unlock your potential

Rehabilitation projects through theatre across the prison estate and community;
unlocking potential and reducing reoffending


Award-winning ‘Best Rehabilitation Social Enterprise 2023’ Unlock Drama delivers rehabilitation projects in prisons and the community using Applied Theatre, a form of socially engaged theatre practice with marginalised communities.

Unlock Drama was founded in 2014 by Rebecca Boden who has a strong drive and passion for Applied Theatre, believing that it has the power to open conversations, increase confidence and help participants to view themselves in new, positive ways.

Unlock Drama has evolved from over seventeen years of drama experience and over ten years of utilising theatre techniques within a variety of settings with a range of participants.

In 2020 Unlock Drama took the next step in its development and became a Community Interest Company (CIC). Since its conception, Unlock Drama has not always been able to deliver projects to impoverished areas of the community and underfunded areas of the prison estate. As a CIC, Unlock Drama will be able to have access to funding opportunities creating more project deliveries benefiting a wide array of participants across the prison estate and in the community.

Unlock Drama’s projects aim to increase confidence/self-esteem, build interpersonal skills and explore current issue-based subjects. Unlock Drama delivers drama projects to unlock life skills that can be transferable in day-to-day life and can be applied in social situations, training or employment. Engaging with drama opens many doors for participants, supporting them to develop core interpersonal skills such as communication, leadership and team-building.

Unlock Drama uses sustainable approaches by sharing performances acted by participants with targeted audiences, staff and the wider community. Peer led performances have the most impact for change by participants engaging in Unlock Drama’s project process; showcasing realistic, hard-hitting, memorable and engaging theatre. Audiences are selected to watch our final product; further spreading awareness of the detrimental effects of the topic in hand; provoking empathy, self-awareness and a view of how actions affect others. These performances help shift how others view the ‘actors’ instilling pride, an unknown feeling of most of our participants, creating transformational outcomes for everyone involved – unlocking their full potential.

Rebecca Boden Unlock Drama Director

Theory of change

Unlock Drama Theory of Change

In the news


Theatre in prison

Unlock Drama has nine years’ experience in the criminal justice system, delivering in over 30 prisons, across adult male, female, sex offender and young offender institutions.

Unlock Drama’s issue-based theatre projects are linked closely to rehabilitation in the criminal justice system and focus on addressing dominant concerns within the prison estate. These issue-based projects are tailor-made to address subjects including:

  • Psychoactive substances awareness
  • Mental health
  • Violence reduction
  • Substance misuse
  • Gang culture
  • Debt
  • Weapon awareness
read more

Theatre in the community

Unlock Drama delivers projects within the community with participants that have lived or at risk of offending/re-offending. Unlock Drama also facilitates projects with participants with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The projects aim to encourage participation, increase confidence, self-esteem, improve interpersonal skills and explore issue-based subjects to raise awareness with participants, targeted audiences and wider community.

Unlock Drama is always looking to deliver work within the community with hard-to-reach and marginalised groups; however, funding has always been an issue. Since becoming a Community Interest Company in 2020, Unlock Drama will certainly be looking at more ways to access funding enabling theatre to be delivered in the community.

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Theatre with young people

Unlock Drama is driven to making a difference to the lives of young people across our communities. Our specialist drama facilitators have an array of experience working with young people in multiple settings including:

  • Young Offender Institutes
  • Care Facilities
  • Youth Centres
  • Young people at risk of offending
  • Young people excluded from mainstream education
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theatre in schools

Does your school want to try a different approach to bring young people together? Improve interpersonal skills, confidence, wellbeing, mental health and more? With our flexible working approaches we can develop workshops tailored to your school and young peoples need. Our approach is inclusive and sustainable we endeavour to help young people to better engage within each school to help improve not only their school experience but also help the teachers and better the school environment as a whole for everyone.

We work with:

  • Pupil Referral Units
  • Academies
  • SEND
  • SEMH
  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • LD
  • SLD
read more


Do you want to learn the essential skills in Drama Facilitation with vulnerable groups?

Look no further! Unlock Drama offer one-to-one and group training sessions in the techniques of Drama Facilitation.

Using practical demonstrations and tutorials Unlock Drama supports any individual wanting to work in the field of Applied Theatre as a Drama Facilitator.

This training programme will strengthen your skills, improve your facilitation techniques and build confidence.


Thank you! Your submission has been received!
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relevent training


  • MA in applied theatre





  • directing





arts award

Do you want to run accredited art based courses for young people in your institution? Unlock Drama can deliver both Bronze and Silver Arts Award.

