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Open Review: "Shakespeare and Performance"

The Morals of Macbeth and Peace as Process: Adapting Shakespeare in Northern Ireland’s Maximum Security Prison

Ramona Wray, Queen’s University Belfast

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The announcement that a group of serving “lifers” had embarked upon a full-length film version of Macbeth, a play generally acknowledged as the most bloody in the Shakespearean repertory, caused some controversy in the U.K. press.[1] Reactions were hostile and pejorative, with headlines adopting a correspondingly sensationalist tone. Sensitivity continues to surround the film, Mickey B (assumed to be the first feature film produced by prisoners), and, until recently, legal injunctions prohibited this recreation of Shakespeare from public showings and distribution.[2]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 2 Filmed in Northern Ireland’s maximum security prison, Maghaberry, Mickey B, which was completed in 2006, involved forty-two personnel, with parts assumed in the main by prisoners, all of whom were well into lengthy sentences. The adaptation credits prisoners (Sam McClean and Jason Thompson) and William Shakespeare with responsibility for authorship, while crew work – which extended to the erection of sets, painting, editing, production assistance, sound and make-up – was also undertaken by inmates. Central to the production was the overseeing role of the Educational Shakespeare Company (E.S.C.), a charity with branches in Northern Ireland and the U.S. which works with socially-excluded groups, including prisoners, ex-prisoners, those on probation, the homeless and youth at risk. As part of its mission, the E.S.C. operates not only in relation to a reformist agenda but also with the aim of achieving successful aesthetic effects. Thus, the company (which, before Mickey B, had produced two short films in a prison venue) uses drama and film not only to “help [prisoners] tell their stories and transform themselves” but also to “update and translate Shakespeare for a new audience”.[3] Simon Wood (co-producer of Mickey B) elaborates: “Unless the product is worth being seen and is good in its own right … of a quality … that makes it have an audience”, he states, “I don’t think it is worth doing.”[4] Interestingly, Wood’s sentiments echo those of the panel of judges who, awarding Mickey B the Roger Graff Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film, acknowledge “an outstanding piece of work … with mesmerising performances and [a] narrative [which] … deserves to be seen, and on its own merits”.[5] Together, then, producers and appraisers make a case for the utility and integrity of a distinct Shakespearean filmic statement and an original reading of Macbeth.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 4 The notion that an adaptation devised by prisoners might have a purchase beyond the therapeutic has generally been neglected in Shakespeare studies. While considerable interest has recently been generated by the “prison Shakespeare” phenomenon, the genre is invariably approached by way of a drama therapy model.[6] Discussion has emphasised the means whereby the performance of Shakespeare in an incarcerated environment can be a powerful force for change. Undoubtedly useful in drawing attention to the extent and nature of Shakespearean activity behind bars, these investigations are circumscribed by a general reluctance to engage with the characteristics of the final product – that is, the film, theatrical creation or discrete interpretation that emerges from the discursive process. Instead, what is demonstrated is a journey of personal development. Prisoner statements – usually in the form of an expressed identification with a particular character or with Shakespeare himself – are rarely interrogated and tend to be taken at face value. An unwillingness to challenge the precise meanings that Shakespeare has for prisoners results in context falling out of the equation and in issues of cultural specificity being overlooked. No attention is given to the fact that the statements recorded are inflected both by parole/therapy discourse and by the power dynamic obtaining between interviewer and interviewee: we have only a partial sense of the situation of a particular institution inside discrete national, class and race constructions. The outcome is a kind of universalizing discourse about Shakespeare that would not be acceptable in alternative critical situations. For example, Laura Raidonis Bates endorses “the humanizing effects” of the Bard on criminal offenders, contending that the plays “are even more relevant to this group”, while Amy Scott-Douglass argues that “Shakespeare is a creative, social and spiritual life force; a … reminder that we are all human beings.”[7] Cast in a comparable mould is the observation of Keilli Marshall that, in a prison setting, Shakespeare’s “art” appears “healing, redemptive, timeless”.[8] Shaping such formulations is an underlying conviction that Shakespeare transcends his locality of exposure via the input of the participants involved, that the levelling capabilities of the Bard are all important, and that institutional frameworks of dissemination are essentially interchangeable.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Such uses of language usually chime with practitioners’ elaborations of their individual enterprises.  The most well-known example of prison Shakespeare is Shakespeare Behind Bars (dir. Hank Rogerson, 2006), a U.S. documentary based around a production of The Tempest in Kentucky’s Luther Luckett gaol. While compelling in its imagination and commitment, it is undoubtedly the case that a bardolatrous reliance upon emotional engagement testifies to the documentary’s essentialist underpinnings. There is little awareness of the larger determinants that condition Kentucky’s experience of crime and punishment; as Richard Burt notes, “no political explanation of crime or critique of the penal system is ever voiced.”[9] Moreover, the documentary’s emphasis – that the personal trajectory should take precedence over the culminating theatrical articulation – means that limited access to the specifics of the production is allowed. Hence, while in Shakespeare Behind Bars viewers are treated to segments of speeches in rehearsal, and part of the concluding performance, these remain truncated only. In the absence of anything more substantive, the critic is obliged to echo the documentary’s discursive framework.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 In contradistinction, Mickey B comprises both fictional and reportage elements, offering an alternative format and a unique opportunity to appreciate process and product side-by-side. In addition to the film itself, the DVD version of Mickey B includes two short documentaries. “Category A Mickey B” details the making of the film, its collaborative nature, the stages through which the film had to pass and the creative restrictions involved.[10] By contrast, “Growing up with Violence” explains the impact of violence on prisoners who grew up during the period of political conflict in Northern Ireland known as the “Troubles”. Taken together, these two components prioritise an educational orientation and a therapeutic agenda in the same moment as they communicate a readjusted Macbeth that is entirely creditable in filmic terms. This is not to suggest that these various areas of representation can – or should – be precisely separated out. Rather, this paper posits interconnections between film proper and documentary footage as mutually constitutive, with “fictional” construct and “reality” commentary speaking to each other in often conflicting but always illuminating ways.  It suggests that understanding the film and documentaries together is one means of taking adequate account both of the art-work generated and of the penal processes (and wider social forces) that contribute to its formation.[11]

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Judged in juxtaposition with its informing materialities, Mickey B functions as a test-case for the significance of specificity in prison Shakespeares – it invites us closely to engage with the penal system that is at stake and it urges us critically to reflect on the perspectives mobilized in the undertaking. The Northern Irish prison service is highly distinctive and evolved in response to the needs of long-standing political arrangements. Themselves systemic products of the “Troubles”, methods of incarceration in the province are intricately related to the requirement, over some thirty years, to manage the paramilitary population and a state of civil unrest. Crises included periods of internment, numerous escapes, murders of staff and high-profile prison protests including the Blanket Protest and the Hunger Strikes.[12] Additionally distinctive is the key role that prison has played in Northern Irish society. Allen Feldman, in his groundbreaking book on violence in Northern Ireland, argues that the prison system is best conceptualized as a “domain of action, discourse and symbolization that has … precipitated … politicization among the imprisoned and their … communities”: the “military struggle on the streets is reflected … in the shadow play of discourse and expressive action in the prisons”, he notes.[13] Mickey B takes energy from the prison’s signature status in Northern Ireland and belongs with related literary and cultural endeavours linked to, and emanating from, the institution.[14] The play, reworked in a mixture of Shakespearean quotation and vernacular language, mediates local prison pasts and suggests the difficulties involved in the movement towards political resolution. Since the 1998 “Good Friday Agreement” and subsequent I.R.A. ceasefire, prisons have commenced a phase of not always successful readjustment to a changed and changing climate. Perhaps most controversially, Mickey B address these difficulties directly and, in so doing, illuminates a resistant construction of the inimical leftovers of history, including suicide, collusion and the failing state of prisons in general. John Hill argues that, despite their best intentions, “films made in and about Northern Ireland have nearly always contributed to, and become implicated in, broader political conflicts surrounding the region”.[15] Macbeth, so mediated, appears as a play that prompts reconsideration of current political sticking-points and brings into circulation questions about guilt and memory that plague the ongoing peace process. Emerging from the film, and the representation of the forces with which it, in turn, engages, is an invitation to think anew about Shakespeare – about his utility in Northern Ireland and the reparative cultural work his plays are still enlisted to perform.[16]

