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man a bad I was I'm a BARD MAN! Armed robber gives up life of crime - for Shakespeare.

Byline: Sandish Shoker

AFTER years pacing his prison cell, Coventry armed robber Adrian Mason is now treading the boards as a Shakesperian actor.

The 36-year-old of Villiers Street, Stoke is currently playing chief villain Edmund in a touring production of King Lear, part of the RSC's Open Stages summer programme.

He turned his life around when he studied in jail. Nine years on he is on his way to becoming a respected actor and vows never to go behind bars again.

He is playing lead role in a film being produced by local director Sean Forge and has various other film projects in the pipeline.

It's a far cry from the day he appeared on the front page of the Telegraph for his real life leading role in the Gun Raid Terror Gang.

There are talks of using his experiences to write a prison drama for the BBC and scripting an autobiographical film. However he could still go to prison for six months if a city judge decides he is guilty of breaching his tag curfew.

"I am waiting to see what happens at the moment," said Adrian.

"One judge gave me a chance and gave me an extension on my curfew to attend rehearsals and performances, but then the other judge has taken it away. I breached my curfew a few few times just by five or six minutes if my trains were late, but if I go to prison again it is going to damage people I have been working with.

"They have all put a lot of work into helping me and are all relying on me. I don't want to let anyone down now."

Adrian was taught a life of crime from the age of nine.

Growing up in Willenhall, Stoke Aldermoor and Holbrooks, he was often left to fend for himself and look after his four younger sisters from the age of 12.

He was encouraged into shoplifting and burglary by his parents and was first locked up when he was 14.

"When you get a start in life like mine it is hard to break the cycle," he said.

"Crime is all I knew and no-one around me cared. No-one forced me to go to school, my parents didn't want to change and I didn't know any better.

"I didn't see a way out of what I was doing and the lifestyle that had been created for me, and the crimes progressively got more serious."

In July 2000 Adrian was sentenced for seven armed robberies and attempted robberies he had committed across Coventry over six months.

Two years into his sentence he escaped from Rye Hill prison near Rugby and was tracked down four days later trying to catch a ferry to Ireland.

It was after this stunt that Adrian decided his life needed to change.

He added: "I realised then I had another six years in prison and needed to do something.

"I started studying GCSEs, ALevels and then a degree. I got acting qualifications through LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art). I started writing poetry and short stories which I won awards for and wrote a play which went down a storm with the other prisoners.

"A teacher in the prison helped me and pushed me to achieve my best. He became the father I never had and having someone there to focus me really led me down another road."

On his release from prison in October 2007 Adrian was under curfew and on a tag. He got a job selling burglar alarms and also worked at a pub.

The father-of-two said: "When I left prison I had nothing but pounds 46. It even took me a year to open a bank account because I had been deleted off social services records.

"I had no help from anyone, but I was determined to get myself together."

One night Adrian was walking home when he was attacked by three men in Britannia Street, Hillfields. He was stabbed eight times and left fighting for his life.

"I phoned my sisters that night to say sorry for all the trouble I had caused and I could feel my life slipping away. But somehow, someone gave me a second chance and I am still here today.

"Everything has been a big struggle for me but so many people have spent a lot of time helping me, and if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be here.

"One day in hospital I thought enough is enough, I should get into what I have always wanted to do.

"Acting is something I have a passion for and it has been a saving grace for me.

"I am sorry for all the people I have hurt over the years and I know I can't change what I have done, but if just one person sees what I have achieved and changes their life around, I will be happy."

It was then Adrian put up his details and showreels on various actors websites and the auditions soon came flooding in. He said: "I have turned a corner now and I am on track and hopefully if my story can make a difference and stop a person doing what I have done, it will save a lot more people from getting hurt."


ART MIRRORS LIFE: Adrian Mason as chief villain Edmund in King Lear, above, and, right, how the Telegraph reported his jailing in 2000
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 6, 2011
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