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Asylum Trilogy part 3: Disorder Contained

The Padded Cell, from the Howard League Archives at the Modern Records Centre, the University of Warwick

LISTEN: Disorder Contained piece on BBC CWR 30 June 2017

A major public engagement activity for the Wellcome Trust funded project Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland 1850-2000, Disorder Contained: A theatrical examination of madness, prison and solitary confinement continues the work of Professor Hilary Marland (Warwick) and Associate Professor Catherine Cox (UCD) and creates the final part of The Asylum Trilogy exploring various aspects of the history of mental health.

The production, created with Talking Birds and performed in Coventry, Dublin, Belfast, and London during 2017, was accompanied by Expert Panel Discussions as well as Post-show Artistic Conversations which were recorded along with a performance.

Audience feedback, both from the general public and those working within the prison estate, were really important to the activity. What did people think of the show? How did it change their perceptions? What might change as a result of attending the event?

We have posted several blogs (one, two, three) about the process of translating academic research into accessible theatre, as well as various pieces of background reading.

Concerns about the detrimental impact of the prison system on the mental health of inmates are mounting, putting pressure on prison staff, prompting governmental enquiries, and featuring persistently in the agendas of prison reform organisations.

But this isn’t today – this is the 1850s, when the ‘The Separate System’ – the spiritually-inspired adaptation of solitary confinement intended to enable prisoners to repent their crimes – is being introduced to British and Irish prisons. Prison chaplains, doctors and governors conceived this as a way for prisoners to reflect upon their crimes and reform.

Evidence is becoming overwhelming that the Separate System is causing hallucinations, delusions, and insanity. However, rather than being abandoned, the elements of penitence and reform are being discarded and transformed into a regime of deliberate punishment, one that has endured until the present.

Using contemporaneous documents, including prisoners’ memoirs, doctors’ casebooks, and the reflections of prison staff, Disorder Contained combines music, song, wit and compassion to explore the rationale behind this enduring and harsh system.

Read the Press Release

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Download our A5 flyer (London)

You can listen to an audio version of this flyer on 0800 012 2401

London: Rich Mix, Shoreditch

Mon 9 Oct 7.45pm + post show conversation with experts
Tues 10 Oct 2.30pm + post show conversation with experts
Tues 10 Oct 7.45pm + post show conversation with experts


Download our A5 flyer

Listen to our audio flyer

Coventry: Shopfront Theatre

  • Thu 29 June 7.30pm + post show artistic discussion
  • Fri 30 June 2.30pm & 7.30pm
  • Sat 01 July 2.30pm, & 7.30pm + post show expert panel

Dublin: Smock Alley Theatre, 1662

  • Wed 12 July 8pm + post show artistic discussion
  • Thu 13 July 8pm + post show expert panel
  • Fri 14 July 3pm & 8pm

Belfast: The MAC

  • Sat 15 July 7.30pm + post show expert panel