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 1 An analysis of Mickey B also has resonances beyond Northern Ireland. A denser analysis of the field of Shakespeare produced in prison is important because Mickey B is only one of a series of new films which, by acknowledging the political interstices of their places of making, problematise the relationship between Renaissance appropriation and serving prisoners. Other examples of the development include Facing the Day (dir. Ivona Juka, 2005), a documentary centred on an adaptation by prisoners of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which explores the complexity of institutional relations in a low-security unit in Lepoglava, Croatia, and Muse of Fire (dir. Dan Poole and Giles Terera, 2010), a documentary which seeks to finesse constructions of Bardic greatness through interviews with a variety of professional and non-professional performers, including the inmates of a Dublin gaol fresh from a performance of Julius Caesar. Mickey B, then, is part of a wider initiative, an efflorescence of Shakespearean work that, facilitated by technology and linked educational drives, pushes us to arrive at a more nuanced critical  method and to recognize the vitality of particular modes of Shakespearean non-professional performance.

Part I

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Mickey B is set in a gaol in which institutional authority has broken down and in which all activities are administered by inmates. In this sense, Mickey B is the first Shakespeare film to deploy a behind-the-bars location as its premise.[17] The central conceit is facilitative – early modern working models of kingship and the social order find a ready analogy in the internal organisation of prison paramilitary operations.  “Gangs control these wings”, the narrator, Steeky (Stephen McParland), announces, adding, “Violence is their voice. Here, the price of life is only half an ounce.” The film imagines Duncan (Sam McClean) as the drug baron of the C-Wing of Burnam (the similarity with the forest place-name of Macbeth is self-evident); Mickey B/Macbeth (David Conway) is his henchman; and Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth (Jason Thompson) appears as the titular hero’s transsexual lover and “bitch”. A prevailing darkness is reinforced by the mise-en-scène’s lack of natural light, the effect of which is to lend interior settings, unpatrolled labyrinthine corridors and run-down communal spaces an unmitigated bleakness and raw edge. The monochrome sets for Mickey B were assembled in Maghaberry’s brickwork and joinery rooms – the scene in which Duncan is found slaughtered in his bed was filmed in a replica of one of the prison’s 745 single cells. At thirteen by seven feet, with an open top to facilitate high-angle shooting, this simulacrum of the offender’s accommodation mimes the enclosed living conditions that furnish the drug-lord’s grave. The use of hand-held camera and external shots of vast concrete walls and metallic structures – an impression of walls within walls – impart further dimensions of claustrophobic intensity, while constriction and friction are conjured in the film’s relentlessly heavy drum accompaniments and haunting musical refrains. Music is both diegetic and non-diegetic (thus, Ross [Feargal Toal] takes up the theme on his guitar), which serves only to emphasise the self-enclosed character of the prison environment. And, because the soundtrack invariably functions as a means of transition between one scene and another, a sense of accelerated pace is engendered. In Mickey B, sound generally anticipates image, a device which allows the viewer an illusion of prophetic anticipation: repeated aural signatures hint at developments in the narrative and constitute forewarnings of what is to come.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Although Mickey B elects to linger over some tried-and-tested instances of dramatic irony (the moment at which Duncan welcomes Mickey B/Macbeth back from his military travails closely echoes the Shakespearean source), language is generally clipped and understated, placed in a vernacular register and exploiting crudity and physicality. Hence, having communicated Duncan’s order that Macbeth should now head up “C Wing”, Ross offers, by way of explanation, “The ol’ lad thinks the sun shines out of your asshole”, a bodily gloss on Duncan’s “praises” (1.3.90) that neatly encapsulates the speaker’s cynical stance.[18] Power dynamics – and an institutionally understood pecking-order – are established via glances. Shots of darting eyes approximate and compress verbal conversations; indeed, throughout, miniaturisation and localisation are the adaptation’s watch-words. Typical are the ways in which the witches are discovered as bookmakers who trade in tobacco and drugs. The following exclamations are exchanged at rapid pace by this hooded company:

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 How’s it going, Mickey B?
Aren’t you running C Wing Three?

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Mickey B, how do you do?
You’ll soon be running A Wing too.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Banknote’s never going to be top man,
But we forecast wee Fleecer can.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 Mickey B, what’s left to say?
Odds on to run the jail one day.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 The statements are so couched as to highlight the familiar and the idiomatic. (“How’s it going, Mickey B?” is a particularly demotic translation of the witches’ “All hail, Macbeth!” [1.3.46]). They advertise local forms of ascendancy, using casual asseverations and privileging a terminology of gaming and chance. Such a conception of the supernatural has already been hinted at; in the opening scene, the narrator’s newspaper falls open not on the political editorial but the sport pages. In this way, prophetic sub-texts are downplayed in favour of estimations of “odds” (there are “even odds” on “Malcolm becoming number one”), which grants to these representatives of time and futurity a less determining role than an acquaintance with the Shakespearean “original” might suggest. Shifting distributions of power, and uncertain constellations of authority, are precisely captured in a prevailing idea of betting on “success” (1.3.131).

