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Cyber bullying inspires West End production

Anna Ledwich will direct Cookies, a play inspired by real life experiences of cyber bullying

Posted by Hannah Vickers | July 14, 2017 | E-safety

The Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust, in partnership with the Pureland Foundation and children’s charity Kidscape, presents the world premiere of Emily Jenkins’ pioneering new play Cookies for two performances only at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 29th October 2017.

In a world of gaming, vlogging, instant messaging and streaming, the online and offline worlds of four teenagers collide when each are exposed to cyber bullying and a darker side to their digital lives. 

Inspired by the online experiences of 120 students, Cookies by Fringe First Award winner Emily Jenkins, will take us on a digital journey that questions the effects and consequences of cyber bullying, and other sinister sides to the internet.  

Anna Ledwich, 2015 Olivier Award nominee for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate theatre, directs the play

Cookies has been commissioned and developed for The Cyberscene Project; an inspirational theatre initiative created by The Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust in partnership with Kidscape and funded by Pureland Foundation. The project aims to use theatre to support the health and wellbeing of young people affected by cyber bullying and to raise awareness of not only the dangers of being online, but also the positives too. 

In October 2016, the Cyberscene team went into four London-based further education colleges and began scripting the play through a series of theatre based workshops. More than 100 young students worked alongside theatre professionals to share their intimate experiences of being online; to learn from each other and to be part of an initiative which aims to address the impact of cyber bullying and the wider digital realm. The final production will feature 25 of the original 100 students as an ensemble alongside a cast of established actors who will be announced at a later date. 

This play has come directly from what young people shared with me about their daily online lives; and their extraordinary and terrifying online experiences... This is not my story. It’s theirs - Emily Jenkins, writer of Cookies

Speaking about the play, Emily Jenkins said, “For those who have grown up with the internet, it has become almost as fundamental to daily life - as elemental as oxygen. We are still discovering the rules and intricacies of existing within this world; yet it is young people themselves who are most aware of the difference it makes.

"This play has come directly from what young people shared with me about their daily online lives; and their extraordinary and terrifying online experiences. Before we tell them what they should do or how they should behave we need to listen to what they have to say. This is not my story. It’s theirs.” 

Playwright Emily Jenkins says that young people are most aware of the difference the internet makes

The performance taking place at the Theatre Royal Haymarket is the first landmark in the project’s legacy. Blayne George, Programme Director at Masterclass commented; 

“This project doesn’t end on 29th October; on the contrary that’s where it begins. Along with this important new play, we will be collating our research into a free resource pack for schools and education providers across the United Kingdom as a way of helping to raise awareness and combat the ever-growing issues of cyber bullying and digital security.”

It's vital that as adults seeking to support children with bullying issues we strive to understand their lives and the situations they face - Lauren Seager-Smith, CEO of children’s charity Kidscape

In addition to directly supporting young people, The Cyberscene Project is also about helping adults understand the complexities of cyber bullying and engage appropriately with younger generations. Lauren Seager-Smith, CEO of children’s charity Kidscape, said;

“It's vital that as adults seeking to support children with bullying issues we strive to understand their lives and the situations they face. This enthralling performance will challenge us to engage on a much deeper level with young people, many of whom stand in the front line in the war against cyber bullying and online abuse. It tests our assumptions, urging us to explore their realities and work with them to find new solutions.” 

Cyberscene has been created under the artistic guidance of renowned British theatre director, Jonathan Church CBE. Bruno Wang, Chairman of the Pureland Foundation said;

"We all know the internet can be informative and entertaining, but it’s also a place where young people can be led to harm and, as such, we are proud to be partnering with Masterclass and Kidscape on such a poignant, relevant and necessary project”.

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