Arts Awards are extremely versatile courses and can incorporate a range of artistic methods to capture the interests of the young people, helping them to develop as artists and arts leaders and gain qualifications. A Bronze level Arts Award equates to a grade D–G GCSE and a Silver level is equivalent to an A*-C GCSE grade. Arts Awards can be delivered to participants aged 7 – 25.

If you want to access more information please visit the Arts Award website:


Arts Award winner logo





participant feedback

"The fact it could happen during covid speaks volumes for the prison and Unlock Drama."

"I was kind of questioning support from officers recently but this has blown that out the window."

"Brings out more confidence in me."

"It’s a very therapeutic way to get stuff off your chest and past experiences."

"I think about it more because there could other support in the jail that could help you with different stuff."

‘Gives you a chance to express yourself.’

- Participants feedback from HMPYOI Swinfen Hall

“My confidence has grown massively; I want to show the prison that I am engaging in things that are offered to me as I normally keep myself to myself”

- Restoring Family Ties project at HMP Lindholme

“[Theatre] it just gets people more engaged and together, closer together, it can only do well”

- Substance Misuse project at HMPYOI Portland

“This project has given me self-confidence, I never thought I would play a role and now I’m doing it front of you and anyone who’s in the room”

- Gang Culture project HMYOI Aylesbury

“This project has built my confidence and helped me address some of my own mental health issues”

- Mental Health project at HMP Send

“I’ve noticed changes in myself I’m less angry and more understanding”

- Substance Misuse project at HMP Guys Marsh

“It helped to express my views on prison to help rehabilitate and show prison life to make it better”

- Safety project at HMP Exeter

“This project has improved my mental health and confidence. It provided increased freedom in a situation where there is little. I have been able to talk to other people about normal events, set different opinions outside of my family. It has made me more outgoing. I feel more comfortable around other people”

- Social Prescribing sessions at HMPYOI Swinfen Hall

“This project can help rehabilitate prisoners because normally you wouldn't think of consequences why you or someone else came into prison.  It helps to put yourself in their shoes, understanding lots of possible reasons why people have depression, difficulty making friends, barriers etc.”

- Alcoholism project PIPE Unit HMP Wymott

“It’s helped divert my energy into the appropriate space”

- Substance Misuse project at HMP New Hall

“I learnt how to detect my own internal and external signs of mental health”

- Mental Health project HMP Lindholme


Had the pleasure of meeting Becky and her staff from Unlock Drama when I was at HMP Rochester back in 2015. I took part in some of their substance abuse courses, which aided me in my recovery and helped me stay clean and focus on the future.

I also worked on a drama project with Unlock Drama as part of Black History Month, which I later turned into a full play, which I put on in the community after release, and which received great feedback from within the wider community who came to watch.

Working with Unlock Drama I found gives you more belief in yourself. I became a lot more positive within myself, and I learnt to work alongside others in a positive way, which better equipped me for life after prison and within the community.

Whilst in the community I also participated in one of Unlock Drama’s training days in Milton Keynes. Here I met other facilitators, drama therapists etc and I was able to share firsthand my experience of the transformations of theatre in prison. Everyone was so appreciative to hear it from someone with lived experience and it was really humbling to be a part of.

I couldn't recommend participating with Unlock Drama any more than I do; they are a great company to work with, and the benefits are numerous. More confidence, a better understanding of yourself, and numerous life skills like working as part of a group and challenging yourself to work on projects that you may have never imagined doing before of which the rewards personally are numerous.

I have been in the community for eight years now after a very long time in prison and working with Unlock Drama without a doubt helped me to move forwards with more confidence and a better understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses. I can’t thank Becky and the team at Unlock Drama any more than I do, and I would recommend working alongside them to anyone.

- John, Past Participant of Unlock Drama

Here at HMP/YOI Portland, we have worked with the Unlock Drama team, in particular Rebecca Boden over the last few months running 4 projects including NPS, Debt, Violence Reduction, and Gang Culture awareness.

Initially it was difficult to gain the engagement and commitment from both the prison staff and the residents, as it was perceived “just a drama group” as opposed to realising the importance behind this type of intervention that helps and supports to address the risks linked to Offending Behaviour.

Watching the participant’s confidence grow over the week and during the performance has been inspiring and satisfying. To observe these individuals receiving positive feedback from staff and residents watching the performance has been rewarding for all parties. Each performance sent out a powerful message to all, about the impact of their behaviour on themselves, their families, and the victims, and how making better decisions can change the outcome for everyone.