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 3 Working in such capacities, the sometime puppet-mistresses of Macbeth are re-imagined as commentators rather than controllers, reacting to events as opposed to predictively announcing future courses of action. Omniscient prophetic power resides not with the witches, then. Rather, a constantly returned to low-angle perspective provides a narrative reminder of an external gaze. This perspective is neatly captured when the noise of a prison riot stands in for the scene (reported in the play at 1.2) where Macbeth vanquishes the traitors (and, as a result, gains Duncan’s gratitude). Although an audience hears the sounds of battle, the P.O.V. is that of a lone warden listening outside the wing: his is the position of institutional authority, albeit actively disengaged. More generally, punctuated throughout are visual details of barbed wire, barking Alsatians, locks and keys, security cameras and warders (bodies, in forbiddingly padded, bullet-proof uniform, are filmed either from behind or from the waist down in arresting illustrations of anonymity). Together, these constitute a diegetic meta-commentary on such concerns as constriction, surveillance and physical conflict and point up filmic recastings of graphic Shakespearean metaphor. Prisoners may control the wings; they simultaneously function, however, within a straitjacketed – and monitored – sphere of influence.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 1 And, of course, this other force is not simply metaphorical: it belongs with, and is indissoluble from, the material structures and real-life circumstances that dictate the film’s making. Barking dogs are both diegetic additions (which exacerbate mood and propel theme) and external sounds (which operate as actual constraining devices). Similarly, the 360 degree turns of the camera point up, at one and the same time, a move to watch Macbeth and the need to act as sentinel over his non-fictive impersonator. Such doubling takes to a further extreme what has been termed elsewhere an “implosion between the real and the imaginary” in the prison film genre.[19] Unsettling here is the simultaneous exposure to different types of spectatorial involvement. Mickey B proceeds by invoking a suspension of disbelief only to subject that imaginative relation to scrutiny. The amateur nature of the viscerally uncomfortable performances – most members of the cast have never acted before – further demands that the documentaries (the “stories” and the life experiences) are continually kept in mind. We are never allowed to forget that prisoners are the players. As the actor playing Mickey B/Macbeth explains: “I’m not a professional actor. [It’s] hard to act the professional when you’re not a professional. I’m a prisoner”. In its interviews with prisoner performers, Shakespeare Behind Bars defers criminal revelation, a strategy Kellie Marshall regards as the documentary’s “most significant directorial decision … we are allowed to see these men first as human beings, second as amateur actors, and then as convicts”.[20] In contradistinction, Mickey B is immediate in its explication of life sentences, with Duncan/Sam McClean’s confession (“I went on an armed robbery where two people were shot: it’s not something I’m proud of and I received twenty years”) opening “Category A Mickey B”. Such disclosure establishes the importance to the project of McClean while, at the same time, carving out a role for Duncan as both victim and perpetrator. Documentary reflections elucidate the expression of Macbeth, while the film itself is enriched by knowledge of the conditions of its imaginative possibility.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 The dynamic is underlined by establishing shots that reveal that the action unfolds inside the grimly realised architecture of H.M.P. Maghaberry. Since the closures of Long Kesh/the Maze Prison (the site of the infamous H-Blocks) and Crumlin Road Gaol, Maghaberry is now the major prison within the Northern Irish province.[21] Erected on the site of a former World War II base in County Antrim, Maghaberry is struggling to cope in the new regime, as was highlighted in a July 2009 report that, in the course of branding the institution “one of the worst jails in the U.K.”, identified “serious operational difficulties”.[22] In common with policing, the prison service has emerged from the peace process as a key issue, with the impregnable appearance of Maghaberry’s huge gates often invoked as a potent signifier both of critical impasse and of “the old order”. Yet here the distinctive images of the gates in the film conflict with an opening announcement which informs us that “the story takes place inside a fictional private prison”, while a second notice, posted on the gates themselves, repeats the idea and establishes the location as “Burnam” and the world as one of make-believe. It is entirely in keeping with the representational modality of Mickey B that the layered nature of the setting should suggest a fragile divide separating material praxis and imagined landscape.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Precisely this fragility is picked up in the accompanying documentary – “Category A Mickey B” – which explains issues of setting as the definitive sticking-point in the script’s creative process. In a moment which recalls early modern censorship controversies, “Category A Mickey B” joins the prisoners at the point where director Tom Magill relates the news that a transparent identification has been disallowed. The original idea was that Maghaberry would be clearly invoked; however, when the script was sent to the prison governors for approval, there was considerable opposition to the notion that a Northern Irish prison might be seen as allowing inmates ownership and sovereignty. One does not, of course, have to look far to situate the governors’ anxiety. During the 1980s and 1990s, when prisoners did indeed control the wings, the H-Blocks gained their notorious reputations; hence, a revival of that period might be seen either as politically inflammatory or as carrying with it dangerously imitative implications. This is a contemporary prison service highly sensitive to the meanings that might accrue – and be put into circulation – when Shakespeare is granted a charged local guise. Against revolting prisoners, Magill stands firm on the fact that the team will have to agree to censor: “It won’t be identifiable as a government run prison in Northern Ireland”, he states, concluding, “it’ll be a privately run prison, somewhere”. Vividly encapsulated in the authorities’ response is an attempt to reinforce boundaries that, in fact, the film dismantles. In this sense, Mickey B’s strategic translations problematise the perennial virtues of fantasy as a safety-valve and displacement mechanism.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 4 This instance is only one of the ways in which, like Derrida’s spectre, a “revenant [which] … begins by coming back”, the incarcerating pasts of Northern Ireland prove impossible to resist.[23] As Andrea Meyer notes of prisons, “Institutions develop and change over time [and their] discourses are therefore characterised by intertextuality”.[24] Traces – that the institution agitates to evade – of a former era are explicitly, if fleetingly, conjured in the prisoners’ documentary reflections on their own relation to hunger strikes and protests. One inmate recalls in familial terms his own admission to gaol at the age of sixteen: “Everyone I knew was in prison,” he states, his remark pointing up the dominant role of an earlier internment culture in the incarceration experience. More generally, the prisoners’ insistence on wearing their own clothes – Ladyboy’s transsexual outfits and Duncan’s chain alone constitute “costume” – can be looped back to a P.O.W. struggle for recognition and rights. The “right to wear civilian clothes” was one of the key demands of participants in both the Blanket Protest and, subsequently, the Hunger Strikes.[25] “From what could be called the other time, from the other scene”, then, there is a “return”: to enact Shakespeare in this place, at this phase, is to encourage historical “repetition”.[26] Traditionally tied to the realist genre, the documentary format, in these confessional interludes, again operates to derail or subvert Mickey B’s insistence on a fantasy template. Despite the documentaries’ situating of this Shakespearean experiment in a post-ceasefire moment, Mickey B persists in drawing energy from the historical remainders that contributed to its conception.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 1 If the prison comes back, so do its contexts, for, in the Northern-Irish idiom of Mickey B, a register of the “Troubles” is hauntingly detectable. A commitment to post-ceasefire thinking notwithstanding, it is the “Troubles” that loom most large as a subsuming presence in player-prisoner strategies of evocation. Here, the heavily accented dialogue works both as the expression of a closed community and as a signature of shared class affiliations. Earlier paramilitary activity is evoked via references to sectarian geography (“New Lodge” and “Shankill”) and football teams (“Rangers” and “Celtic”), while conjurations of politically-freighted episodes (such as the bookmakers’ allusion to the I.R.A.’s infamous kidnapping of the racehorse, “Shergar”) pepper the package. When commenting on a communal experience of violence, the prisoners do so by invoking shootings and bomb blasts: it would appear that there is no discursive system within which trauma might be addressed outside of a paramilitary frame of reference. In a comparable fashion, the sequence in Mickey B devoted to the murder of the wife (Kirsty McClean) and children of Duffer/Macduff (Robert Flanagan) applies historically resonant Northern Irish indexes of conflict in such a way that the gap constructed between Burnam and Maghaberry is reduced. Both the familiar grammar of the balaclava-clad gunman, the cramped domestic interior and the particular weaponry, and the suggestion of a chain of command stretching from prison to street, disclose the distinctive markers of an Ulster-based tragedy.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Such signifiers of a local topography, in this setting, do not so much demonstrate Catholic or Protestant affiliations (although these are momentarily held in play) as a newly shared institutional habitation. As one inmate explains, the project’s mixing of Catholic and Protestant prisoners would not have been possible ten years ago, but “now we’re all getting on, happy as Larry”. The representation chimes with the documentaries’ detailing of the violence that has been enacted on – it seems all – prison bodies. Multiple references to being shot in the knees or ankles and having to learn to walk again indicate punishment beatings and a paramilitary response to perceived “anti-social” behaviour. Scars, the imprint of a hammer and the impact of a bomb are specified in such a way as to point up physical forms that are read through, and made comprehensible by, a communal experience of past brutality –which is not reducible to one side or the other of a political equation. Navigating between the past and the present, Mickey B is a Shakespearean adaptation in which the bodies of the performers bear directly upon its promulgation of intrinsic and extrinsic meanings.

