imagine if theatre was founded in 2015, in Leeds, by current artistic director, Francesca Joy, to instigate real change in people’s lives through theatre.
“Cholewa’s work and performance explores effectively several themes relevant to our society today, There were moments of humour and great poignancy and, despite, its serious themes, Cholewa still managed to show that however Society skews itself, there will always be kindness and care beneath the surface.” Yorkshire Times on ‘My Old Man’, 2021
imagine if aims to actively improve disadvantaged people’s lives through theatre and we work predominantly with prisoners and people with convictions who have a range of disadvantages including mental health issues, homelessness, victims of abuse, low literacy levels, unemployment and low socio-economic backgrounds. We place those without a voice at the forefront of each imagine if production.
“The whole production is something new, incredible and intimate at the same time. You get to hear the unheard, listen to the misunderstood, give social justice a chance and deeply connect with the characters. All whilst having a good, pleasant time at the the2atre setting. It was an interesting experience like no other” South Leeds Life on imagine if’s production, Is Anyone There?, 2021
We have demonstrated that theatre is a powerful tool that can be used to reach out and connect with people from all areas of society. The theatre we create is based on the world around us comprising real stories from real people. We aim to create work that is inspiring, entertaining and unashamedly honest for intimate audiences. All our productions are rooted in truth and we have toured to over 30 theatres across the UK. We have performed to over 5,000 audience members receiving critical acclaim in the press and have also been supported by Sir Ian McKellen.
“Literally coming [to Phoenix] every week and getting involved in stuff, they really care about you and your individual needs as a person.” Phoenix Participant, 2020
“Jadek is a clever and compassionate play with bite. You are immediately thrown into a world where words are slung like grenades that tick with your pulse until they eventually go off and break your heart. You feel like you are sat with Grandad and Tasha, almost too intimate to bare, this play pulls you in before you can say no” – Jackie Hagan (Playwright and Activist) on imagine if’s production, Jadek, 2019
imagine if has a geographical focus spanning across Yorkshire, however have worked internationally, most recently working in prisons in America with several companies, including with Tim Robbins and his company ‘The Actor’s Gang’ in Los Angeles. We have also worked in India in slums, orphanages and with Bangalore-based theatre company ‘Yours Truly’. We have worked in 26 prisons across the UK and USA, having engaged with over 4000 prisoners and continually supporting prisoners when they are released into the community, for as long as individuals require support.
“It was the only thing that was inspiring in prison. Because of Bird on the Wing, I got a job within four weeks of getting out and I have remained in work since” Bird on the Wing Graduate, 2018
imagine if have a range of programmes, most notably Bird on the Wing and Phoenix, which help participants with interpersonal skills, communication skills, employability and positive personal narratives. These programmes are there to support graduates and people with convictions throughout their time in prison and for as long as they need upon release.
“The scripting is as sharp as the performances. Francesca Joy has an obvious talent for creating poignancy from the ordinary… the physicality of the performances and the nuance in the writing make it all feel heartbreakingly new.” West End Wilma on imagine if’s production, You Forgot the Mince, 2017