Rebecca and her team’s dedication have aided engagement and enthusiasm from the participants; this has been demonstrated through their interaction and support for each other throughout the projects and also their offered encouragement towards one another on the performance days. Feedback quotes generated from the participants on completion of the projects included;

  • “If you can say no to spice, it can have a positive impact on your life”
  • “Debt has severe consequences, causes misery, death, and makes prison harder. Awareness needs to be spread”
  • “It showed me how violence can have a ripple effect and helped me to diffuse a violent situation”
  • “It stops your kids getting involved with gangs and violence”
  • “Doing this course has got me out of my cell and made me force myself to have contact with others which I need to do”
  • “This course has helped my anxiety and given me confidence”
  • “Understanding that I can take control of my life and change my own destiny”

Since completing these Unlock Drama projects, I have received a great deal of interest from residents wishing to take part in the projects, which is a great response and testament to our hard work. Our Governor is very supportive of these projects and is keen to commission more during the next financial year. I look forward to working with Rebecca and her team again in the future.

- Wendy Davies, Programmes Treatment Manager, HMP/YOI Portland.

The Library and Turning Point (substance misuse) team worked with organisation Unlock Drama facilitators Rebecca Boden, Ameer Choudrie and Shannon Bundock over a period of five days in March 2019 to run an awareness project about Psychoactive Substances Awareness (NPS). There were eight prisoner participants in total including those who were undergoing substance misuse recovery programmes offered from Turning Point and orderlies who worked in the Library.

I supervised the majority of the rehearsals in conjunction with staff from Turning Point and attended the final performances. At first I believed it would have been difficult to have prisoners engage with such an activity, thinking they may have perceived the project as being a “silly drama group” as opposed to trying to help people understand the risks and behaviour that is linked to using or being around NPS. However, Rebecca and her team did well to engage with the prisoners, add enthusiasm to the groups and inject a strong message to the audience about the consequence of NPS. The drama facilitators and prisoners had a collective goal and worked well together to help raise awareness about such an important issue. Over the five day period, I got to see how the prisoners participating grew in confidence and how much enjoyment took from it.

The final performances highlighted what impact NPS has on not only the prisoner but other people around them including their families and how making better decisions can change the outcome for everyone. This was demonstrated through the group’s interaction, support and encouragement of one another in rehearsals and in the final performances. I got to see how much effort the team put into working with on-another to ensure the performances went smoothly, building trust and camaraderie. It gave participants a sense of escapism in that some commented they did not feel like they were inside a prison during the sessions.
Since completing the Unlock Drama project we have had positive feedback from staff and inmates regarding how well the performance went and that it was a positive message to send out to those who are affected by NPS. As a result of this performance, we have had some prisoners requesting future collaborative projects the Library and Turning Point might hold to promote further messages about substance misuse within the prison.

To summarise, I enjoyed supervising the team and look forward to hopefully working with them again in the future.

- Martin Mason, Library PCO, HMP Thameside

My view from focus groups, hard data and analysis of trends is that the presence of drugs seeks to undermine stability, safety and ability for people in our care to concentrate on reducing their risk of offending for successful reintegration.

Triggers for violence and self-harming conduct in many of our prisons sits with Drugs – drugs breed a presence of mobile phone use, debt, debt related violence amongst prisoners, extortion and violence against staff or the regime.

Drugs effect the mental and physical wellbeing of some in our care and prevents them taking up opportunities to reduce their risk of reoffending upon release.

I asked for 2 of our recent events to centre on the presence of drugs in prisons and another on debt related violence – both of these issues span across a number of key issues which we are trying to address.

Attendance at the first event was a challenge as we nominated prisoners who had been difficult to engage alongside prisoners who wanted to engage; the early stages of building trust did see some men remove themselves as they just were not ready; regardless of that outcome, it was incredibly powerful for them to experience how working within groups in this manner could draw out their potential vulnerabilities. The individuals who remained gave their absolute best, they let themselves be vulnerable to each other, they shared stories (good and bad) and they bonded in a way we couldn’t envisage.

The second event saw us with over 40 applicants – perhaps indicative of how successful and powerful the previous group had been; it was equally fun (fun in a prison!!!) and brought a random group of men with little in common together, this group shared how their drug experience has affected their families and friends and how it can affect the lives of men in custody – the performance was vibrant with a sombre outcome but held a message of hope.

The ‘ask’ from myself was met perfectly – the outcome was as predicted but to hear the group perform in their words, what we believe is our biggest threat made me want to keep going, despite how hard it has been and to keep supporting others, even those who don’t look like they need our help!

