GW Theatre Company and writer Mike Harris, have been producing powerful, thought provoking and memorable issue-based dramas for 34 years – 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 entertaining, challenging and intensely humane theatre productions which have the proven capacity to effect personal and social change. Educational resources are built around all performance work and we always works in close collaboration and partnership with children, young people, families, schools, colleges, local authorities, appropriate professionals and major social agencies.
Over the last 7 years GW Theatre has worked closely with, and been funded by a number of local authorities to develop two theatre productions designed 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, with a particular emphasis on 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. The play has toured nationally to thousands of people nationally since 2013 and there is now a 15 minute film adaptation of the play.
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 help protect themselves. This play has been touring to young people all over the country since 2015. 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.
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.
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 unique and pioneering early intervention approach with children, schools, families and 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 provided 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. Although we cannot currently deliver live performances, we have built a Home Learning Resource around the animation, which can be accessed freely in the Home Learning section of this website.
We are currently developing a third play with Mike Harris on the same issues, this time for 6-8 year olds, which will be called ‘Kidpower’. We have some support from Rochdale and Bradford councils but need more. This project will also feature an animation and a book – sustaining our vision to lead on the production of exciting and life changing cultural work. Again, this will be 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