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Maxine Peake, Ben Whishaw and Ralph Fiennes to perform Oscar Wilde inside a prison

Ben Whishaw, Maxine Peake and Ralph Fiennes will all perform at Reading Prison Photo: Tristram Kenton /Dave Benett/Steve Vas/Shutterstock
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Maxine Peake, Ben Whishaw and Ralph Fiennes are among actors who have signed up to perform Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis inside the prison he was incarcerated.

The project forms part of an arts festival at Reading Prison that will showcase writing and works of art inspired by the jail, which first opened in 1844 and closed permanently in 2013.

Throughout September and October, writers and actors will perform a dramatic reading of De Profundis – written in his cell at the prison – every Sunday in the prison chapel.

Kathryn Hunter is also in the line-up of performers, alongside Neil Bartlett, Lemn Sissay, Patti Smith, Ragnar Kjartansson and Colm Toibin.

An abridged recording of De Profundis, recorded in Wilde’s old cell, will also be broadcast on Radio 4 on September 11.

Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison will also see famous artists including Ai Weiwei compose letters about being separated from loved ones by the state.

These will then be displayed on some of the prison’s cells, alongside art inspired by the building’s architecture and history.

The festival is being curated by Artangel, whose co-directors James Lingwood and Michael Morris said they were “excited” to be opening up the prison “to such a remarkable range of artists, writers and performers”.

“Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison will offer the public an opportunity to reflect, in a particularly powerful place, on the implications for the individual when separated from society by the state,” the pair said in a statement.

The prison festival also forms part of Reading’s year of culture in 2016, which aims to give the town a reputation “as a cultural destination”.

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