Youth Drama Warns Teens About Online Dangers
Questors Youth Theatre present Chatroom
A group of Ealing teenagers are putting on a play with a powerful message for today’s online generation.
Chatroom is being staged for three nights this week (Sept 23-25) by members of The Questors Youth Theatre in Ealing.
It is set in the social world of the internet and shows the darker side of the online world, and the dangers facing vulnerable youngsters.
The impetus for this production has come very much from the young actors, who are all at local schools. They are producing the play largely by themselves.
The play, by Irish writer Enda Walsh, has an obvious appeal to the age group it describes, and is often studied in schools. It has been described as a computer-age Lord of the Flies.
The story revolves around Jim, an unhappy boy who is thinking of killing himself. The play shows what happens when he starts to discuss his plans with five other teenagers in cyberspace.
Chatroom was originally performed as part of a National Theatre project aimed at encouraging the production of new plays for young people.
The characters voice their thoughts directly to the audience, as they message each other online, anonymous in the security of their own homes.
The Questors production is being directed by 17-year-old Ellen Gould, one of the youngest people ever to direct a play at the Ealing theatre.
She describes Chatroom a dark comedy, but one that carries a message about the harm that can be done online.
“Our generation is known for its use of the internet and social networking,” she says.
“The technology provides a world for young people separate from their parents. In the wrong hands, it adds another dimension to bullying. It is harder to deal with because there is no physical contact between the bully and the victim.”
Ellen and her co-producer Remi Smith are both pupils at Drayton Manor High School. He says the production is the culmination of a year’s planning.
“We are trying to accomplish something a little different,” he says.
“Usually with youth productions, adults are in charge. But we wanted to do this ourselves, and show that we could accept the responsibility.
“It has been hard work, but we think it is going to be great.”
The director of The Questors Youth Theatre, Alex Marker, backed their initiative.
“It is one thing arranging projects for young people to participate in, but quite another when they approach me with exciting ideas of their own,” he says.
“If the idea has potential and those proposing it sound like they have the commitment to see it through to its conclusion, then I will do whatever I can to find a slot in the season and provide the wherewithal to stage it.
“When Ellen and Remi outlined their desire to stage Chatroom I was adamant that the production should have as little adult interference as possible.
“They have been involved in every aspect. This is a first for us, and for them an insight into the whole process of what it is to stage a production.”23 September