A little while back I blogged about Where’s Your Mama Gone at New End Theatre. Since then I’ve attended two very interesting performances. Unusually, the first of these took place in the morning, so that the BBC could produce a piece about it for a London news programme that evening. The audience included a dozen or so looked-after teenagers, who came with the Brent Virtual School. Their reactions to the play, which explores the impact of being in care, were fascinating and moving. They were very eloquent, first in their responses to the journalist’s questions, and later in the post-show discussion with the play’s writer, Brian Daniels, and the actor Shirley Anne Field. Field is an ambassador for Action for Children and was herself in care as a child. Many of the young people had experienced similar issues to Stephen and Carol, the two chief characters, particularly being left alone, being hungry, being lonely. For some of them, the beatings were also all too familiar. However they talked too about possibilities for change – about the importance of making the right choices. For some of them the play was clearly cathartic, and left them with a sense of optimism. I spoke to one young man afterwards who told me that his head was bursting with all the thoughts the play had sparked.
Yesterday I went again, this time myself in the role of discussion co-host. It was extremely interesting to hear audience members’ views about the situations the play presents, about the care system in general (we were very lucky to have two people from the Who Cares? Trust), and about the role of theatre – and the arts more widely – in tackling this and other important social issues. It was great to hear that Daniels intends to take the production into schools to raise awareness and debate among lots more young people.
Next Friday I am co-hosting the post-show discussion again, this time with the play’s director, Alexa Christopher-Daniels. I am very much looking forward to it. I am sure I will go away with even more food for thought. This is all so relevant in terms of my courses on working with looked-after children.