Inmates at Erlestoke Prison had an audience worthy of a West End first night when they performed the hit musical Les Miserables for the first time on Friday evening.

For among the invited guests were the Duchess of Cornwall, Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt, Acting Chief Constable of Wiltshire Pat Geenty and Sarah Troughton, the new Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire.

A dozen inmates of Wiltshire’s only prison either took to the stage or worked behind the scenes for the two-hour show. Convicts worked alongside professional performers from Pimlico Opera to bring the story of prisoner Jean Valjean to life.

Following a six-week rehearsal period, they will do eight performances of the show in total, including two specifically for fellow prisoners, during the week-long run, which ends on Saturday.

After the show the Duchess was introduced to members of the cast and crew, including prisoners. She told Anthony Flaum, who played Valjean: “It was fantastic. It really was.”

One prisoner, Kurtis, said: “I used to go to drama school and I wanted the opportunity to do it again. I gave things up as a kid and then got into trouble.

“When this came up I jumped at the chance. I really enjoyed it, even though I got a bit embarrassed and felt shy. The last few weeks have been really tough, with a lot of early mornings and late nights.”

Members of the audience had to be escorted through the gates and barbed wire fences, prove their identity with driving licences and leave mobile phones at the gate.