When myself and Monsay were at the Oval House Theatre performing 'Yard Gal' in November 08, we were approached by Back On Track, an innovative arts programme for young people who are at risk of or excluded from education. They wanted us as a company to run a few workshops on Yard Gal with one of their groups. They had been to see the production and were interested by the issues raised.
So myself, Monsay Whitney, Stef Di Rubbo and Stef O'Driscoll ran a workshop based on the play using forum theatre. First of all we were introduced to the class and played some games, including a name game. I find learning names particularly hard and as the majority of the class were black, I wasn't used to the types of names being said to I had to pay extra attention to them. I noticed that some of the group weren't interested in playing games or participating in the exercises and i think this is because there was a big range in the age gap of the group. It ranged from 12 years to 17 year old. This is a big gap to have in a group that needs to support each other, but with some encouragement from Stef and their teachers, the group came together.
Stef and Monsay had been rehearsing some scenes prior to the workshop, but when we saw the age of some of the students, we realised we would have to tone down the swearing, which is apparent in nearly every sentence the girls speak! The girls first performed the scene where there is a gang confrontation and Marie gets stabbed. We ran the scene a couple of times and then opened it up for forum theatre. Stef was acting as the Joker, so she asked the group at what points did they think the stabbing could have been prevented? There were several keys moments in the scene where either Marie or Boo could have taken a step back and realised this is not the right way to go. One student was quite keen on discussing the situation and even got up to participate in the scene. After she had gotten up, others wanted to try their ideas and some were even fighting over who would go next. This was a positive reaction for our work and it was great to see them taking part on their own accord rather than being forced. This is what Back On Track is all about. The students have to be there but are never forced into anything and are allowed to express their own opinions and how they feel, where as in other places they may not have been able to do so.
With the collaboration of the group we managed to find a point where the stabbing could have been stopped and discussed their opinions on gang culture and knife crime. We ran 2 more workshops after following the same themes and discussions. They then went onto devising their own scenes and forum theatre, but unfortunately i could not be there to see it.