Belfast Telegraph

Man who swapped cell for stage tells his story to captive audience in Maghaberry

By Adrian Rutherford

An actor who swapped a life of crime for the stage has met inmates at top security Maghaberry Prison.

Michael Balogun is a former criminal who has previously told how he mugged people and dealt drugs to survive.

Born in London, he served nine years behind bars, where he turned to acting and gained a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), which counts Sir Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne among its graduates.

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

During a visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Balogun stopped off at Maghaberry to talk to prisoners about his experiences.

Mr Balogun said: "Acting, drama and theatre have literally changed my life.

"When I discovered what the Lyric was doing with young offenders and others I was delighted to get involved."

Maghaberry governor David Kennedy said Mr Balogun was an inspiration.

"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," he said.

"He is a huge inspiration and we are delighted that he has taken time to support prisoners.

"He can relate to their experiences. Ultimately, it is our role to support people to change; this has been a good step towards that."

Mr Balogun was visiting as part of Lyric Theatre's creative learning scheme, and has taken part in workshops and discussions with student actors as well as inmates at Maghaberry and Hydebank Wood.

Philip Crawford, head of creative learning at the Lyric, explained how prisoners in Maghaberry had helped build the set for a recent production.

"Students from Hydebank Wood have also engaged in creative writing workshops while others have played an integral part in the theatre's touring production of the play Blackout by Davey Anderson," he added.

"So 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.

"With his charisma and credibility, Michael is certain to inspire others with his remarkable story."

Belfast Telegraph

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