Challenging new play comes to Coleraine schools

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The Lyric Theatre, Belfast has teamed up for the first time with the Department of Justice and Hydebank Wood College with a progressive new project aimed at reducing crime and antisocial behavior.

Performances and workshops will be delivered to two Coleraine schools to encourage young people to ask for help.

The production, Blackout, tells the story a young man from a dysfunctional family whose personal circumstances and reactions to adversity lead him into drugs and alcohol. The death of his grandfather results in a path which results in charges, court and a possible custodial sentence.

The high-energy production is unique in that it is followed by a Question and Answer session with a panel of three young people from Hydebank Wood College who have first-hand experience of custody and the judicial system.

The central message of the initiative is to portray the implications of making the wrong decision, and to encourage young people to talk and speak up before it is too late. To this end, it is accompanied by a social media strategy and an Instagram account encouraging young people to discuss their issues and directing them to organisations which can help.

Blackout has been previously performed to over 3,806 young people, teachers and community leaders across 51 schools and community venues. In terms of the production’s ability to change opinions, 72% of respondents said they had changed their attitude towards young people and crime, and 79% of respondents said they are more aware of the consequences of taking drugs and alcohol.

This is the first time Department of Justice and the Lyric Theatre have worked together and the relationship with the Policing and Community Safety Partnerships has enabled the Lyric to target areas where the initiative should be delivered.

Anthony Harbinson from Department of Justice said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Lyric Theatre with their Blackout Production. It helps the Department of Justice, through our partners, to make Northern Ireland a safer place by reaching young people, and making them aware of the impact of their life choices.”

The play’s director and Head of Creative Learning at the Lyric, Philip Crawford, commented: “Having got to know various Hydebank Wood College students, we wanted to use our theatre-making skills to help them tell their story to other young people, in the hope of persuading them to make better life choices. The support from the Department of Justice means we can reach more young people across a wider geographical spread than before and we’re delighted to be working with them.”

Ciaran McAuley, Chief Operating Officer at the Lyric Theatre commented: “The collaboration has brought great benefits to the development of the initiative. Working in partnership with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Prison Service and the Probation Board Northern Ireland has enabled us to target the tour in order to reach those young people most at risk.”

The play comes to North Coast Integrated College and Coleraine College on November 27.