Part II

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 4 Prison Shakespeare criticism tends to emphasise an idolatrous gap between the student and the Bard (“Could his works reach even this audience?” asks Laura Raidonis Bates); Mickey B, by contrast, downplays cultural distance, particularly through the prisoners’ debunking observations.[27] Although participants are conscious of pronouncing from a place of ignorance (“the majority … wouldn’t even know who Shakespeare is”, remarks Duffer/Macduff), a connection with the text appears neither as a huge hurdle nor as an unattainable goal, arguably in part because of an established tradition of prisoners in Northern Ireland profiting from institutional education opportunities. Prevailing Bardic attitudes in Mickey B are clarified in Duncan/Sam McClean’s admission that “I didn’t know much about Shakespeare [so] I got the book and read it” and in Seyton/Satan’s (Anthony Hagans) reference to “Macbeth … it was a good old book: so for us now to put it in an updated version [is] brilliant”. There is curiosity and adaptability here, but not inhibition or reverence. Most noticeably – and evident in the last citation – singled out for attention is not so much Shakespeare himself as the constellation of meanings that Macbeth precipitates. Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth’s argument that “it’s appropriate to set [the film] in a jail [because] Macbeth’s greatest motivating factor is his ambition … There’s plenty of boys in here that are the same” is salutary in that it recognizes the pertinence of the Bardic narrative in a prison setting and conceptualizes a notion of crime and the overreacher. Comparable is Duffer/Macduff’s sense of Macbeth and his conviction that “you’d think it was already wrote and it’s being played out in this place”. In this formulation, it is the familiar character of the storyline that impresses – the neatness of fit between prior representation and present action. Ideas of transferability move the work away from constructions of universal brilliance towards the domain of the mobile and the appropriable.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Moving into the local introduces what seem to be implicit questions about comprehensibility. Although sound quality is perfectly clear in Mickey B, subtitles are still made available. Without an extra-filmic intervention, it is implied, this particular take on Shakespeare, although delivered in English, might not be readily understood. Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour note that “subtitles are … the most visible and charged markers of the way in which films engage … pressing matters of difference”.[28] This underlying text in Mickey B points to an overarching sensibility, to a reinforcement of the “otherness” of Northern Ireland and its working classes in particular. Is it the real-life inmates who are educated through Shakespeare or is it an implied viewer/listener, already familiar with the Bard, who requires an education in Northern Irish speech patterns? While subtitles certainly push the dialect towards standardization a little (“howl” becomes “hold”, and “eejit” is rendered as “idiot”), colloquialisms such as “so you do” and “yous” are reproduced unaffected, suggesting an apologetic drive behind the effort of legibility. In a comparable way, subtitles echo rather than translate the speech: “peeler” (“policeman”) is subtitled without comment, Cowardly Custard/Cawdor is referred to as “tatey bread” (“dead” in Belfast slang), and Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth is “scundered” (embarrassed) when, during the banquet scene, Mickey B/Macbeth refuses to sit down “and give us a bit of your craic” (share his bonhomie with the assembly). Character assessments are also delivered in terms of everyday usage, and it is difficult to imagine what a non-local auditor might glean from Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth’s assessment of the protagonist’s assumed nemesis: “That Banknote’s a fly man, he’s too sweet to be wholesome … but he’s no dozer”. The move towards the comprehensible, then, seems a bi-fold one: the film is split between wanting to respect native parlance and to open it up to more plural aural constituencies.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 A further effect of subtitles is to spotlight Shakespearean parlance. Beyond the interrelations of speech and text, Mickey B is marked by featuring amputations of the “original” amidst the more predominant vernacular. On occasions, this takes the form of a parodic manoeuvre: Macbeth is gestured towards via the mobilization of bits and pieces and comic forms of descralization. Hence, before the murder of Duncan, Mickey B/Macbeth “jokingly” places a knife next to Banknote/Banquo’s throat, asking, “Is this a knife I see before me, the handle towards my hand?” In the citational foregrounding of the Shakespearean protagonist’s line, an ironic charge, which has a threatening underside, is economically attached to a construction of playful banter. More typically, the method of adaptation is to resort either to direct Shakespearean quotation or to close approximation at times of high tension and feeling. Thus, in the scene where Mickey B/Macbeth is represented as responding to the threat of his being deposed, the soliloquy, “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” (5.5.18) sounds as a voiceover, suggesting that unadulterated Shakespeare is the most apposite vehicle for articulating the emotional content of this moment. “Better to die standing than to live on your knees” is one of the protagonist’s final brags to his enemies (the film referencing the play’s exclamation, “At least we’ll die with harness on our backs” [5.5.50]) and shows how, at least as the film understands it, there are some situations for which there is no Shakespearean substitute.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 In these instances, a vocabulary of the “Troubles” cedes place to the possibility of a redemptive turn which itself is facilitated through the deployment of the Renaissance tongue. Or, to put the point in another way, the cultural value attached to Shakespeare’s words is emotively reapplied and dialogically modulated, alongside a Northern-Irish register, in a process of give-and-take which glances backwards in order to look forwards. Most salient in this regard is the point at which Seyton/Satan informs Mickey B/Macbeth that the “Queen, my lord, is dead” (5.5.16). Although linguistically unaffected, including the infamous rejoinder, “She should have died hereafter” (5.5.16), the exchange is notable for the removal of the familiar insensitivity of response. The protagonist’s line is delivered in a tone of elegiac regret, a transformation which is bolstered by the subsequent business of his searching for the body, only to light upon it hanging from the rafters; the accompanying expostulation, “Jesus!”, captures precisely a prevailing timbre of empathetic devastation. Edna Longley writes that, in Northern Ireland’s millennial mood of expectation, a “new remembering” has taken over from the “antagonism” of “morbid cultures of commemoration”, leading to the exile of “selective forgetting” and the privileging of revisionism, resolution and “healing” as “mourning work”.[29] Mickey B bears out these claims: its changes in emphasis are significant and suggest that this is a post-ceasefire reading which both appreciates – and pauses to reflect upon – death and the healing properties of its accompanying rituals. The film discovers the ways in which mortality is to be positively honoured rather than cynically bypassed and, in so doing, takes a progressive step in the readjustment of local ideologies.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 It is entirely in keeping with the film’s orientation that, during the scenes leading up to Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth’s death (including the laundry-room delivery of the “Out, damned spot” [5.1.30] address), there is a pronounced emphasis on the murderous action’s effects – hallucinations, bodily distortion, vomiting and sweating sickness. What is held up for scrutiny is a conjunction of guilt and regret. Accordingly, the camera’s gaze dwells upon the outward expressions of the character’s inner angst: because we witness scenes of hand-wringing and are privy to the nightmare of waking up next to Duncan’s corpse, a powerful impression of an afflicted conscience is afforded. Flashbacks and premonitions of Ladyboy/Lady’s Macbeth’s own suicide underline the realization, offering an inescapable representation of torment. In a gaol in which prisoners wander freely, party and take drugs, it is such an internal landscape of psychological repercussion which becomes the punishment – and the life sentence. The “What’s done cannot be undone” refrain – which is written in blood by Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth as his/her last act – is typical since it shows a self-awareness of the reverberations of past events and the ways in which they play themselves out in present configurations.[30]

