A decade apart, Jay Imbata and Paul Shannon both commit homophobic murders.

They meet on the wing of the high security prison where they are serving their life sentences.

They kiss.  They have sex. They begin a relationship.

In 2015, The Equalities Act comes into force in the UK.

Jay and Paul apply to marry each other. Their request is accepted. They marry and are immediately separated, continuing to live as a married couple in separate wings of the prison.

Dante or Die’s Artistic Directors Daphna Attias & Terry O’Donovan have been developing this new project since 2017, in collaboration with James Baldwin and with support from Synergy Theatre. The project is inspired by the first same-sex marriage in a UK prison. Through a fictional take on this fascinating true story, audiences will experience a visceral new production that fuses music, movement and Dante or Die’s trademark up-close-and-personal storytelling.

It will be a bold and ambitious production that combines

  • An in-the-round space of bunk-beds, from which audiences watch the action
  • An ensemble of male ex-prisoners performing movement, music and dialogue
  • A female band of singers, including a rap artist, leading the storytelling
  • Embedded captioning and BSL communication

Our production will provoke discussions and debate about sexuality, the purpose of prison and the contradictions inherent within ‘equality’. There are strong underlying themes of masculinity and sexuality, society and repression. We are excited about the complexities of the narrative and the questions it provokes:

Is it a story of redemption, self-acceptance or rehabilitation?

Is it about power and coercion?

Should this marriage have been allowed? Should sex in prison be allowed? Is sex a human right?

The production is currently in development, with full production to be in 2021. R&D has been supported by National Theatre New Work Dept, York Theatre Royal, Stone Nest and funded by Arts Council England.

  1. Co-created by Daphna Attias, Terry O'Donovan & James Baldwin
  2. Composer: Yaniv Fridel
  3. Movement Director: Ayse Tashkiran
  4. Set Designer: Sophie Neil
  5. Video Designer: Virginie Serneels
  6. Access Associate: Sophie Gunn
  7. Musicians: Lady Lykez & Namvula Rennie
  8. Ensemble: Tonderai Munyevu, Ric Renton, Frank Prosper, Mark Williams, Martin Askew, Dave Wilson, Morgan Archer, Lucian Grant, Alex Cannon, Gilson Saiona, Karl Smith
  9. Production R&D Photos & Video by Justin Jones

We have been developing this project since 2017, during which time we have been learing about the UK prison system and arts that work within criminal justice.

We have had invaluable discussions with forensic psychologists specialising is working in prisons, prisoners, Governors and landing officers, criminologists and prison educators. This has included visiting a number of prisons across the coutnry, both working and decomissioned. We have had a number of research meetings with academics Nicola Carr (University of Nottingham) and Ian Feis-Bryce (Royal Holloway) who specialise in criminology. Nicola has created ground-breaking resarch in the Republic of Ireland about the LGBT+ experience within the Irish prison system. We are hoping to continue a collaboration as we develop the project.

Andy Watson, Artistic Director of Geese Theatre mentored the 2017 R&D period, helping us to build networks with companies specialsing in arts in criminal justice settings. For our 2019 R&D we partnered with Synergy Theatre, who work with prisoners and ex-prisoners to create excting new theatre, and deliver engagement workshops within prisons. 9 members of Synergy joined us for our artistic R&D as our performance ensemble.

Another element of our research was an exploration of the themes with queer groups. Commissioned by South Street and University of Reading’s Film, Theatre & Television Department we created conversations and workshop with LGBT+ societies and support groups in Reading. We also and hosted an incredibly vibrant symposium on Sexuality in Theatre where panellists included Chris Goode, Lucy J.Skilbeck and Travis Alabanza.

As we continue to build the show, this work will continue and feed into the final production, including regular workshops with the ex-prisoner ensemble.

Trailer Credit: Justin Jones

2020 & Ongoing R & D: We gratefully acknowledge the support from PRS for Music Foundation

2019 R&D supported by IGNITE - York Theatre Royal, and funded by Arts Council England.

2018 R&D seed funded by South Street & University of Reading’s Film, Theatre & Television Dept and funded by Arts Council England.


Arts Council England


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