- Deborah Searson-Smith, Head of Reducing Reoffending, MAPPA SMB, HMP Nottingham

Unlock drama attended the prison earlier this year to work with a group of identified men who volunteered to give drama a go, having no previous experience.

Around twelve men were identified, and naturally after the first day, some did not remain for the duration as they were unwilling to push their personal boundaries and/or felt embarrassed.

The remainder of the group did push their own boundaries and began to gel as a group, developing an understanding of each other and working well together as a team as the week went on. The men supported each other throughout, as is prison life in general, some encountered difficulties along the way but were supported by their peers, staff and facilitators. The men came together as a group and stated they had found a new circle of friends, their understanding of how to express their diverse and eclectic experiences started to develop and their acting skills improved as the week progressed. They developed an understanding of how to express their feelings and stated that this was the best recovery treatment they had ever received as it kept them engaged, occupied and part of a bigger team.

At the conclusion of the week the remaining men performed their chosen topics to staff from the prison and other prisoners, including those who did not remain for the whole week. The men who had originally been invited and did not remain expressed their regret at not pushing their boundaries and taking part. The staff were emotional at what they had witnessed and interested to ask questions of the men and how the week had been for them. The men involved were excited and appeared really rewarded by their achievements, they spoke openly about their initial trepidation and feeling of achievement at the conclusion. For me as a Recovery Coordinator, I felt rewarded to have supported the men to attend through the week, and saw a real difference in the men that took part, it was a pleasure to be involved.

- Tanya Woodland, Recovery Practitioner & PS Lead, City Health Care Partnership CIC.

Unlock Drama delivered a 4.5 intensive Smoking Cessation project with 18-21 year olds from our supported living unit. A number of the participants had complex needs such as anxiety and mental health issues.

The Unlock Drama teams programme was well suited to the participants and had beneficial outcomes such as; raised confidence and self-esteem.

The course culminated in a two final performances which were shown to the Senior Management Team. The plays highlighted all issues associated with a smoke free prison and how it can be seen as an opportunity and have positive outcomes. The participants delivered believable and professional performances and all staff were engaged and impressed with their achievements.

I felt the course was worthwhile and it was a pleasure to have Unlock Drama in.

- Dan Hallam, Custodial manager Res 5, Smoke Free Project Deputy @ HMP/YOI Brinsford

I have sat through a number of sessions during this week and I must say I am very impressed. Rebecca Frances Boden and Vicki Stanley have brought together 6 inmates who have never before associated with each other before and turned them into a group of guys with a thirst to achieve.

It has been a pleasure to be apart of the team!!

I would highly recommend the girls as they really do have a talent of bringing out the best in people.

- Alex M., Prison Officer, HMP Leicester, July 2017.

Unlock Drama delivered a two month Performing Arts residency at our prison HMYOI Werrington. The focus of the drama workshops were centred on Violence Reduction. The Unlock Drama team worked with our hardest to reach young people on Outreach. Young people on the Outreach programme are excluded from education due to high risk behaviours such as: fighting, vandalism, abusive language, threats to staff and other young people.

The Unlock Drama team cared greatly about our young people and this was evident in every session delivered. Each workshop was tailor-made so that every young person could reach their full potential. The workshops enabled: increased confidence/self-esteem, positive well-being, improved interpersonal skills, consequential thinking techniques, improved decision making skills and effective approaches of how to deal with situations triggering violence.

Young people who took part in Unlock Drama’s projects stated the following:

  • “I have learnt what my triggers are that lead to violence and how to combat them effectively”
  • “Drama is beneficial for young people because it can build confidence”
  • “It is important to raise awareness about violence because it can reduce violence”
  • “I’ve seen the other guys do more than they’d do anywhere else – they would not be like that on the wings or anywhere”

One young person told a member of staff that he now understands the importance of choosing who influences his decision making carefully, especially with regard to who speaks positively and negatively into his life. He identified that violence leaves mental scarring that cannot be escaped easily and suggested that processing trauma caused by being involved in violent situations might help reduce instances of violent behaviour caused by fear.

Unlock Drama’s hands-on approach to learning enabled the challenging young people who sometimes cannot even see one session through in education to maintain engagement and focus, contributing to discussions and practical roleplays alike. By working with, rather than against, the specific needs of participants (such as short attention spans and a need to let off physical steam), the Unlock Drama team enabled the young people to complete a full week’s project without a need for exclusion or sanctions.It has been an absolute pleasure to host Unlock Drama. I would highly recommend their services across the prison estate. We hope to use their services again.

