Political Children Get Ready To Have Their Say
When the Safe Schools Program was cancelled in NSW, LGBTQI families were stunned. Anti-homophobia, bullying and hate speech had reduced significantly in schools where this program was running. Rainbow kids finally were in a position where they were being taught about same-sex safe sex practises, and other students were being educated about sexual and gender diversity. The program was working…. and then it was over.
Political Children is the brain child of Director, devisor, co-creator and writer Felicity Nicol. It explores the Safe Schools Program and the events leading up to its cancellation in a piece of powerful verbatim theatre using the young performers from the Inner West Councils Spark Youth Theatre Company.
Theatre Now sits down with Felicity and the several of the performers, Elodie, Sebastian, Lola, Emma, Jan and Theo to discuss Spark Youth Theatre Company, their upcoming show and what the play, ‘Political Children’ means to them.
Why do you think Spark Theatre Company is Important?
Elodie: In so many cases, kids just aren’t taken seriously. It’s become rampant in the culture of modern society to ‘hate’ on anything that kids do and say. ‘With their iphones…’
Emma: ‘And their selfies…’
Theo: ‘Dam Millennials.’
Elodie: ‘They’ve never worked hard in their life!’ I think it’s so, so important to have a platform where kids not only have freedom to speak their opinions and share their voices but also to show mutual respect. It’s not just for the development of kids. It’s for the development of society. Younger generations will effect our future society, so it’s important to listen.
Theo: Spark Youth Theatre is one of a kind. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Workshops are free and you can create your own theatre. We aren’t just given scripts and told, ‘Here, read this!’ They actually develop their own work and they do it with some of the most well trained people in Australia.
How would you describe your show ‘Political Children?’
Emma: ‘Political Children’ is about the Safe Schools Coalition. A lot of people don’t understand what that coalition was trying to do. A lot of people don’t understand that schools are not safe environments for LGBTQI youth. They don’t understand the struggles these youth go through. There is a huge lack of education on these subjects.
Elodie: It’s about giving children a voice. People who don’t usually have a platform to give political opinions are now being given a theatrical platform to say what they think. The power of ‘Political Children’ is taking words verbatim from politicians and hearing young people say them. You get this opportunity to really examine what’s being said in Australian politics without being swayed by the person or context. You can make your own opinion. It’s about education and examining your own thoughts about Australian politics.
Theo: I think the main point of ‘Political Children’ is that it subverts the idea that children don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to politics. There is a stigma that children don’t know enough to make choices and don’t know what they’re talking about. We do. We just don’t often have a platform to be able to give our opinion.
Lola: I just think its great that we are getting to share our ideas in a really hard hitting performance that people should definitely come and see.
How much input did you have in the creation of the script?
Theo: None of the ideas that are in the script came from just one person. It was a collaboration between all of us. The script says it was created by everyone of the cast members. Felicity Nicol researched and joined our ideas together.
Emma: We started with debates. Part of our audition was talking about what safe schools meant to us and I knew nothing about it. I’d never heard of it. We wanted the show to work in with spaces and with the architecture. So when we got to Customs House we looked at creating different images, using the windows, framing with the light and hearing the sounds of the city around us.
So the stories in the show. Are they your stories?
Lola: Most of them. Others come from young people like us, the internet, teachers.
Theo: The opening is nothing but our stories.The introduction of the show: ’The first time I heard the word gay,’ is pretty much verbatim what we said.
Emma: Stories from teachers, speeches from politicians, stories and experiences from the LGBTQI youth. We put it all together because we wanted to show different perspectives.
Lola: It’s a big, happy gay cake!
Elodie: Everything comes from real people.
‘Political Children’ deals with some very personal issues. What does it mean to you to be able to share your stories with the public?
Lola: It doesn’t feel that private because we are surrounded by such a safe community.
Elodie: It can be really vulnerable. It’s different for every person. I’m happy to share my story because it creates depth and intimacy and complexity. It’s the first show where what I think and say is out there for everyone to judge. But the vulnerability is also a good thing.
Emma: I’ve felt very vulnerable too but I think this show has really helped me. I was discovering myself and came into this space and met so many people. It has been great.
Theo: We get these stories from so many places: Us writing in performance, social media ect. Our stories make it personal.
So you did improvisations and personal writing. What else was involved in the collaborative process?
Elodie: We wrote skits in groups and Soap Operas.
Emma: We used resources like the ‘All Of Us ‘ booklet. We researched headlines in the news.
Theo: The section ‘Do You Know What It’s Like,’ came from a picture book the Felicity Nicol, our director and writer read to us.
Felicity: The book was called, “It’s OK To Be Different.’ I bought it for my nephew.
Based on its title, What do you think people can expect when they come to this show?
Emma: I know it sounds very serious and dramatic.When people hear the words, ‘Political Children,’ they think it’s boring speeches by politicians but when they come, they see a funny game show and a soap opera. We’ve used politicians speeches but we also have fun aspects that will involve audience members.
Theo: I’m sure some people hear the title and think it’s an oxymoron. People may think,’Awe, look at these cute, little kids playing politics.’
Emma: They underestimate us.
Elodie: I think when people hear the title they will think it’s a bunch of kids spraying their opinions and pressing their culture on everyone, expecting them to change their minds. I don’t think they’ll expect the truth of the verbatim theatre we’re creating. These words are real politicians words! The show uses real facts.
Emma: Real things that have happened.
Lola: It’s serious and it’s good that we are doing something about it.
Political Children is presented by the City Of Sydney Library in partnership with Spark Youth Theatre, an initiative of Inner west Council.
Dates: 8th, 9th, 10th of December.