Inmates at a notorious drug-plagued prison have starred in a £70-a-ticket production of Les Miserables to help ‘boost their morale’, it was revealed today.
The lavish production of the hit musical – being dubbed ‘Lags Miserables’ by critics – was staged in the 300-seater gym at HMP High Down in Surrey.
About 16 convicts spent more than a month rehearsing for the musical alongside a professional opera company, who brought it up to West End standards.
The Category B prison, which is plagued by drug problems, hosted six performances of the show and tickets went on public sale for between £35 and £70.
Inmates at a notorious drug-plagued prison have starred in a £70-a-ticket production of Les Miserables (pictured) to help ‘boost their morale’, it was revealed today
Members of the audience said they were ‘blown away’ by the ‘West End standard’ of the show but MPs criticised it as the latest example of soft justice in prisons.
One person who saw the no-expense-spared production said: ‘The set, lighting, costumes, music and back stage areas were all West End standard. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was blown away by the performances.’
Prisoners were joined by professional actors from Pimlico Opera, a charity that employs professional actors and stage hands.
Tory MP David Morris told The Sun: ‘Prisons should be preparing offenders for release back into the community by training them for proper jobs or giving them skills.
‘Getting to perform in a show like this is something most normal, law-abiding people can only dream of and would never get the chance to do.’
A recent report on the prison said the shows, which were staged last October, were ‘a resounding success and a boost to morale’.
The Category B prison in Surrey (pictured), which is plagued by drug problems, hosted six performances of the show and tickets went on public sale for between £35 and £70
Audience members had their bags checked and were required to show photo IDs to get in. It is believed any profits went to Pimlico Opera.
The Independent Monitoring Board has warned that High Down has an ‘endemic problem’ with the use of illegal drugs.
Inmates have also boasted on social media of their easy life, and last year it emerged prisoners were cold-calling householders as part of a work scheme.
There are 1,200 inmates at the Banstead prison, and former convicts have included paedophile Gary Glitter and former England cricketer Chris Lewis, who spent six years behind bars after he was convicted of drug smuggling in 2009.
The Prison Service said: ‘Rehabilitating prisoners is crucial to reducing reoffending and initiatives such as this help offenders turn their backs on crime.’