Theatre in Education: three words that can strike fear into any self-respecting teenager's heart. Trying to entertain kids while communicating a message can often have a whiff of the desperate about it.
Adam Zane's OUTLOUD, however, can hardly be accused of being out of touch. The product of a year's research and interviews with LGBT youth and pupils within schools around Manchester, it literally speaks the language of young people. The actors serve as mouthpieces, giving a voice to the young people whose voices would not normally be heard.
The play neatly acknowledges any preconceptions of educational plays in its opening scene as Chris Hall, playing the part of Zane himself, announces to a trio of bored teenagers that he wants to talk about homophobia.
The emotional climax hits halfway through with an uncompromising short film about the death of gay student Matthew Shepard. Despite the shocking nature of the video, the rest of the play's tone is accessible and optimistic. The play's second half concludes with uplifting anecdotes about young LGBT people being celebrated by their families and peers, before closing with footage from Manchester's Pride parade.
OUTLOUD offers strong performances from its four cast members; Erin Shanagher, Zoe Iqbal, Steve Myott and Chris Michael Hall.
One unexpected result of the play is that the actors are often approached by LGBT students after performances.
"After the first performance I was approached by a student who wanted to thank us for bringing the play to her school," says Director Adam Zane. "She said that she was a lesbian and couldn't tell anyone in the school. She said that she was pleased with the audience's reaction to the play and that she felt more able to confront homophobia after seeing the play. This was a young person who felt empowered, which is exactly what we were hoping for".
At Ewing School, an after-show workshop led to over 95% of the secondary school voting for a zero-tolerance policy on homophobia and racism in their school. The Head-teacher then helped lead a discussion on how to implement real change and promised to work with the governors to develop further guidance regarding homophobia to their school's policy.
There is still a long way to go...we have witnessed and heard a lot of homophobia in Manchester schools, but have also seen a lot of young people wanting to support this initiative and find ways to end discrimination in their schools.
"There is a line in the play where someone says "I don't want this to be something where we talk about it for a week and then nothing happens.... What is the next step?" and I think that's the key here - What is the next step? "Adam Zane
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