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Reinforcing interconnectedness is Mickey B’s introduction of a choric figure or “Everyman”, a rewriting of the play’s porter. A standard Shakespearean type, he mediates viewers’ experiences through periodic ruminations on the implications of his own conduct. Operating as a metaphorical threshold between inner and outer, Steeky, in his musings, also rephrases some of the characters’ central dilemmas. Thus, alone in his blue-lit cell (the use of a filter is further suggestive of mediation), he repeats Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth’s “What’s done cannot be undone” lament in such a way that the line becomes a unifying refrain: “We’re all doing life, we’re all doing time”, the voiceover intones, “Working it out on our own. Hoping we’ve bet on a winner. Afraid of losing again”. Functioning at an immediate level as a working through of the gaming analogy, the quotation simultaneously operates to invite an empathetic response: the plurality invoked in the “we” implies a shared fragility, a common vulnerability and a criminal possibility. Mickey B is premised on a reflective ownership of a potential for offending that might be extended to include not only the players but also ourselves.

Part III

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Over and above an emphasis on conduct’s consequences, the character of Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth is crucial to the film’s exploration of the connections running between H.M.P. Maghaberry and the early modern all-male Renaissance stage. The male-male chemistry between the central couple suggests a deviant sexuality and a sadomasochistic underside: Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth is imagined as aroused by the thought of Mickey B/Macbeth committing the fateful murder and, as it takes place, writhing in ecstasy. Wearing feminine clothes and make-up, Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth is represented as straddling the border between masculine and feminine binaries in a manner similar to the transsexual Dil (Jaye Davidson) in that other film freighted with the political histories of Northern Ireland, The Crying Game (dir. Neil Jordan, 1992). Macbeth, and its gendered preoccupation with home and hospitality, is not too removed from the discovery in Mickey B of a female/male protagonist who accepts monarchical compliments (Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth is so delighted by Duncan’s pleasure at the fresh smell of “C Wing” that she kisses his hand) and who sublimates more stereotypically masculine ambitions (Mickey B is brusquely instructed to “dry your eyes” in the wake of the murder of Duffer/Macduff’s family). As the most “fictional” of the film’s personalities (insofar as he/she has no direct counterpart in the heterosexuality-reinforcing documentaries), and the only manifestation of a transsexual bodily imperative, Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth is available for a demonic emphasis. Suggestive in this respect is the scene in which Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth is pictured as in league with the bookmakers, their shared agenda revealing itself in a star shape comprised of four bodies stretched out on the floor. After he/she learns (via text message) that the requisite supernatural meeting has taken place, Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth declares, “Mickey B has took the bait, / Now I become the Queen of Hate,” the Shakespearean-style couplet pointing up both a sense of narrative inevitability and a punning conjuration of non-normative sexuality. Later, an over-the-shoulder shot of Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth applying make-up is spliced in with the camera’s pausing on a Tarot card of the devil, with the juxtaposition working to suggest the inspiration behind the aspiration. The connection is underscored through an accompanying glimpse in the mirror of a dark-haired, trim-bearded figure who will return as Seyton/Satan, Mickey B/Macbeth’s fiendishly identified sidekick. As a similarly demonized “bitch”, Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth is primarily identified as the manipulative spur to ambition and action.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 This discovery of Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth chimes with, if not works as a prompt for, the representation of homophobia both in the film and the documentary materials. Laura Levine remarks that the early modern preoccupation with the “essentialism necessary to maintain [a conservative] … epistemology” is predicated on an anxiety about the theatrical “institution” and a persuasion that “costumes had the power to alter the male body itself”.[31] Historical distance notwithstanding, something approximating to this effect emerges from the documentary dialogue: one prisoner notes that “I thought [acting] was a wee girls’ thing”, adding, “But I’m getting into it. Like I’m straight! Let’s get that down just in case. We’re in gaol. People have dodgy thoughts these days”. The observation is revealing for its suppositions about what is involved in theatre at the same time as it operates as a denial of imputed values and behaviours. To be sexually “other”, Mickey B appears to suggest, is to be politically vulnerable. “You weren’t crying like a wee queer a couple of hours ago,” Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth chides, his/her remark pointing up the need for Mickey B/Macbeth to maintain an appearance of heterosexual confidence. Throughout Mickey B, indeed, discourses of unadulterated masculinity (or, as the film repeatedly has it, “balls”) are centralizing components in the successful execution of criminality. Rob Kitchen has argued that assertions of “homophobic hyper-hetero masculinity” in Northern Irish society are intimately linked to the cultural reinforcement of certain kinds of borders, boundaries and identities; Mickey B exemplifies the point, finding in expressions of orientation and stigmatization a forceful differentiation between the transsexual body and its sexually one-dimensional equivalent.[32]

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 A typical Shakespearean pairing, however, complicates a singular reading of Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth’s transsexual physicality. As in the play, in which Lady Macbeth and Duncan are linked via the languages of generation, their counterparts in Mickey B invite comparison in that both possess thin bodies (other characters are uniformly “pumped up”) and sport long hair, either loose or gathered in a pony-tail (whereas the rest of the cast is cropped). Too, the bodies of Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth and Duncan, once horribly disfigured, are displayed; as Sally Robinson has argued in a different context, because “wounded”, they are emblematic of “crisis”, “disempowerment” and “cultural, social, and political trauma”.[33] In this connection, Mickey B’s corporeal spectacles bring to mind other politicized physical forms, not least the iconic image of Bobby Sands and the continuing legacy of the “hunger-strikers”. Hence, in the recent feature film dedicated to the Bobby Sands’ story, Hunger (dir. Steve McQueen, 2008), it is the visceral experience of the resisting, starving and dying body of the Irish Republican protagonist that is granted narrative precedence. Allen Feldman writes that, inside the “performative contexts” of the Hunger Strikes, we see encoded “the legitimizing potential of the politically encoded corpse”. [34] Each of the deaths in Mickey B can be read along similar lines and invite attention as types of theatre characterized by a dangerous political charge.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 In particular, the scene of Ladyboy/Lady Macbeth’s suicide has a role to play in addressing ongoing issues around Northern Irish prisons and a wider cultural consciousness. Because the camera pauses over the hanging cadaver and slowly explores the grotesque contrast between make-up and pallor, the episode is dramatically highlighted and inevitably recalls the institutional controversies that lend this version of the passing of Lady Macbeth its peculiarly extended prominence. Magahberry has a notorious record in respect of suicide among the incarcerated – a damning report on deaths in gaol in 2009 noted “systemic problems” in relation to the treatment of vulnerable prisoners.[35] At this moment, Mickey B is insistently dialogic, working in concert with its frames of reference to highlight precisely those concerns the institution has endeavoured to repress.