- John Key, Community Engagement Manager: Reducing Reoffending, HMPYOI Werrington.

We spent a lot of time during this course with the drama group and this was a joint project with the chaplaincy department who also assisted with supervising. The prisoners themselves were an excellent group who bonded over the week and were encouraged by the facilitators to be supportive of each other.

The material covered was very relevant and the play they wrote and performed was excellent and very real.

Some comments from the group members from themselves include:

  • “I’ve gained a lot more confidence with myself”
  • “I was worried about doing the play but as the week went on I was looking forward to doing it and glad the staff liked it”
  • “I can say all the sessions I enjoyed very well and I would do it again”
  • “Personally I gained a lot of confidence and self-belief, also I gained life skills and will find it easier in group sessions in the future”
  • “I felt incredibly proud not only for myself but my peers as well, it was a good team effort”

When performing the play to a small audience, in attendance were the deputy governor of HMP Hindley and heads of department as well as some staff from the safer custody department. This was very well received, in particular by the deputy governor who encouraged a second performance to which the number 1 governor of HMP Hindley attended and the inspectors. The head of healthcare stated the play “really affected me” due to the issues portrayed.

The deputy governor has expressed his interest in this being performed to further groups of uniform staff to watch and also to film this to show to new staff at induction into the establishment. This shows how well received the project was.

The facilitators were excellent and engaged very well with what, at times, can be a difficult group of group members. They were well liked and respected by all.

We will definitely be looking into another drama group for the future. Thank you very much.

- Building Futures Substance Misuse Team, HMP Hindley.

Unlock Drama, led by Rebecca Boden, has delivered three NPS Awareness courses at HMP The Mount between December 2016 and February 2017. The feedback from those prisoners attending has been the most positive that I have heard from any course delivered here by an external provider. The theatre techniques that Rebecca uses to get the group engaging with the facilitators and each other, works with all individuals. Any prisoners who are reluctant at the start of the course are soon drawn in and once started, they all complete the week. Prisoners have expressed surprise at themselves, with their improved confidence and team spirit.

The prisoners increased awareness and knowledge of the negative effects of NPS, and the ripples from its misuse, has given them the skills to challenge and divert their peers away from NPS use. Each cohort has been made up of prisoners from different wings, mixed ages, social & cultural backgrounds, NPS users and non-smokers. Every group has reported that they have created unexpected friendships and will continue to support each other in the future.

I have been impressed with the respect, commitment, empathy and enthusiasm that the prisoners have shown throughout their week courses. The week long course culminates in a performance by the prisoners which has been seen by staff from different areas of the prison, healthcare, security, safer custody, RAPt and many more. Staff have been able to see the worth of the course for themselves especially when prisoners that they are working with change their attitude and focus to that of something far more positive. Most of the prisoners are reluctant and nervous when they discover that they are doing a play, but they have all ended up thoroughly enjoying it and want to do it again.

Rebecca should feel very proud of the positive impact that herself, her team and her programme are having on the lives of prisoners who are trying to turn their lives around. The NPS awareness project definitely supports and encourages the rehabilitative culture that we are trying to generate here at HMP The Mount.

Please pass on my thanks to all involved.

- Joanne Hudson, Business and Community Engagement Manager, HMP The Mount.

Today I sat in the play about NPS delivered by the drama group. I didn’t know what to expect, the play started and at first I feared that it was a bunch of prisoners making fun of the of the prison system and the staff, how wrong I was.

It was nice to see a bunch of prisoners who in normal prison life would probably not give the time of day to each other getting along. The message soon became apparent that the play centres around the effects that NPS has and the consequences that occur about the use of it. What was more uplifting was that the group really appeared to take on board the message that they can change their lives and that prisoners are taking responsibility for their own rehabilitation. I really got that they enjoyed the week they had. It was a very interesting theme that, in my mind would be hugely beneficial to a wider group which should include uniform staff, governors and more importantly other prisoners.

I can see that this type of drama workshop has a benefit in addressing re-offending and has a positive feel and made me realise that prisoners know what we are up against at times.

Please pass on my thanks to all involved.

- Lee Basham, Safer Custody Officer, HMP The Mount.

Had the pleasure of working alongside Unlock Drama when they came to HMP Holme House to deliver their NPS Awareness Project.

The programme is a fun and hands on way for the men to learn about NPS and raise awareness within the establishment about a subject that is current and relevant to each individual as they are all in some way effected by NPS.

