Part Two of Lee Anderson’s chat with Felicity Nicol and the cast of Political Children
Felicity Nicol is a woman on a mission. She believes in the power of young people. She believes in creating a safe, theatrical platform for LGBTQI youth who are interested in the arts and want to explore the creative process. The one time Artistic Director of Spark Youth Theatre Company and NIDA trained director sat down with Theatre Now to briefly talk about her exciting work ‘Political Children’ and its Journey from Ashfield’s Inner West Council to its partnership with The City Of Sydney Library at Customs House.
As the previous Artistic Director of Spark Youth Theatre Company and as the director and Co-creator of this show, Why did you choose to work with young people on this subject in particular?
Felicity: Because they don’t get a say. I didn’t even know about The Safe Schools program until I heard about it in the media. What I heard was that there was a program out there that was teaching people that it was ok to be a pedophile. That didn’t sound right so I did a little bit of research and realised that the Safe Schools Program was that aimed at educating people about queerness and about the fact that if you are questioning your sexuality or gender identity that that’s ok. Being a queer person myself and growing up in an environment where that was not ok, a program like this could have helped me. It could have helped a lot of people. Quite frankly, this is a government that has blood on their hands because they caved into a lot of conservative pressure.
I wanted to do this show because A) I thought what was happening was really wrong, B) if I’m not making something that has something to say then, why the fuck am I making it? And C) Young people are some of the smartest and most exciting, creatives I know and I have the lovely privilege of working with them.
I thought, why not do this! In order to have impact, I needed to use words that people had actually said or written. So here we are!
Putting this together was quite an arduous task for you. You researched these actors stories, looked at social media. What perimeters did you give yourself so you knew where to ‘cut?’ How did you ‘shape’ this journey?
Felicity: This was a really tricky thing because everything that everyone said was valid. Everyone’s opinions were valid. It was really difficult to read everything. I had to read through reports, all the Hansard transcripts, troll through Beyond Blue and Reach Out websites and Face Book websites and groups to find material that represented a lot of different voices in our society. That was personally difficult. Figuring out what was ok to bring into a rehearsal room where I was working with young people who may or may not identify as part of the community but clearly care about this issue was also a point of concern. You also need to be aware, when working with young people, that some may or may not have mental health issues themselves. All of that presented really, really big questions for me because I have a Duty Of Care toward any young person and I take that very, very seriously.
I view the young people I work with as colleagues. There’s a fine line between babying them and giving them too much. Considering when it came down to cutting, we are literally on draft 16, fresh from the printers…
(Rounds of applause!)
I had to choose what made the most sense dramatically, what still felt like a reflection of the young peoples voices I was working with and what I thought would continue the conversation about safe schools. What would make an audience walk away wanting to talk about this? Not just that day but next week and the week after… and next year. For me this piece is all about having these conversations stay because until Safe Schools or a program similarly like it is reinstated, the government will continue to be looking at self harm statistics in queer communities that will rise and rise.
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.