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Drugs and drama after Jo-Jo;Arts in Scotland;Theatre

THE FACE OFF. Boilerhouse Project.

You are left in no doubt that the Edinburgh Boilerhouse Theatre Company senses good times just around the corner. As one of the recipients of the Scottish Arts Council's "four-year" grants, it is already eying up ambitious, site-specific theatre in education projects for when the money comes through. For the time being, though, it is "business as usual", with a repeat production of their drugs awareness project, The Face Off.

"Business as usual", in the theatre education world, is often the begging bowl and the short tour. At a time when the youth drug culture is becoming so pervasive that the drinks industry had to invent alcopops to compete, when Looking after Jo-Jo shows the grip heroin can take in Edinburgh housing schemes, you would think that local government would be backing this TIE with enthusiasm. Instead the Boilerhouse programme gratefully acknowledges a co-production with Simpson House Drugs Counselling Service, which has a representative at every Edinburgh performance.

The money is enough to pay for two weeks in Edinburgh and, for the first time, a week for Borders, but you could wish it, or something like it, was available for every S1 and S2 in the country. Teachers are in no doubt of its value. At Trinity Academy, where I saw it, the teacher was candid:

"These actors have so much more impact than we can ever have. The classes have already had the drugs module in their social education programme, but you can see this means so much more to them."

Indeed, the "in your face" acting style rapidly melts any audience "cool". Sean Hay sets the pace as Windaes (he wears glasses), the struggling-to-achieve adolescent born in a baseball cap. As an actor, he relishes the Edinburgh dialect so exactly caught by Welsh author Nick Davies. The total commitment that Hay, and Caroline MacKechnie and Jody MacMillan, give to their characters draws the potentially sceptical audience right into the plot and, inevitably, the issues.

To help with these, the schools receive a 90-page education pack and, for the Boilerhouse visit, education co-ordinator Yonnie Fraser provides an awareness-raising introduction to the play, and a post-performance workshop that allows the audience to comment on the argument and express an attitude.

Even here, it has to be said, the irrepressible Sean Hay can leave his mark, reminding you of Eric Morecambe and Vic Reeves, even without the glasses.


Boilerhouse Theatre Company, tel: 0131-221 1677

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