As part of the Reaction Season, Jermyn Street Theatre presents Stitchers, the inspiring and heartwarming debut play by bestselling novelist Esther Freud, directed by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Gaby Dellal. Stitchers is based on the extraordinary true story of Lady Anne Tree, the prison reform campaigner and founder of the charity Fine Cell Work which teaches needlework to men in prison.
A prison visitor from a young age, Lady Anne witnessed first-hand the aggression, low self-esteem, and high reoffending rates among the most hardened criminals. She believed she could help: she would teach them needlecraft.
Stitchers follows five prisoners in an unnamed prison learning needlework under Lady Anne’s tutelage, from fighting turf wars and pining for loved ones, to bartering for the perfect shade of forest green.
Stitchers will run from Wednesday 30th May to Saturday 23rd June
(previews Wednesday 30th May – Thursday 31st May)
£30.00 / £20.00 concessions
(available to over- 60s, theatre unions, unwaged, access, students)
100 tickets at £10 are available for under-30s until Saturday 9th June
Please note that after Saturday 9th June, all performances are full price.
A Gala Performance is to be held on Thursday 7th June. This special fundraising evening, in association with Fine Cell Work, will include drinks, a post-show Q&A, and a reception. Tickets cost £120. Please telephone the box office on 020 7287 2875 to book.
Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6ST
ESTHER FREUD - WRITER
Esther Freud trained as an actress before writing her first novel, Hideous Kinky, whichwas short- listed for the John Llewellyn Rhys prize and made into a film starring Kate Winslet. After publishing her second novel, Peerless Flats, she was chosen as one of Granta’s Best Young British novelists. Her other books include The Sea House and Lucky Break, and her most recent, Mr Mac and Me, won Best Novel in the East Anglian Book Awards. She contributes regularly to newspapers and magazines, and teaches creative writing for the Faber Academy. Stitchers is her first play.
“The idea of writing a play about embroidery in prison was inspired by the words of AA Gill who designed a prison calendar to be made into a cushion. Hard men, soft furnishings was how he described Fine Cell Work and this struck me as funny and poignant. I’d known about Fine Cell Work since its inception. I’d taken part in the first fundraiser twenty years before but it was only once I had the idea for a play that I became actively involved… Soon I was a regular visitor at the sewing class at one of London’s high security prisons. What I saw was sobering. Loneliness, violence, confusion, despair – escalating as custodial sentencing rose and staff numbers were cut, so that we now have the highest incarceration rate in Europe, and the highest rate of suicide. But in one small room, on Tuesday afternoons there is the hum of quiet industry, instruction in running stitch, back stitch, cross stitch, laughter, chat, and the production of astonishingly beautiful work.”
GABY DELLAL - DIRECTOR
Gaby Dellal is a British director of film, television and theatre based in America. Her credits includes the 2005 feature film On a Clear Day, which starred Brenda Blethyn and Peter Mullan, and won a Best Film BAFTA; the thought-provoking Angel Crest, with Jeremy Piven and Elizabeth McGovern; and the critically-acclaimed three-part ITV drama Leaving, which starred Helen McCrory. She was Associate Director of Richard Eyre’s Ghosts at the Almeida in London, which transferred to the West End with Lesley Manville and had a Brooklyn Academy of Music run in 2015.
LIZ COOKE - SET DESIGNER
Liz studied English at Oxford University and trained in theatre design at the Slade School of Fine Art. She works as an artist, maker, writer and deviser and principally as a stage designer, for companies including the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Court, and in the West End and principal regional theatres. She has been designing professionally for around fifteen years, and her credits include Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads (Octagon Bolton), The Comedy of Errors (Globe Theatre), The Magic Toyshop (Shared Experience) and The Birds (National Theatre).
MOLLY EAGLES - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR AND ASSISTANT PRODUCER
Molly Eagles is a theatre producer and recipient of The UEA Excellence Award, The Outstanding Performance Award, and The First Prize Dissertation Award. After graduating she went on to study Playwriting at The Nation- al Theatre and interned for Curtis Brown’s Theatre, Film, and TV department. Producer credits include Where are We Now? (The Old Red Lion Theatre, February 2017), and The Naivety: A Journey (Tabernacle, December 2017). Associate producer credits include The Snow Queen, (Tabernacle, December 2016). Most recently she has worked as an assistant producer for Damsel Develops, London’s first ever all female director’s festival at The Bunker Theatre. She simultaneously worked as an assistant director for Hannah Hauer-King on Lilith: Confessions of a Demon Goddess.
JERMYN STREET THEATRE
Jermyn Street Theatre is an arthouse theatre in the heart of the West End. A 70-seat studio, it opened in 1994, and has since won numerous awards and transferred many productions to the West End and Broadway. Last summer Tom Littler relaunched the venue as a full-scale producing house, creating around ten to twelve productions every year. The priorities are the staging of outstanding new plays, rare revivals and new versions of European classics. Jermyn Street Theatre is signed up to the Equity Fringe Agreement and has committed to gender parity on and off stage.
LADY ANNE TREE AND FINE CELL WORK
Born in 1927, Lady Anne Tree was a British philanthropist, prison visitor, prisoner rights activist and the founder of the charity Fine Cell Work.
Fine Cell Work enables prisoners to build fulfilling and crime-free lives by training them to do high-quality, skilled, creative needlework undertaken in the long hours spent in their cells to foster hope, discipline and self-esteem. They can also learn sewing machine and textile production skills in their prison based workshops. The aim is to allow them to finish their sentences with work skills, money earned and saved, and the self-belief to not re-offend. Fine Cell Work also guides them towards training and support on release. Currently working in 32 British prisons, and engaging with over 500 prisoners each year, Fine Cell Work addresses key issues affecting prisoners’ offending behaviours: establishment and reinforcement of work skills, building relation- ships, and mental resilience.
“Fine Cell Work is the best thing to come out of my prison experience. The most rewarding part is when you get a card or letter from a member of the public who has paid good money for something I have created in a small room, away from society. There are few words to describe the emotions that stir to know that I can actually bring a little happiness to others in spite of my previous bad behaviour” FCW Stitcher
“Fine Cell Work turned me from being a self-harmer to a person who wanted to live life and do well. Since starting Fine Cell I have wanted to change and be a better person. I owe a lot to fine cell and would love nothing more than to continue with them upon release, they have helped me with my mental health, prison behaviour and family ties” FCW Stitcher
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