Belfast Telegraph

Video: London actor who swapped life of crime for stage role visits Maghaberry Prison

A former criminal, now Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) actor, visited Maghaberry Prison to talk to prisoners about how he turned his life around.

Michael Balogun has been visiting Northern Ireland to take part in workshops and discussions with student actors as well as prisoners at Maghaberry and in Hydebank Wood College, all as part of Lyric Theatre’s creative learning scheme.

“Acting, drama and theatre have literally changed my life," the London born actor said. "When I discovered what the Lyric were doing in Northern Ireland with young offenders and others I was delighted to get involved."

Balogun began his criminal career stealing doughnuts from Sainsbury's, but by the time he was in his late teens he was dealing heroin and crack cocaine on the streets of London.

He served nine years in prison where he turned to acting and gained a place at the infamous drama school which counts Belfast born Sir Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne among its graduates.

“Michael has a very powerful story to tell and is an example of how people can change their lives if they are determined to do so," Governor of Maghaberry Prison, David Kennedy said.

After gaining his degree Balogun was cast in Macbeth at the National Theatre in London, alongside Belfast actor Patrick O’Kane, as well as Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff.

As part of their creative learning scheme the Lyric is also showing a production called Blackout, which tells the story of a young man who wakes up in a prison cell and realises his future lies in his own hands.

The community outreach programme partnered with the Department of Justice to work with the prisoners in Maghaberry to build the set.

Head of creative learning at the Lyric, Philip Crawford, said: “When Michael heard about this innovative work he was very keen to get involved and tell his story to others who’ve been through a similar experience.”

Philip added:  “There is clear evidence to suggest that people in custody who get involved with the Arts are much less likely to re-offend. With his charisma and credibility, Michael is certain to inspire others with his remarkable story.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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