Synergy’s artistic mission is to create ground-breaking work across theatre and the criminal justice system which inspires change by capturing the imagination, affecting the feelings and attitudes of the performers and audience.
The majority of people in the criminal justice system are overrepresented within socially disadvantaged groups and, on leaving prison, are even more likely to suffer social exclusion. Low self-esteem is typical, resulting in the belief that a different and more positive future is not possible. As a consequence of high reoffending rates public empathy for prisoners is low and they are frequently portrayed through negative stereotypes in the media. We want our artistic work to combat this and have a transformative effect on those who encounter it, whether prisoners, ex-prisoners or audience members.
We want our work to harness the energy, instincts and life experiences of those we work with, give them a voice and in doing so their dignity back. But also through the investigation of other worlds and life experiences that theatre offers, to open up new future possibilities. We believe that the people we work with are much more than their crimes and want to use stories to humanise, challenge perceptions, provoke debate and provide new insights about and for those in the criminal justice system. We are committed to seeking out new ways to do this whether through content, form or collaboration.
We want to create work that has relevance and resonance for the cast, feels contemporary, truthful and urgent and excites audiences. We want to produce a wide range of work and, not wanting to reinforce stereotypes, select material both near and far from the world of the prisoners/ex-prisoners, with some of the work set in prison and much far removed from it. We refuse to dumb down believing that everyone should have access to great art.
As well as contemporary classics, we are committed to producing new plays: both professional commissions and work by prisoners/ex-prisoners to put unheard voices into the mainstream.
We have a moral imperative to always aim to empower the prisoners, ex-prisoners and young people we work with by giving them a sense of ownership over the work, a voice in the rehearsal room, on stage, in post-show discussions and input into the development of the company. On-going dialogue and debate amongst all involved in our practice is central to the life of the company.
We are committed to cultivating diverse audiences, avoiding objectification of prisoners and ex-prisoners and facilitating dialogue between audience and cast members. We are interested in the relationship between performer and audience, seeking to break down social barriers through the work, its context and mutual exchange.
We take theatre to spaces where the audience cannot get to it and aspire to create the best theatrical experience that can be achieved in non-traditional venues. We transform prison spaces in order for performers and audience to be transported beyond the walls. We see the importance of bringing the public into prisons to offer insight and where the work is heightened by the context and our work being played on mainstream stages so that it is not marginalised and makes an important contribution, enriching and diversifying British theatre.
Artistic quality is central to all of the Synergy programme. We are dedicated to working with artists and practitioners who are highly skilled mainstream professionals and politically aligned to our work. We seek out artists on the cutting edge of theatre to bring contemporary practice to our work. We acknowledge the tension between artistic ambition and inclusion and are committed to both.
Our work has a tendency towards a strong, simple, beautiful aesthetic which focuses it on the prisoner/ex-prisoner performances which aspire to be truthful and often transcend audience expectations of both the performance and performer. Humanising is what our work is about because when prisoners are just like you and me it makes the debate nearer, more urgent and more complex.