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 The notion that Mickey B is inseparable from such contexts was brought forcefully home the first time I saw the film at its Maghaberry premiere on 11 June 2007. Or, rather, did not see the film. Three days previously, on 8 June, I.N.L.A. member John Kennaway, one of the group who killed leading loyalist Billy Wright, became the latest person to commit suicide in Maghaberry. Billy Wright’s murder, which took place inside the Maze prison in 1997, has been linked to collusion between members of the I.N.L.A. and the authorities and is the subject of an ongoing public inquiry – which will now go ahead without Kennaway’s testimony.[36] The controversial nature of Kennaway’s death, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding it, meant that security measures at Maghaberry that day in June were stepped up to such an extent (photographic identification, x-ray, magnetic eye and palm recognition) that Mickey B failed to make it to screen.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 2 Positing a connection that leads from suicide towards collusion the film countenances one of the most intractable issues affecting the peace process – the extent to which governmental and “terrorist” organizations acted in concert to determine the course of the “Troubles”. Mickey B confronts the prospect of collusion by playing out in its ending the ambiguities inherent in the closing stages of the Shakespearean text. Pushing at the unease of Macbeth’s finale, the film discovers a mutually beneficial arrangement between Malcolm (Gerard Donegan) and the prison authorities. Malcolm, it is suggested, has the “buckets” (staff) fighting on his side; the tyrant is ousted and, in return, the Governor (Bob Hommowun) regains control of the wings. “Buckets in this wing?”, exclaims Mickey B/Macbeth, his shock at the return of institutional forces substituting for the movement of Birnam Wood and registering the impact of an unimaginable turn in events. As the alarms ring to the freedom-curtailing announcement, “All prisoners return to your cells”, the closing montage shows us each character now isolated, in solitary confinement and under guard (one outside each cell, heavily armed). A new coda reveals Malcolm, wearing his father’s chain, playing chess with the Governor, who is back in charge. Plots and trade-offs have brought about the end of Mickey B, but in such a way as to draw attention to the replacement of one modality of corruption by another and to stress intimacy between institution and paramilitary force.

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 Typically, however, the documentaries do not allow the film to have the final word. “Category A Mickey B” concludes with a battery of on-screen criminality statistics: 70% of prisoners suffer literacy and numeracy problems; 66% are substance abusers; 40% are diagnosed as suffering from mental illness; and 34% were in care as children. These figures move away from a more localised reading to suggest that collusion has a wider social basis. Patterns of violence in the “private prison” persist because the larger world, like the institutions it represents and the Shakespearean play it appropriates, is cylindrically determined.[37] Andrea Mayr argues that current approaches to “offender rehabilitation” in the U.K. endorse “propositions … which … maintain the status quo”. By “leaving aside the issue of offenders’ social and economic background and focusing instead on the defects of the individual offender,” she writes, “the gaze of society is shifted away from structural or systemic problems”.[38] Mickey B challenges these assumptions – it positions itself against the idea that the inmate floats free of his or her circumstances and makes a trenchant case for the pressures of environment. And, in putting histories back, it invites us to assess its impact on its own terms, demanding a similarly contextual critical response.

Part IV

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 Mickey B is prefaced by an “Introduction” in which Robin Masefield, Director of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, explains the reasoning behind the film that viewers are invited to experience. Standing between audience and product, Masefield strikes a defensive tone as he anticipates some of the interpretive difficulties that may be encountered and the moral questions to which Mickey B lends its voice. Interestingly, Shakespeare is blamed for whatever is found unpalatable: “Macbeth is a bleak play and violence plays an integral part”, he states, adding, “It’s probably Shakespeare’s most violent work … Crucially, as with Macbeth, Mickey B has the moral that violence does not pay.” There is a mixture of positions elaborated here: self-justification consorts with a summoning of the Shakespearean imprimatur, while the idea of an educative mission is merged with a disingenuous distancing from the film itself. Offering no guarantees that inmates will not reoffend following release, Masefield claims only that the process of making Mickey B allowed unprecedented developmental opportunities. “The alternative”, he maintains, “would would have been to do nothing”, concluding, “As Lear reminds us, ‘Nothing will come of nothing’”. Once again, Shakespeare comes to the rescue in this formulation, functioning as a bulwark against the push of nihilism and granting to the enterprise overall a wisdom and authenticity that, it is claimed, form part of a common currency.

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 2 There can be no question that “nothing” comes from the film’s recuperative work; rather, Mickey B operates in ways that are more diffuse, interstitial and incremental, highlighting in its nexus of interrelated elements the overlapping of the moral and the political and the ghosts of the historical continuum. Inside such a matrix Shakespeare figures not so much, as Amy Scott-Douglass suggests, as a means towards an “epiphany”; rather, he appears alternately in the guise of an enforcer and enabler, a colonially hidebound repository of injunctions and an adaptive possibility, a force for the disclosure of inimical pasts and the anticipation of future transformations.[39] In contradistinction to some of the tendencies in prison Shakespeare criticism that the Bard can be regarded as a species of bible or companion, Mickey B points up a more variegated model, one premised on social and cultural context, on institutional connections, on participation and collusion, on performative aspiration and collaborative experiment. It demands that we ask stiff questions of its premises, and it resists an easy categorization as a humanist tract that facilitates the reification of timeless truths. To experience such a manifestation of “Shakespeare” seems particularly important at a time when, in the U.K. especially, teachers and thinkers face mounting pressures to endorse constructions of “impact” and, hence, potentially uncritical positions. This is not to suggest, of course, that Shakespeare is being sapped of some of his imaginative power or that drama therapy can play no part; instead, this essay has argued for a third space that admits of the continuing valences of the Bard while, at the same time, recognizing some of the dangers that can accompany the endorsement of universalizing perspectives.

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 In an article written about the Mickey B process, director and producer offer several explanations for why Shakespeare was selected: “We chose a play about violence and the repercussions of violence,” they state, “by an author we believed would excite and impress prison staff and funders.”[40] It is a double-edged construction in which the Bard is regarded as a defining ingredient of the educational establishment, to the extent that any adaptation of his work carries with it acute questions not about cultural translatability but also economic advantage. Mickey B’s transmigrations are a further dimension of its interaction with questions of place and perspective. The film itself incorporates in its wider portfolio of materials several examples of U.S.-based appreciation. In “Category A Mickey B”, for example, producer Jennifer Marquis-Muradaz, with her memorable line about “being defined by the worst thing you’ve ever done”, is charismatically enthusiastic; the Management Officer for the American consulate (who visits the set and later plays the Governor) proffers an affirmative opinion; and drama students from N.Y.U., who appear for an early read-through, make approving noises. These gestures to, and incorporation of, an interpretive field beyond the place of production signal both the institutional praxes within which such organizations as the E.S.C. work (external finance and support are constant drivers) and the global marketplace in which certain appropriations of Shakespeare carry cultural capital. Shakespeare is global in part because of the vibrancy and distinctiveness of his local habitations, and, in the larger envisioning of Mickey B, this symbiotic relation is a crucially informing component. Insofar as Mickey B possesses the potential for further development, its legitimizing credentials are Shakespearean, but who defines how the Bard circulates and operates? Mickey B, in its short history, might already be characterized as process, with a post-ceasefire trajectory that has encompassed festival showings and academic conferences – including the “Adaptation” conference in London, 2009 and the Shakespeare Association of America meeting in Chicago, 2010 – and a relation to institutional organizations that has helped fashion its meanings and applications. Unlike other generically similar prison-based Shakespeare films, Mickey B is unique in providing a range of “Shakespeares”, both fictional and documentary, and in bridging the production itself and the mechanisms that brought it into existence. What Shakespeare can do – the effects that his adaptation engenders and the morals that reinventions of his work communicate – is multiply in evidence, in reflections on historical repetition, in the summoning of the master narratives of politics, in the elaboration of an aesthetic imaginary, and in the offer to access the whole via several viewer channels and choices.[41]

