2016 has been a busy, rewarding and challenging year for the company. We have toured all three of our current productions – 145 performances in total reaching a total of over 17,000 young people. Being able to successfully establish our newest play Mister Shapeshifter has been particularly satisfying. Dealing with issues around child sexual abuse with 10-11 year olds presented us with some pretty unique creative challenges, but our writer Mike Harris came up with a brilliant solution with a modern, very exciting fairy tale about the ways in which some adults abuse childrens’ trust and how children can protect themselves.
The play has so far toured into schools in Rochdale, Oldham, South Tyneside, Calderdale, Bradford and Oxfordshire. Further tours have been confirmed for 2017 – including new work right across West Yorkshire.
Once again we are pushing back social barriers with our theatre work: making the seemingly undoable totally doable by bringing the most sensitive and complex issues to life on stage and allowing children to interact directly to address the crucial issues we are trying to help them understand
Children need to be able to recognise that some behaviour in adults – any adults, in any part of their lives – will always be wrong. They also need to know how to protect themselves and seek help when they see or experience these behaviours. We have found a way to do this without terrifying children (or parents and teachers) or poisoning the world for them. We have found a way to empower them. This is about education and building skills, confidence and hope. The best bit? That this work, which is supported by local authorities, by safeguarding boards, by teachers, by police, by parents and carers and by children, is built around a piece of live theatre.
We want to go further than just the theatre itself though and in 2017 we are going to achieve this. We have just secured funding to develop a book and animated film version of Mister Shapeshifter, and we will also be launching a film version of our other play Somebody’s Sister, Somebody’s Daughter. This will allow us to reach many more people and raise awareness in families and the wider community. We will announce details of both in early 2017.