Truth or Dare: Hannah Uttley on the latest production from Belgrade LifeStage
Education Officer (Young at Risk), Hannah Uttley leads the Belgrade Theatre’s work related learning programme for students aged 14 – 16 years. In this blog post, she talks about bringing the group’s latest production Truth or Dare, to the B2 stage.
1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every class (1)
Truth or Dare was developed in 2012 with a group of young people at the Belgrade Theatre. It features stories taken directly from the experiences of those young people. The young people performing the piece this week are all students on the LifeStage programme.
LifeStage is the Belgrade’s Work Related Learning programme for young people aged 13-16. It is targeted at those who benefit from learning in a dynamic environment and those who may wish to pursue a career in the performing arts.
Truth or Dare follows the story of three young people – Ty, Ethan and Christopher – as they each struggle to manage their own mental well-being. It touches on a spectrum of issues including depression, alcoholism, self-harm, drug abuse, dementia and young parents. Our preparatory work on the piece lead to some interesting discussions about mental health and the young people’s understanding of this term. It was striking how many of the young people had a very clear, and sometimes startling, insight to offer into the themes being explored in the piece. Many of the young people on the course have experienced mental health difficulties themselves or have been affected by them.
Truth or Dare asks an important question; if mental health conditions are so prevalent how do we support the young people who are living with them? At the end of the piece each character reaches a decision which will ultimately affect their mental and physical well-being, some of these decisions were not ones which the group agreed with. We questioned why the characters in the piece would behave in this way, why would they purposefully act in a way which is harmful to themselves or others around them?
These discussions are exactly why doing work of this nature with young people is so important. In a society in which so many of our young people are living with mental health conditions it is vital that we have an open and honest dialogue regarding these. What we always aim to do in our work with LifeStage is to provide them with a space in which they can step back and examine some of the issues that they and others around them are facing, to enable them to make decisions which safeguard their own well-being.
_1 Green, H., McGinnity, A., Meltzer, H., et al. (2005). Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain 2004. London: Palgrave. _