In October 2016 I sat down at the table with Rachael. We were racking our brains for a show concept for Vamos Young People’s Theatre. With a group aged between 9 and 15 we wanted to challenge them, to create theatre that also made a comment on contemporary social issues much like Vamos’s professional shows. Then it came to us - why not give VYPT the concept of our next professional touring production, A Brave Face – exploring Post-Traumatic Stress in the military, an unseen and often unrecognised injury of war.
It felt a bit daunting at first. I asked myself several times whether or not it was appropriate for me to sit down with a group of young children, some still in primary school, and discuss war and mental health. Of course they immediately dispelled all my doubts; they were engaged, enthused and inquisitive. News reports were read and shared, our own understandings of mental health discussed and Rachael joined us several times to share her research with us. The young people devised scenes based on Rachael's and their own research and they created their own short performance of A Brave Face. Performing not once, but twice on the 21st June - the hottest day in June since 1970-something - to an audience of school children from a local high school and then to an open audience in the evening, VYPT could not have made me any prouder. They performed with professionalism and integrity for the emotionally intelligent subject matter.
The youth of today are growing up alongside war and terrorism. Our military fights for the future of our young people, who in turn will be the generation who are responsible for the care of those military when they leave service in years to come. Aside from war, our young people are growing up in a world where they are measured by statistics, governed by politics and influenced by unrealistic realities through Social Media. Now more than ever we have a duty to inform young people, to show them that mental health is important, it matters and it shouldn’t be taboo or embarrassing. We wanted to give VYPT a chance to understand and in turn champion the awareness of mental health and Post Traumatic Stress. I hope that when they get to see the professional production of A Brave Face, which is touring from Spring 2018, they will feel an ownership and pride, not just for the production, but for all it stands for.
Photo: Andy Moore