Actress performs for prison inmates

Zara Kadir: performing in Wandsworth Prison

Zara Kadir: performing in Wandsworth Prison

A musical theatre actress has landed her toughest role yet — performing behind bars with an ensemble of convicts.

Zara Kadir, who grew up in Israel, is part of a group of 15 professionals and 15 convicts taking part in a performance of Carmen at Wandsworth Prison.

Ms Kadir, 23, graduated from the Guildford School of Acting last summer and is performing in the chorus, playing a girl at the cigar factory.

She said: “I thought it would be an incredible opportunity to meet people I would never normally mix with and take part in a form of art which provides rehabilitation as well. This is definitely the only time I intend to be in prison.”

She has been rehearsing twice a week for three weeks and underwent an intensive security briefing before entering the Category B men’s prison, the largest in London. “I was absolutely terrified the first time I went,” she said. “There is a guard in front and behind and huge metal gates everywhere being locked behind you.

“All the prisoners were shouting at us and we were warned that some might throw faeces at us or try to pull us into their cells. We were given whistles and told to blow them if we needed a guard to come running.”

But Ms Kadir, from Balham, south west London, said that the prisoners taking part were “very enthusiastic” and said: “I’m more comfortable now. I have been employed as a professional and have to treat them as professional actors too.

“It’s very surreal and completely different from anything I’ve ever done.”

The show is organised by Pimlico Opera and will be performed at the prison from February 26 to March 6.

    Last updated: 6:32pm, February 4 2010