Montagues and the crap-you-get: Finding the Bard in jail
Darren Raymond, who discovered Shakespeare in prison, is now putting a remarkable spin on his language
When he was young, Darren Raymond became, by his own admission, a “ruthless” criminal. He sold drugs, knowing the damage they did. He made a lot of money, took a lot of risks. “I lost friends, I was close to death, I got involved in turf wars, firearms, violent stuff. I was risking my life 100%.”
In his 20s he got caught and was sentenced to three years, but had little interest in turning things around. Now 38, Raymond smiles as he reflects on that troubled beginning and how a casual encounter with Shakespeare changed everything.
He runs a lauded theatre company called Intermission that specialises in bringing young people from his kind of background – at risk of offending or having done so – into fruitful collision with Shakespeare’s works. Based at a converted church, St Saviour’s in Knightsbridge, but inviting people from across London and reaching out across the UK, it’s a venture that has won praise for transforming the lives of hundreds (mainly, but not exclusively, black, Asian and minority ethnic youth) and providing a refreshing and radical approach to the Bard, blending original text with modern urban vernacular...