Mr Te Kare and Mr Green embody seven unique characters, creating a multifaceted vision of life behind bars. Cellfish explores a range of unique perspectives – from determined teacher to hopeful corrections officer to disenfranchised inmate.

“The changing from character to character is done physically through the actors’ abilities,” says Jason. “That’s what I call the magic of theatre, when you can create this whole world just using two people, some lights, some sound.”

CELLFISH will make its Hamilton debut at The Meteor Theatre on June 22. Tickets available at http://themeteor.co.nz/event/cellfish/ .

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