Experiential Testing was where Rideout began. This work comprised a huge number of drama-based workshops over several years, all delivered at HMPYOI Swinfen Hall. The focus of these workshops was very much on ‘skills’, be it communication skills for participants on the prison’s Induction Programme, or cognitive skills for graduates of the Prison Service’s Reasoning and Rehabilitation and Enhanced Thinking Skills Programme. Much of this work was based on the notion that whilst cognitive skills courses might be good at looking at ‘thinking’, they were quite poor at looking at how feelings and circumstances might impact on thinking. What we set out to do was ‘test out’ how well graduates had internalised such thinking skills by asking them to participate in a series of drama games and exercises. These activities were designed to explore different skills such as problem solving, perspective taking, and critical reasoning. In each workshop, participants were given a ‘challenge’ – a bespoke improvisation created for each individual, to test out their skills in a real-time scenario. Each individual then received a report detailing our observations of how well they had done in the activities, and making suggestions for future areas of work.
Over time, our Experiential Testing workshops were adapted for other Prison Service accredited courses, primarily the P-ASRO substance misuse programme.
Much of the content of these workshops was collated and written up in Chris Johnston’s book, Drama Games for Those Who Like to Say No
Photos: Jack Webb & Rideout