Teenagers in Portsmouth gave the audience plenty of food for thought as they put on a production about the consequences of criminal behaviour as part of an innovative new project created by The Southern Co-operative in partnership with the New Theatre Royal and youth organisations Catch22, Wessex Restorative Justice, Motiv8 and Respect Programme.
A group of 20 teenagers, ranging in age from 14-19, impressed an audience at the New Theatre Royal with their creative acting and singing interpretations of shop vandalism, theft and buying booze under-age.
Chief Executive of The Southern Co-operative, Mark Smith said: ‘These are very important issues in our society that The Southern Co-operative, as a responsible retailer, is keen to play an active part in combating. Whilst we of course rigorously apply the law in store and routinely promote the ‘Think 25’ message to our colleagues and customers, projects such as this give us an additional and unique opportunity to engage with local young people to promote responsible behaviour in a way that is interesting and thought-provoking.’
The performance was the climax of a 6 week long project involving drama and dance workshops which aimed to engage young people in a positive activity, to promote the arts and to encourage people to think about the consequences of their actions. The participants also earned an Arts Award through building a portfolio of the new skills they had learnt.
Kiri Grant, 24, who directed the play, said: ‘The children were absolutely brilliant and I think they got their message across really well.
‘They all know how easy it is for teenagers to be peer-pressured into doing silly things that can end up ruining their lives as well as the victims.
‘A shop assistant who sells alcohol to a child who is under-age can lose their job, which will affect their family – it’s a vicious circle.’
Jessica Nevett, from The Southern Co-operative, who created the project, said: ‘It has been great to see young people really engaging with this difficult subject matter with such enthusiasm.
‘Our colleagues are often subjected to verbal abuse and vandalism from various parts of society which is naturally very distressing for them, and it is good that young people try to understand their side of things and to think about how other people may feel.’
Daisy (14) who took part in the project said: ‘It makes you think again, that you shouldn’t steal otherwise you’re affecting other people and their families.’
Another participant, Connor (17), said: Everything you do will have a knock on affect, something else will happen because of what you do. When we were younger we got into a bit of trouble but we realise what that is doing to us.’
‘Brilliant show!’ said Penny Mordaunt MP, ‘This is a really proactive, important thing that [The Southern Co-operative] are doing, to tackle retail crime… and really support the communities where they are based so ‘good on you!’’
After seeing the show the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cheryl Buggy commented ‘I think for them it must have been a really challenging experience but they must feel extremely exhilarated and they have left they audience inspired’
Julian Wadsworth MBE, Respect Programme Manager said of the performance: ‘I’m not usually lost for words working with young people and seeing people develop but tonight’s performance across all the board of young people has absolutely blown me away.’
Caroline Sharman of the New Theatre Royal said: ‘Fabulous opportunity to be working with The Southern Co-operative giving opportunities to these young people, and great that we’ve hosted it. More please!’
Gary Palmer from Motiv8 South summed it up: ‘The partnership has been an utter success, I’m really proud of all the young people. I really hope there’s some longevity with this and the big question is – where are we going to go next?!’