The level of energy brought by the unlock Drama team was outstanding. All of the men who attended the project were very much involved and were flourishing in self-confidence by the end of the week.

During evaluations all of the men stated that they had really enjoyed the project and they each felt they were taking something away from it whether it be confidence, more awareness or increased motivation and they felt that it would be beneficial for other prisoners to have the opportunity to do the project.

A big thank you on behalf of DART – HMP Holme House.

- DART, HMP Holme House.

Unlock Drama is an arts organisation with a difference, it tailors programmes to wherever they need to be, ensuring content is appropriate and meets the needs of all participants. Unlock Drama uses drama as a tool for empowerment and invites individuals to participate in a unique process.

When I get the opportunity to freelance for Unlock Drama I feel completely comfortable. Becky Boden was at the beginning of my prison theatre journey and helped shape the prison drama facilitator I am now. The detail and time she spent with me as a facilitator is the same amount of effort she puts into everything she delivers, ensuring everyone in the space is safe and trusts the process.

In many of the projects that Unlock Drama delivers, time is spent devising a performance piece which encapsulates the whole process. This allows groups to showcase work and for multiple agencies to witness participants’ capabilities and developing knowledge.

Arts has been highlighted recently as a necessity within prison interventions delivered. Becky’s projects are a necessity which need to be utilised.

Whenever I have the time, I would deliver Unlock Drama projects at the drop of a hat. It’s a special process which always stays with me.

- Rachel, Unlock Drama Facilitator / Past Placement Student.

I met Becky, Kat and Rachel from the truly inspirational team that is Unlock Drama when they came to Rochester prison in September 2015 to work with the men here on a drama project regarding NPS (New Psychoactive Substances). I am currently working alongside them again on a piece of drama for Black History Month.

Unlock Drama’s workshops look at current, relative issues regarding the Criminal Justice System; then challenges the topic by way of drama. It is character building for all who take part, motivational and gives the audience a different perspective.It has been a true honour and privilege to meet and work with Unlock Drama.

- John, Past Participant, HMPYOI Rochester, October 2015.

Unlock Drama delivered a NPS (New Psychoactive Substances) Awareness Project at HMP/YOI Rochester in September 2015. NPS is an increasing issue particularly in the custodial settings. It was extremely beneficial to utilise the tailor-made service Unlock Drama offer to tackle the issue of NPS. This project explored the current issues surrounding NPS within the Criminal Justice System (CJS). This was commissioned by NHS England. Using the medium of drama it enabled the participants to gel quickly and tackle issue-based subjects within a safe working environment. This therefore meant that the amount of work produced was of a high quality within such a short period of time.

Unlock Drama used their knowledge of working with groups of prisoners within the CJS which shined through in every aspect of their work. Workshops are carefully planned to enable participants to get the most out of every session. It was evident that each and every individual involved in this project revelled in the experience and gained heightened confidence and self-esteem. Participants also achieved increased interpersonal skills such as: communication, team-building and leadership. A Peer Mentor participant wrote the following in their post project evaluation “everyone has come out of their shells and gained immense confidence.”

Unlock Drama created a final performance focused on the use of NPS in prisons. This play explored the following issues: short term side effects of NPS, long term side effects of NPS and how its use affects families and prison staff. The performance included current issues that are being faced at HMP/YOI Rochester. After the negative effects of NPS were shown, Unlock Drama remade scenes to show what positive choices could have been made which included support available within HMP/YOI Rochester. Staff including the Governor Andy Hudson and prisoners watched the final performance and the feedback was outstanding. A participant gave this project a 10 out of 10 in their post project evaluation and the reason behind this was because “it highlights the situations of NPS. It raises awareness of the NPS situation.”

Unlock Drama produced a final performance that raised awareness about NPS with the aim of preventing prison populations from using such substances. The play was hard hitting, emotive and powerful. I would highly recommend Unlock Drama’s services and hope to run another project in the near future. A participant stated in their post project evaluation if there was anything they would change about the project, they stated “it should be longer. Put on a show for the prison and prisoners, this project should be on a larger scale”. HMP/YOI Rochester hope that this is just the beginning of several interventions being put in place to enable such a topic, as NPS, to be explored further and in turn reach out to even more of the prison population.

The final performance was filmed by our in house film project with a view to using excerpts for induction for all prisoners.In my view the project was fantastically run, well organised and focused week that delivered the message more powerfully than I could of hoped. It was developed and delivered by prisoners who really understand the impact of NPS in their community.

I am sure we will be using Unlock Drama in the future to assist in developing other projects.

