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New stage for drama

A theatrical drugs awareness project is keeping up with the times, both socially and now technologically, Brian Hayward reports

Fablevision Theatre Company has won campaign medals in the war to combat drug abuse among Glasgow's schoolchildren, mostly with I Don't Want To Be Like That, its educational drama for Primary 6 and P7 classes. Regularly updated since its premi re in 1994 to keep pace with the changes in the substances abused, medical advice and social education, IDW (as the company knows it) continues to feature Julie and Bob as an everygirl and everyboy, living through the tempting situations and highlighting crucial decision-taking moments.

Now, seven years into the programme, Fablevision has transferred the play and teaching package to an interactive website: www.fablevision.orgidw.

The gothic Glasgow City Chambers' banqueting hall made a strange setting for the screen launch of such technical wizardry, though Provost Alex Mosson was confidently on home ground, praising Fablevision for its innovative use of the Internet in the "crucial business of making sure Glasgow children get the message".

The commitment was echoed by primary education adviser Kathleen Miller, who praised the programme for "encouraging children to explore their own needs and aspirations, so vitally important for life".

Dave Mason, Fablevision's education officer, guided the audience around the site. The whole play is there, in what is one of the longest animations to be found on the web, but it is transformed from the school hall version.

Much of the appeal of the original lies in the chameleon-like way the two actors play all the parts, miming all the cigarettes, drinks, drugs and everyday objects. That theatricality is replaced in the web version by detailed literalism that repays careful watching. The small town backdrop changes as the five years of the narrative go by, the cinema becoming a bingo hall and then a night club; Julie and Bob visibly age and change.

Gerry McHugh's animation exploits the medium, producing the songs in the manner of pop videos and using surreal imagery to take the viewer through the drug trip.

Every bit as impressive is the educational package, which keeps the substance of the original and presents it in a user-friendly manner. The on-screen menu allows teachers to switch easily from the synopsis and lesson aims of each scene to fully-developed lesson plans, with the facility to switch back to the animation at any point.

Fablevision has always prided itself on its responsiveness to teachers'

needs. Now interaction between the company and teachers will be at the click of a mouse, and it is hoping that feedback from the animation and teaching package will in time expand the on-line project from being a teachers' website to an address that also includes children's activities.

Meanwhile, Fablevision's secondary level drug awareness project, Last Night, is touring North Lanarkshire and plans to visit the Highlands and Western Isles.

Fablevision, tel 0141 425 2020www.fablevision.org

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