All About It
Little Fish Theatre Company
Salmon Youth Centre
Bermondsey, south London
All About It sensitively explores how young people respond to unwanted sexual attention and in doing so addresses some difficult relationship issues, including underage sex and grooming, writes Mark Drinkwater.
Little Fish Theatre Company has recruited some great actors over the years. Notable among this cast was Joe Jacobs, best known as PC Billy Jackson from Holby Blue, who plays Luke, a 15-year-old boy. Addison Knight also puts in a fine performance as Luke’s twin, Leah, who is befriended by a sexual predator.
Rachael McGill’s script employs an inventive theatrical device where the twins swap bodies to give the audience a differing perspective on the drama unfolding. It’s a technique used in Mary Rodgers’ classic children’s novel, Freaky Friday. But in All About It there is a gender swap – which cleverly exposes society’s gender-stereotyped expectations and our inconsistent attitudes to male and female sexual behaviour.
Theatre-in-education (TIE) has a shaky reputation for its cringe-making morality tales. But this show worked well. In part, this is because it confronts complex issues. But it’s also McGill’s use of street vernacular that gives the show the authentic feel that many TIE shows lack. Though presumably she doesn’t have to go far to source this gritty discourse – the 381 bus to Peckham will do!
The Little Fish production at the Salmon Centre was a piscatorial coincidence. I watched the show at the fishy-sounding youth centre with an audience from the PRU. No, not City bankers as I first thought, but lively students from the new-fangled pupil referral unit. And it turned out that these young people were integral to the most dramatic aspect of the production: the post-show workshop.
I usually wince at these, but watching the young people challenging actors still in character was moving. They became passionate about injustice and aired some startlingly mature and sensible views. It was fascinating and heartening to see. Whether it had a long-lasting effect, I’ll never know. But at that moment, it showed the transformative power of live theatre.
Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London, and Community Care’s practice adviser.