- Wayne Hodges, Head of Reducing Reoffending, HMP/YOI Rochester.

Unlock Drama ran full-time Performing Arts provisions at HMYOI Wetherby for a four month period from January 2015. Within this time-frame Unlock Drama worked with over 60 young people aged 15-17. The young people enrolled in the Performing Arts provisions were of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and learning abilities. Unlock Drama ensured that each and every session was carefully structured to enable each individual participating to reach their full potential. The sessions encouraged high engagement and created a safe working environment which the young people responded extremely well to. Unlock Drama’s hands-on approach to learning was well received by our young people. It was wonderful to watch our young people come out of their shells.

Unlock Drama’s specialised Drama Facilitators were flexible and adaptable. The facilitators could quickly gauge the group’s mood and would think on their feet tailoring each session appropriately ensuring positive outcomes. Working within a young offenders institute can be an extremely challenging environment, through Unlock Dramas specially tailored skills they were able to navigate each session, ensuring the young people gained as much as they possibly could from each session.

The Performing Arts provisions included confidence and interpersonal skills building and issue-based theatre. The issue-based theatre explored crime and consequences of actions through the medium of drama. This encouraged consequential thinking, self-awareness, empathy and decision making skills.

Post project evaluations were filled out and raised confidence was one of the key outcomes. Young people stated “I’m more confident in myself and when I stand up and speak out loud”, “more confidence and relationships” and “more confident about myself”. Interpersonal skills were also a noticeable outcome. Young people wrote “I can work in a group and do work”; “working in a team has made a change” and “I’m more involved with others”.

It was wonderful to see HMYOI Wetherby’s young people who came into the sessions introverted and unwilling become so enthused by the issue-based drama that they began self-exploring and directing scenes independently and engaged incredibly well. It was a joy to behold.

When asked if the young people would recommend this course to others 90% said yes. Young people stated that they would recommend this course for the following reasons: “you can work in a group like you would in real life”, “because it’s fun and good learning”, “yes I would because if they are not very confident their confidence will grow” and “it is a fun and helpful course for

I would highly recommend Unlock Drama and I hope that HMYOI Wetherby can use their services again soon.

- Kirstin Barnes, Head of Reducing Reoffending, HMYOI Wetherby.

In a highly demanding and challenging environment, Rebecca’s Unlock Drama programme provides a creative, well-structured and relevant contribution to the rehabilitative work already ongoing in prisons.

Unlock Drama’s most recent ‘Restoring Family Ties’ project provided upbeat and engaging workshops that focused on the importance of maintaining familial contact and networks whilst in custody.

Rebecca’s passion and motivation, both theatrically and morally, are a resounding reason for the successes of her groups.Her unassuming attitude in delivery ensures she gets the most out of her candidates and whilst developing them in performing arts, asks them to challenge their ideals, consider others’ views and to graduate the course not only as more confident individuals, but as better informed, better connected husbands, fathers, brothers. It is these often-undervalued soft skills that make Rebecca’s Unlock Drama superb and I look forward to working again with her in the future.

- Andrew Milner, Head of Operations, HMP Brixton.

Unlock Drama delivered a ‘Gang Culture’ project at HMP Bristol in November/December 2015. Drama Facilitators worked with incarcerated participants raising confidence, self-esteem and interpersonal skills. Once the group had gelled and learnt appropriate drama skills such as improvisation the issue-based theatre could begin.

Unlock Drama used discussion based activities, role-play and scenarios to explore gang culture. Collating all the information from the participants enabled the facilitators to create scenes showing the negative effects/consequences of gang culture on individuals, family, partners, prison officers and society.

The facilitators used a technique called ‘Forum Theatre’ to revisit the play. The participants used consequential thinking to look at each scene and show what positive decisions could have been made enabling positive outcomes.

The negative play titled ‘Street Life Drama’ was performed to VIP guests such as the High Sheriff of Bristol, the Governor Steve Cross and Lorna Stark Head of Reducing Reoffending etc. Their reaction and pride towards the participant’s efforts were outstanding. The audience were blown away with how much they managed to achieve within such a short two week period.It was a true wonder to watch the participants gain confidence, skills and reevaluated their choices. Unlock Drama certainly do stick to their tag line and whole heartedly ‘Unlock Potential’.

I would highly recommended Unlock Drama and hope to use their services again very soon.

- Imam Muhammed Foulds, Managing Chaplain, HMP Bristol, December 2015.

Rebecca is a cheerful, confident and competent person whose infectious enthusiasm permeates up through everything she does.Her sessions are lively and varied and designed to gently push people out of their comfort zones while still allowing them to do as much or as little as they feel comfortable with. She seems to have a bottomless pit of new ideas and activities and the session really flows.

