Girls Like Us


Girls Like Us 
 https://vimeo.com/402241997 
 
Why is this piece important? I was a teacher in the school, a unique opportunity to conduct interviews and provide questionnaires.  The students had built a relationship with me and were therefore honest. This piece is their voice.  We as an audience see and hear their voices and are hopefully touched but also perhaps concerned.

  • would like a public audience to have a glimpse of the realities for their children in school as a point for reflection and maybe action.

  • I want students to use the performance as a platform for Q & A sessions about their feelings of identity, the unsupervised areas in school and the everyday challenges they face.  


What do I want to do with it?
I am applying for Arts Council Funding to re-rehearse the piece, develop and re-structure during the R&D. I hope to get the permission to allow the students to perform their words- offensive or not for a public performance. I want 'Girls Like Us' to be a true portrayal of girls in education in 2020.

The piece was originally performed as part of a new Festival created by my MA Cohort 2015/2016 'Contemplate Festival 'and the students performed at the John Terry Building Coventry University 12th December 2018. They performed it in school to Year 8 and 9 with Q and A sessions.

My inquiry focused on female identity in education and what affects that identity within a school environment.  As a teacher/researcher I adopted the role of a participant/ observer producing questionnaires and conducting open ended interviews in July 2017 at Bewdley School with year groups (7-10) with 5 -7 participants in each group.  These interviews were translated into physical movement and verbatim. My role was the one of Director/Writer/ Movement Director.  Each group included students with diverse academic abilities and social backgrounds.  In addition, as a theatre maker my inquiry hoped to challenge my own established modes of directing by following the Frantic Assembly model of creating movement before text and structure, whilst staying open to discoveries and developments in the process. I was also hoping from my study of applied theatre that it would be a transformative experience for the young performers involved.

I met with the performers to develop skills in movement and potential movement sequences in the Summer. I collaborated with the performers and professionals, Gemma Evetts (dancer), Reaya Sealey ('Strictly Arts' and 'Women Writes') and Kayleigh Johns (Wolverhampton University dance graduate). I collaborated with Diana Stoica (Actor, Writer) whose text beautifully wraps up the piece. This work was captured at Coventry University.

We then rehearsed once a week whilst I was teaching. We developed a close relationship during the working process that was uncommon with younger students with a teacher. As well of the themes of friendship, social media and mental health a theme emerged during the process of sexism - sexist comments from boys during unsupervised movement in the school. Some of the language was used in the performance with permission from the parents. The offensive language used on Instagram, texts and those words said from student to student was not allowed. (Refer to podcast to my for reflections on this)

The images used in the performance were to reflect the social climate the girls were living in. I also interviewed a past and current Head of Bewdley and teachers to allow the audience to hear the opinions of staff before the students were allowed their voice
.
I developed the soundtrack and worked with singers.


How it evolved -

Sections from my journal

I endeavoured to build a script that reflected a true sense of the students and how they felt. I considered in my journal that there is ‘definitely an authenticity to real words and I think I am going to have to put the text together myself... which I had only intended to do for half of the text. I didn’t realise that text could sound so false or that I would even know what sounds bad’. The verbatim also contains colloquialisms, their vocabulary, their pauses, stumbles and their age is clear. Verbatim allows the writer to consider ‘what makes one person interesting and another one dull?' There is an artistry in creating a character and selecting the words. The interviewee needed to be honest and younger people can be wonderfully open. It is their choice of vocabulary or an emotion revealed that you instinctively feel but realise they are unaware of. I chose to use the word ‘popular’ repeatedly in one section because it captured the voice of the original interviewee. It also added a sense of youth and has a comedic element, though perhaps at the expense of the interviewee. There is a responsibility to consider the feelings of the young girls interviewed, they doidot see the humour of their own situation. What to include and not linked to a central part of this research inquiry- ethics and within the school environment safeguarding. Refer to podcast.

Authorship was explored when collaborating with the students, (some who are not actually in the piece) to empower them and involve them in as much of the process as possible. Not only were they involved in the original research but they would proofread and change or edit a word that they felt was unrepresentative of their world, in the scripted piece. I also asked them to read out loud to see if my edited text functioned theatrically. We discussed questions raised by my research and further writing tasks were set in response to comments they shared. In my journal I noted that ‘Much of the content seems to be focused on the negative aspects of the girl’s life and I don’t think that school always feels like that for them.’ After the writing task I wrote ‘one of the students has confessed to a bullying incident at Primary School and a threat of rape. She consequently self harmed. There is a real confessional quality to this work- that can be therapeutic for the child involved but was also problematic for me as a teacher in the school. Do I share this information? Do I feel this is too honest for an audience?’ On reflection I did feel it was too honest and could be recognised by her parent. The event was also discussed between myself and the student and had been dealt with at the time. It was still obviously a part of her identity and she wanted me to know. I agreed with her to just use the friendship section.