GW Theatre Company and writer Mike Harris, have been producing powerful, and memorable theatre productions since 1986 – tackling the most pressing, complex and sensitive social issues to provoke thinking, debate and learning with children and young people. The company is acclaimed for its unique ability to produce challenging, funny and intensely humane productions with a proven capacity to effect personal and social change. Learning resources are built around all performance work and we always work in close collaboration and partnership with children, young people, families, schools, colleges, local authorities, appropriate professionals and major social agencies.

Mr Shapeshifter School PlayMr Shapeshifter School Play

Over the last 7 years GW Theatre has been funded by a number of local authorities to develop two theatre productions to educate, empower and protect primary and secondary age children against child sexual exploitation and abuse. The first was ‘Somebody’s Sister, Somebody’s Daughter’, a powerful drama for young people aged 14 up about sexual exploitation, sexual grooming, sexting and social media pressures. Without preaching or being sexually graphic in any way it dramatises the dangers and complex issues involved in this most sensitive of subjects. It has toured nationally to over 55,000 people since 2013 and there is also a 15 minute film based on the story. The impact of the play was very significant and included over 150 young people coming forward to make a disclosure and seek help.

“It is important that today’s teenagers understand the risk of sexual exploitation and know where to seek help. The GW Theatre Company has perfected the art of engaging teenagers in a thoughtful and entertaining way through drama.”
Head of StrategyNSPCC

The second was ‘Mr Shapeshifter’, an exciting modern fairy tale for 9-11 year olds about the way some adults abuse the trust of children and how young people can work together and with trusted adults to protect themselves. This play has been touring to young people all over the country since 2015, and is still available for bookings.  Across 2016-2018 it was performed extensively in West Yorkshire primary schools as part of a county-wide CSE prevention project funded by the Office of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner. In 2018 the experiences of some of  the 9-11 years who saw the play were the subject of an independent academic evaluation.

“The Mr Shapeshifter play serves to empower children in their capacity to understand when the behaviour of a person is wrong. It recognizes the sometimes frailty of adults but also the power they have to stop other adults hurting children”
Dr Donna PeachEducation Through Theatre Report

Link: Click here to read the full report.

This evaluation proved beyond doubt that the play is a very powerful learning and safe-guarding tool when delivered in schools with its supporting resources and in collaboration with teachers, children, local authorities, police and appropriate safeguarding professionals. Moreover, it evidenced that creative learning in itself can offer an effective lead in helping to empower and safeguard young children.

“Arguably, schools are aided by the inclusion of specialist knowledge provided by organisations such as the GW Theatre Company who produce research-based drama to address pertinent issues identified by the CEE [Children’s Commissioner for England] Vulnerability report [2018]”
Dr Donna PeachEducation Through Theatre Report

The animated and book versions of the Mr Shapeshifter story were launched in 2019, and in 2020 all three creative elements are being trialled in 50 primary schools and alternative learning settings in Greater Manchester. This pioneering early intervention approach – involving children, schools, families and safeguarding professionals – is being funded by GMCA [Greater Manchester Combined Authority].

In March 2020 work on this project was temporarily suspended because of the Covid-19 crisis, but it had already delivered evidence of very positive outcomes, including some disclosures from children which have been attributed directly to the impact of the play. We will report fully on these at the end of the project. We cannot deliver live performances until this work resumes, but we have built a Home Learning Resource around the animation, which is completely free to access and can be found in the Home Learning section of this website.

We are currently developing a third play with writer Mike Harris on the same issues, this time for 6-8 year olds, which will be called ‘Kidpower’. We have support from Rochdale and Bradford councils but are looking for additional funding partners. This project will also feature an animation and a book – and will begin the next chapter of GW’s mission to deliver ground-breaking, exciting and life changing cultural work. This too has been delayed by the Covid-19 crisis – but we hope to launch in 2021!

More information on GW Theatre can be found at www.gwtheatre.co.uk