Five members of Young Co. recently devised a performance addressing issues around rape and sexual bullying. This was performed at the Coming of Age schools’ conference at Hampden. Claire Dyer blogged about the project:
"The issues that Rape Crisis and The Rosey Project, as well as all the other organisations supporting and involved in the conference we performed at, deal with, are issues I feel very strongly about - and that's why I was intrigued and excited to hear about the project during the week of (Young Co.) summer school. However, actually working on the project led me to realise that just agreeing with something, or disagreeing with something, isn't much unless you act on it. Acting on it - so to speak - sent us on an emotional roller-coaster. It's a delicate subject, each aspect throwing into conversation things you wouldn't talk about every day. We discovered on the most practical of levels why it's not an every day discussion. Maybe if we did talk, rape and sexual bullying would be minimised.
On the first day of rehearsals, Keren, Chris, James, Emma and I - along with the directors, Elly and Kate - met with Paula and Julie from The Rosey Project, and spent the morning discussing the bearing that the media has on sexual bullying and violence. Paula and Julie had brought with them "media boards" - magazine collages in the following categories: girls between the ages of three and ten; boys between the ages of three and ten; teenage girls (10-16); women's lifestyle magazines; men's lifestyle magazines; and tabloid newspapers. I didn't expect to be shocked by what I saw that morning, but nonetheless, I was. The categories displayed a very sinister agenda, and I found the media boards displayed around the room with us all in the middle to be a powerful statement in itself. We split into pairs and discussed the boards one by one, which is the set up of the work shops that Paula and Julie take into schools.
We wrapped up in the early afternoon so that we could all go away and think, which is exactly what I did, to the point where the next day I realised what I'd got myself into with the project and just how demanding, challenging, and difficult it was going to be. We had decided to devise the piece we would ultimately take to the Coming Of Age conference, and so on the first day, we were asked to try and come up with some ideas in writing. I write every day, but this time, I drew a blank - especially after reading the informative leaflets we had been given by Paula and Julie.
The project was a real challenge, in ways I didn't think of to begin with. There were other thoughts and suggestions to dilute the discomfort the following morning, however. James's ideas, in particular, were very intricate and powerful. We went round the circle and discussed our feelings, opinions and questions about the project before starting, and then almost immediately started the devising process.
The piece starts innocent, light and entertaining, and slowly builds and darkens towards its empowering and proactive conclusion. This is almost exactly how the devising process went; we were eased into this play just as much as the audience at the conference - and it's just as well! On the third day of rehearsals, the darkness really began to come into play, via the altogether comical scene, "Slabber", which features us all being stereotypical men, including the girls. Loud, crass, neddy, and armed with men's mags - this scene led straight into the first full confrontal of sexual assault where I had the privilege of delivering the line that would echo all the way through the play: "If I was your mother, or your sister, or your girlfriend, would you treat me with the same contempt? Well? Would you?"
At the end of that rehearsal, we sat round in a circle and we discussed the next steps in the structure of the play, with a view to adding in a bit of melodrama, and even - keeping with the commencement of rehearsals for Lend Me Your Ears - a bit of Shakespeare, in the form of an extract from The Rape of Lucrece, which Keren brought to the table. The following Monday, we moved from the circle rehearsal room to the stalls studio, which became a comfort zone for us, and we worked our way to the end of the play. From then on in, it was a case of running through, tidying up, adding in and taking out. Costumes were decided on - skirts for the girls, and hats for when we're acting as boys - and so were props, and set designs.
The day before the conference, we spent the whole morning taking notes, stopping and starting and running through, after three nerve wracking days of no rehearsals, and then in the afternoon we did a full performance for a group of our friends at the Citz. We were also lucky enough to have Paula and Julie joining us for this performance. It went well, was met with an encouraging response from all, and at the end we felt we had come on miles and put the final piece in the jigsaw.
Performing at Hampden was an experience all on its own. We were given a room to leave our stuff and rehearse in, which concealed behind the curtain a director's box overlooking the stadium. When we arrived we did a sound check, and topped and tailed the entire piece in the venue, before rehearsing in the room, warming up, and heading on in at just after eleven. Even with the new staging - after being so used to the stalls studio at the Citz - the performance ran really smoothly and we got incredible feedback from the audience. After an afternoon of chatting with others from schools and organisations and taking part in workshops, we left on an absolute high, agreeing that the day had been an amazing success and could not have gone any better. And the fact that we made an impact and communicated a vitally important message is all that matters.