  • [1] For a discussion of reception, see Tom Magill and Jennifer Marquis-Muradaz, “The making of Mickey B, a modern adaptation of Macbeth filmed in a maximum security prison in Northern Ireland,” in Dramatherapy and Social Practice: Necessary Dialogues, ed. Sue Jennings (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), 109-16, esp. 111.
  • [2] Public showings of the film were only permitted in November 2009.
  • [3] The comments form part of the company website available at http://www.esc-film.com. Accessed 1 February 2010.
  • [4] Simon Wood makes the observation in the documentary, “Category A Mickey B”,   that accompanies the film in its DVD version.
  • [5] See http://www.esc-film.com. Accessed 1 February 2010.
  • [6] See, for example, Laura Raidonis Bates, “The Uses of Shakespeare in Criminal Rehabilitation: Testing the Limits of ‘Universality,’” in Shakespeare Matters: History, Teaching, Performance, ed. Lloyd Davis (Newark: U of Delaware P, 2003), 151-63; Niels Herold, “Movers and Losers: Shakespeare in Charge and Shakespeare Behind Bars,” in Native Shakespeares: Indigenous Appropriations on a Global Stage, ed. Craig Dionne and Parmita Kapadia (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 153-72; Kelli Marshall, “The Creative Process and the Power of Art in Shakespeare Behind Bars, or So This Is What Looking for Richard Meant to Do?,” Literature/Film Quarterly 37 (2009): 140-50; Przemysław Pałosz, “Hamlet Behind Bars,” in “Hamlet”: East-West, ed. Marta Gibińska and Jerzy Limon (Gdańk: Theatrum Gedanense Foundation, 1998), 136-4; Amy Scott-Douglass, Shakespeare Inside: The Bard Behind Bars (London and New York: Continuum, 2007); Jean Trounstine, Shakespeare Behind Bars: One Teacher’s Story of the Power of Drama in a Women’s Prison (New York: St Martin’s, 2001).
  • [7] Bates, “Uses,” 151, 162; Scott-Douglass, Shakespeare, 129.
  • [8] Marshall, “Creative Process,” 148.
  • [9] Richard Burt, “Civic ShakesPR: Middlebrow Multiculturalism, White Television, and the Color Bind,” in Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance, ed. Ayanna Thompson (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 157-86, esp. 159.
  • [10] Prominent is an idea of the time taken to build up trust, both with staff (who were wary) and with the prisoners themselves (who suspected a thinly disguised attempt to steer non-conforming elements into a type of educative rehabilitation). While laughter and outtakes are privileged, “Category A Mickey B” is clear about the limits placed on the film-makers, including the demands of security and the extent of resources, so that one is constantly reminded of contingency.
  • [11] As Richard Sparks, Anthony Bottoms and Will Hay argue, “Prisons of different historical moments and of different countries necessarily betray the signs of the particular economic, cultural, and legal circumstances of the surrounding society.” See their Prisons and the Problem of Order (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1996), 300.
  • [12] For a summary of some of the challenges that have faced the Northern Irish Prison Service, see Marc Mulholland, Northern Ireland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 77-79, 107-112.
  • [13] Allen Feldman, Formations of Violence: The Narrative of Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland (Chicago and London: Chicago UP, 1991), 147.
  • [14] See, for example, Bill McDonnell, Theatre of the Troubles: Theatre, Resistance and Liberation in Ireland (Exeter: University of Exeter P, 2008), 94-116; Lachlan Whalen, Contemporary Irish Republican Prison Writing: Writing and Resistance (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007).
  • [15] John Hill, Cinema and Northern Ireland: Film, Culture and Politics (London: B.F.I., 2006), 1.
  • [16] Critical consideration of Shakespeare in/and Northern Ireland includes, for example, Mark Thornton Burnett, “‘I see my father’ in ‘my mind’s eye’: Surveillance and the Filmic Hamlet,” Screening Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and Ramona Wray (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2006), 31-53, esp. 41-9; Ramona Wray, “Shakespeare and the Sectarian Divide: Politics and Pedagogy in (post) Post-Ceasefire Belfast,” Shakespeare and Ireland: History, Politics, Culture, ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and Ramona Wray (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997), 235-55.
  • [17] For an overview of the genre of the prison film, see Paul Mason, “Relocating Hollywood’s prison film discourse,” in Captured by the Media: Prison Discourse in Popular Culture, ed. Paul Mason (Portland: Willan Publishing, 2006), 191-209.
  • [18] Quotations from the play are taken from The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard and Katharine Eisaman Maus (New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1997).
  • [19] Paul Mason, “Turn on, tune in, slop out,” in Captured by the Media, ed. Mason, 1-15, esp. 9.
  • [20] Marshall, “Creative Process,” 146.
  • [21] Plans for Crumlin Road Gaol and Long Kesh/the Maze Prison include a luxury hotel and a centre for conflict resolution respectively.
  • [22] Deborah McAleese, “Maghabbery, one of the worst and most expensive prisons in the UK,” Belfast Telegraph 22 July (2009): 10.
  • [23] Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, tr. Peggy Kamuf (New York and London: Routledge, 1994), 11.
  • [24] Andrea Mayr, Prison Discourse: Language as a Means of Control and Resistance (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004), 10.
  • [25] Feldman, Formations, 157.
  • [26] Derrida, Specters, 11.
  • [27] Bates, “Uses,” 152.
  • [28] Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour, “Introduction”, in Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film, ed. Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour (Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. P, 2004), 21-30, esp. 21.
  • [29] Edna Longley, “Northern Ireland: Commemoration, Elegy, Forgetting”, in History and Memory in Modern Ireland, ed. Ian McBride (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001), 223-53, esp. 223, 229, 230, 253.
  • [30] For an eloquent reflection on the challenges facing both sides involved in the post-caesefire situation, see Richard English, Terrorism: How to Respond (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009).
  • [31] Laura Levine, Men in Women’s Clothing: Anti-theatricality and Effeminization, 1579-1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994), 134-5.
  • [32] Rob Kitchin, “Sexing the City: The Sexual Production of Space in Belfast, Manchester and San Francisco,” City 6.2 (2002): 205-218, esp. 215.
  • [33] Sally Robinson, Marked Men: Masculinity in Crisis (New York: Columbia UP, 2000), 88.
  • [34] Feldman, Formations, 219, 235.
  • [35] See “Maghaberry prison head ‘should go’” (http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/0609/breaking34_pf.html). Accessed 20 June 2009.
  • [36] See “The Billy Wright Inquiry” (http://www.billywrightinquiry.org); Alan Murray, “Billy Wright Maze killer commits suicide in prison” (http://www.independent.ie/national-news/billy-wright). Accessed 20 June 2009.
  • [37] Issues of illiteracy and drugs are also addressed directly within Mickey B: as one inmate states, “[with] a lot of prisoners … their I.Q. would be way below average. No schooling … into stolen cars, sniffing glue, smoking dope … you’re trying to have a conversation [and they] can’t talk!”
  • [38] Mayr, Prison Discourse, p. 178.
  • [39] Scott-Douglass, Shakespeare, 23.
  • [40] Magill and Marquis-Muradaz, “The making of Mickey B,” 115.
  • [41] Mickey B is available for purchase from the E.S.C. website at http://www.esc-film.com.
  • Notes

    38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 [1] For a discussion of reception, see Tom Magill and Jennifer Marquis-Muradaz, “The making of Mickey B, a modern adaptation of Macbeth filmed in a maximum security prison in Northern Ireland,” in Dramatherapy and Social Practice: Necessary Dialogues, ed. Sue Jennings (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), 109-16, esp. 111.

