The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra collaborated with staff, volunteers and inmates from Risdon Prison on a unique creative writing and performance project, Convict Monologues. Over the course of ten months inmates researched, wrote and performed a series of monologues inspired by the life and times of convicts from the age of early Australian colonisation, exploring how they overcame adversity and forged successful lives in Tasmania post transportation.

The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra commissioned composer Chris Williams, a two time graduate of the elite Australian Composers’ School, to compose incidental music for the performance, which premiered in Risdon Prison on Wednesday 8 November to an invited audience of  fellow inmates, staff, supporters and officials. Six TSO musicians performed live and recorded the musical score two days later for inclusion in future performances of Convict Monologues.

The aim of Convict Monologues collaboration was to engage, educate and inspire inmates through an ongoing series of classes coordinated by playwright, author and ABC Hobart content-maker Paul McIntyre and Risdon Prison Creative Learning Officer and Churchill Fellow Natasha Woods. Over the duration of the program, inmates worked through a process of professional script development as well as attending presentations by guest tutors including, from the University of Tasmania, Alison Alexander, Nicola Goc and Professor Stefan Petrow. Inmates also attended two Open Rehearsals at the TSO.

The project sought to benefit inmates in a number of ways, including developing written and oral communication skills, translating historical settings into a theatre script and developing inter-personal skills of creative collaboration, teamwork and problem solving.

A long-term aspiration of the project is to see Convict Monologues submitted to professional theatre companies for performance and the royalties used to further fund Arts Programs in Prisons.