Our residents have really benefitted from attending her classes on so many levels. By taking them to places that they would never normally go in their day to day lives, it has put them back in touch with themselves and put them more in touch with each other. The difference in people before and after a session is staggering. Everyone comes away feeling stimulated, energised and generally much better about themselves. It’s a shame that you cant bottle the effect that Rebeccas sessions have on people.

- Pat Bonnett, Housing Support Officer, Milton Keynes YMCA.

The lads who have engaged have really valued the opportunity to engage in something a little different.

We gave a lot of praise to the 2 remaining lads from the first group who didn’t join in the fight and Beth linked this into the content, and when one of them was presented with a risky situation the following week he walked away from this as he was so proud of himself the first time. The lads who were ‘kicked off’ the first group were really disappointed, which just goes to show how much they were enjoying it.

The second group surprised us all, and we were blown away with how much they all came out of their shells – I asked them all what they had taken from the week, and they shared that they were far more confident, really felt that it had had a huge impact on their well-being to do something creative and had regained their senses of humour in what has been quite a dark. This will be used as a springboard to motivate them to engage in regime more.

It’s been great to see such positive impacts’

- Natalie B, Head of Safety, HMPYOI Swinfen Hall

Unlock Drama have provided Swinfen Hall with a fantastic opportunity for our young men in our care to learn new skills, integrate with one another and build confidence and self-esteem through the use of drama. We have specifically chosen hard hitting topics that engage our young men and Unlock Drama have been brilliant in tailoring sessions to our specific needs and of course putting on excellent productions at the end of it, showcasing to staff, other offenders and family members. One of our courses involved young men who would isolate themselves from other individuals and at the end of the course these young men had built up relationships and confidence to be able to reintegrate back into our regime and the community within the establishment. 

Unlock Drama’s work is invaluable to us at Swinfen Hall and we have created a relaxed and effective working relationship with mutual benefits to all. The continuation of the partnership would give our prison population a creative outlet in what has been a really challenging time with limited interactions and ways of communicating and expressing emotions during Covid 19.

- Teresa W, Head of Residential, HMPYOI Swinfen Hall

The Unlock Drama day was excellent! The three women who facilitated the group were engaging and encouraged the men to participate, and all the men appeared to thoroughly enjoy the day. The programme began with a few easy ice breaker type activities/games, then there were some improv activities where the residents were given a brief, two sentence prompt, and then they were able to run with it. After the lunch, there was some more games to get the residents re-engaged. 

The facilitators were flexible and able to adapt the activities to the circumstances on the day, which made the activities incredibly beneficial to the residents in attendance. 

The men really enjoyed the acting scene activities, not only acting the scenario, but also having autonomy in what they created. This was an excellent activity, which the residents spoke highly of for weeks after.

- Emma Barnes, Recovery Practitioner, The Nehemiah Project


Rebecca Boden

Founder & Director

Unlock Drama’s Director, first started studying Applied Theatre in 2008 during her BA Honours in Drama. Rebecca received a 2:1 degree from Loughborough University in 2009. After graduating Rebecca completed two years volunteer work in the community with hard-to-reach groups such as: young people at risk of offending, recovering drug addicts, the homeless and ex-offenders.

Rebecca has seventeen years drama experience, nine years facilitating drama with hard-to-reach groups and has been facilitating theatre full-time in the Criminal Justice System for 8 years working with: young offenders, adult male and female prisoners and sex offenders.

In 2011, Rebecca began a Masters in Applied Theatre specialising in the Criminal Justice System at The Royal Central School of Speech of Drama in London (RCSSD). After graduating in 2012 Rebecca began an 18 month full time drama residency at HMPYOI Doncaster facilitating theatre with serving prisoners aged 18 plus.  In 2014 Rebecca set up Unlock Drama and began facilitating projects across the prison estate.  Rebecca now mainly focuses on project development and management, training, hosting placement students and visiting lecturing.

Zoe Paseda


Zoe is an enthusiastic professional who has a degree in criminology and psychology, and a master's in social work. She is passionate about the support she offers to individuals she is working with, and continues to strive for equal opportunities for all.

Zoe first started to explore prison based drama prior to finishing her first degree, and has continued to promote and empower the fantastic work done by Unlock Drama since.  The team provides a bespoke, individualised, accessible opportunity for all who engage which promotes the reintegration and rehabilitation of offenders, and other vulnerable groups.

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