    39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 [2] Public showings of the film were only permitted in November 2009.

    40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 [3] The comments form part of the company website available at http://www.esc-film.com. Accessed 1 February 2010.

    41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 [4] Simon Wood makes the observation in the documentary, “Category A Mickey B”, that accompanies the film in its DVD version.

    42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 [5] See http://www.esc-film.com. Accessed 1 February 2010.

    43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 [6] See, for example, Laura Raidonis Bates, “The Uses of Shakespeare in Criminal Rehabilitation: Testing the Limits of ‘Universality,’” in Shakespeare Matters: History, Teaching, Performance, ed. Lloyd Davis (Newark: U of Delaware P, 2003), 151-63; Niels Herold, “Movers and Losers: Shakespeare in Charge and Shakespeare Behind Bars,” in Native Shakespeares: Indigenous Appropriations on a Global Stage, ed. Craig Dionne and Parmita Kapadia (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 153-72; Kelli Marshall, “The Creative Process and the Power of Art in Shakespeare Behind Bars, or So This Is What Looking for Richard Meant to Do?,” Literature/Film Quarterly 37 (2009): 140-50; Przemysław Pałosz, “Hamlet Behind Bars,” in “Hamlet”: East-West, ed. Marta Gibińska and Jerzy Limon (Gdańk: Theatrum Gedanense Foundation, 1998), 136-4; Amy Scott-Douglass, Shakespeare Inside: The Bard Behind Bars (London and New York: Continuum, 2007); Jean Trounstine, Shakespeare Behind Bars: One Teacher’s Story of the Power of Drama in a Women’s Prison (New York: St Martin’s, 2001).

    44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 [7] Bates, “Uses,” 151, 162; Scott-Douglass, Shakespeare, 129.

    45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 [8] Marshall, “Creative Process,” 148.

    46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 [9] Richard Burt, “Civic ShakesPR: Middlebrow Multiculturalism, White Television, and the Color Bind,” in Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance, ed. Ayanna Thompson (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 157-86, esp. 159.

    47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 [10] Prominent is an idea of the time taken to build up trust, both with staff (who were wary) and with the prisoners themselves (who suspected a thinly disguised attempt to steer non-conforming elements into a type of educative rehabilitation). While laughter and outtakes are privileged, “Category A Mickey B” is clear about the limits placed on the film-makers, including the demands of security and the extent of resources, so that one is constantly reminded of contingency.

    48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 [11] As Richard Sparks, Anthony Bottoms and Will Hay argue, “Prisons of different historical moments and of different countries necessarily betray the signs of the particular economic, cultural, and legal circumstances of the surrounding society.” See their Prisons and the Problem of Order (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1996), 300.

    49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 [12] For a summary of some of the challenges that have faced the Northern Irish Prison Service, see Marc Mulholland, Northern Ireland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 77-79, 107-112.

    50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 [13] Allen Feldman, Formations of Violence: The Narrative of Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland (Chicago and London: Chicago UP, 1991), 147.

    51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 [14] See, for example, Bill McDonnell, Theatre of the Troubles: Theatre, Resistance and Liberation in Ireland (Exeter: University of Exeter P, 2008), 94-116; Lachlan Whalen, Contemporary Irish Republican Prison Writing: Writing and Resistance (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007).

    52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 [15] John Hill, Cinema and Northern Ireland: Film, Culture and Politics (London: B.F.I., 2006), 1.

    53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 [16] Critical consideration of Shakespeare in/and Northern Ireland includes, for example, Mark Thornton Burnett, “‘I see my father’ in ‘my mind’s eye’: Surveillance and the Filmic Hamlet,” Screening Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and Ramona Wray (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2006), 31-53, esp. 41-9; Ramona Wray, “Shakespeare and the Sectarian Divide: Politics and Pedagogy in (post) Post-Ceasefire Belfast,” Shakespeare and Ireland: History, Politics, Culture, ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and Ramona Wray (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997), 235-55.

    54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 [17] For an overview of the genre of the prison film, see Paul Mason, “Relocating Hollywood’s prison film discourse,” in Captured by the Media: Prison Discourse in Popular Culture, ed. Paul Mason (Portland: Willan Publishing, 2006), 191-209.

    55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 [18] Quotations from the play are taken from The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard and Katharine Eisaman Maus (New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1997).

    56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 [19] Paul Mason, “Turn on, tune in, slop out,” in Captured by the Media, ed. Mason, 1-15, esp. 9.

    57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 [20] Marshall, “Creative Process,” 146.

    58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 [21] Plans for Crumlin Road Gaol and Long Kesh/the Maze Prison include a luxury hotel and a centre for conflict resolution respectively.

    59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 [22] Deborah McAleese, “Maghabbery, one of the worst and most expensive prisons in the UK,” Belfast Telegraph 22 July (2009): 10.

    60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 [23] Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, tr. Peggy Kamuf (New York and London: Routledge, 1994), 11.

    61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 [24] Andrea Mayr, Prison Discourse: Language as a Means of Control and Resistance (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004), 10.

    62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 [25] Feldman, Formations, 157.

    63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 [26] Derrida, Specters, 11.

    64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 [27] Bates, “Uses,” 152.

    65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 [28] Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour, “Introduction”, in Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film, ed. Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour (Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. P, 2004), 21-30, esp. 21.

    66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 [29] Edna Longley, “Northern Ireland: Commemoration, Elegy, Forgetting”, in History and Memory in Modern Ireland, ed. Ian McBride (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001), 223-53, esp. 223, 229, 230, 253.

    67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 [30] For an eloquent reflection on the challenges facing both sides involved in the post-caesefire situation, see Richard English, Terrorism: How to Respond (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009).

    68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 [31] Laura Levine, Men in Women’s Clothing: Anti-theatricality and Effeminization, 1579-1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994), 134-5.

    69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 [32] Rob Kitchin, “Sexing the City: The Sexual Production of Space in Belfast, Manchester and San Francisco,” City 6.2 (2002): 205-218, esp. 215.

    70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 [33] Sally Robinson, Marked Men: Masculinity in Crisis (New York: Columbia UP, 2000), 88.

    71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 [34] Feldman, Formations, 219, 235.

    72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 [35] See “Maghaberry prison head ‘should go’” (http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/0609/breaking34_pf.html). Accessed 20 June 2009.

    73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 [36] See “The Billy Wright Inquiry” (http://www.billywrightinquiry.org); Alan Murray, “Billy Wright Maze killer commits suicide in prison” (http://www.independent.ie/national-news/billy-wright). Accessed 20 June 2009.

    74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 [37] Issues of illiteracy and drugs are also addressed directly within Mickey B: as one inmate states, “[with] a lot of prisoners … their I.Q. would be way below average. No schooling … into stolen cars, sniffing glue, smoking dope … you’re trying to have a conversation [and they] can’t talk!”

    75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 [38] Mayr, Prison Discourse, p. 178.

    76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 [39] Scott-Douglass, Shakespeare, 23.

    77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 [40] Magill and Marquis-Muradaz, “The making of Mickey B,” 115.

    78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 [41] Mickey B is available for purchase from the E.S.C. website at http://www.esc-film.com.

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    Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/shakespearequarterlyperformance/wray/