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Posts Tagged ‘Hakeem Jacobs’

The name Pimlico Opera is deceptive, because the company now devotes itself to working in prisons, mostly in musical theatre, with a newer project in primary schools. They’ve worked in 11 different institutions over 22 years, choosing shows that enable as many as possible to get involved, and this is their 11th different show, with a cast of 24 prisoners and 9 professionals, including Madness’ lead singer Suggs himself, who has made a big commitment to the project. There are even more than that in the band, backstage, staging and designing. This is no amateur production. It’s amateurs participating in a professional production.

Though I wouldn’t call myself a Madness fan, I much enjoyed this show in the West End 12 or so years ago. It was one of the first of the much maligned jukebox musical genre, but what makes it stand out from most of the others is the integration of songs into a heart-warming morality play which tells the story of Camden boy Joe who, on his 16th birthday, makes a mistake which changes the course of his life. At this point, he divides into two Joe’s – good and bad – and we see their parallel but very different lives unfold, with the ghost of Joe’s dad (Suggs) never far away. One Joe starts his in a correctional institute and this, plus a later period of imprisonment, is what makes this such an appropriate show to be staged here.

The seven ladies are of course professionals, but the only male professional (apart from Suggs) is Tom Child, a recent Mountview graduate, as both Joe’s – a challenge beyond the most talented of amateurs – and he is excellent. There is a lot of talent on show, with particularly good performances from Jordan Hancox and Hakeem Jacobs as Joe’s friends Emmo and Lewis and Ray Chowdhury and Joseph Williams as bad guys Reecey and Pressman. The production values are extraordinary, with a giant monopoly board set with ‘Juliet balconies’ on both sides, terrific costumes and great lighting and sound.

This is the fourth such show I’ve seen and it was even more inspirational than the others, because of the suitability of the show, the young ages of the participants and the obvious rehabilitative potential of this work. The unfortunately named ISIS Young Offenders Institute at Belmarsh isn’t the easiest place to get to and the security procedures are thorough, but the opportunity to be entertained by something this good in a place which is clearly focused on doing good more than makes up for it. As the governor said at the end, over seven weeks they are working hard, developing teamwork skills, confidence and pride. An uplifting experience.

 

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