Tuesday, 19 April 2011
Roundhouse tells teenagers' stories An arts project inspired by vulnerable teenagers is showing at the Roundhouse in London
A 13-year-old with a learning disability and a 16-year-old victim of bullying are among the vulnerable teenagers who have inspired an arts project that tackles the emotional traumas of adolescence.
Issues as diverse as bullying, sexuality, mixed-race heritage and special needs are explored in The Fat Girl Gets a Haircut and Other Stories, which opens next week at the Roundhouse, north London. The project combines theatre, animation, video and live music and is the culmination of an 18-month collaboration between the youngsters and artist and director Mark Storor.
The 11 teenagers were chosen at open auditions not for their ability to act but, as Storor stresses, "for what each of them could bring to the group".
One participant, Jacob Crossley, 13, has the autistic disorder Asperger's syndrome, and it is partly his experience that has inspired one of the show's stories, Burlesque Boy. It focuses on a teenager with a body hair aversion who fears that everyone wants to kill him and whose sexuality is ambiguous.
Crossley says of the project: "I never thought I would do something like meeting new people. It has given me more confidence and I'm quite proud of myself. I want people to enjoy the play and keep an open mind with what it's about and who's in it."
The experiences of Alexus Burke, 16, inspired both the story Daddy's Girl and the title piece. When she was younger, Alexus was bullied because of her size and wanted to style her hair to fit in with the other girls at school.
"People would call me names or touch my stomach. It hurt but I never wanted to tell my family because I thought it would worry them," says Alexus. "I didn't want that to add more pressure to the bullying. It stopped when I stopped listening to the bullies."
Alexus says she hopes those who see the show will see that problems can be overcome: "I want you to see this as something you can relate to, to go out feeling you're not alone and will break free from your problems."
The group discussed the show's title and concluded that essentially, there is "a fat girl" – in other words, anyone who has ever felt isolated – inside everyone.
Storor, whose previous works have involved similar community-based collaboration, hopes the audience will recognise the show's authenticity. He adds that the project should also challenge some preconceptions about young people and demonstrate how creative they can be: "We can have faith in our young people; the majority are thoughtful philosophical people who care passionately about many things. We should seek to encourage and nurture, rather than demonise them."
• The Fat Girl Gets a Haircut and Other Stories is at the Roundhouse, London, 26 April-7 May.
Roundhouse tells teenagers' stories http://t.co/8XYmAKi via @guardian
Posted by Irishgreeneyes at 16:29