A monster released from its cage

21st March 2008 at 00:00
When paedophile grooming of children on the internet was cited as a problem by the children's services in Angus, it started a close collaboration between a theatre group, educationists and children, and a good example of how theatre people can shape their work to suit schools' needs.

Danny Webster, strategic support officer for education in Angus, joined forces with Kenny Christie, cultural co-ordinator for Dundee, to sponsor the Baldy Bane theatre company in a piece of theatre-in-education for all S1 classes in their authorities.

Baldy Bane created the image of Cyberspyder, an anonymous man locked in a cage fastened with four bolts. At the same time, this powerfully acted drama follows the lives of a group of east-coast children of various ages, with differing kinds of family and peer pressures calibrating their lives somewhere between difficult and impossible.

In a sub-plot, one of the boys, a dancer, is being cyberbullied with texted comments and circulated images. Apparently helpless against these anonymous enemies, he becomes alienated from his friends and his art form, until advised to seek help. His story, at least, ends positively.

Not like that of Emma, who quarrels with her best friend and finds comfort in a chatroom with "Lucy", the so-understanding person who has so much in common with her. In the natural progression of their relationship, and for what seem very good reasons, Emma gives Lucy her mobile number, email address, postal address and, finally, a place and time to meet.

As each piece of information is divulged, a bolt is drawn back on the cage door and the man, "Lucy's father", apparently amiable and protective, is released, with catastrophic consequences for Emma.

The company had scarcely been working on this idea for a week before they opened their Glasgow rehearsal room to their two sponsors and a group of S2 and S4 pupils, with headteacher Melvyn Lynch, from Forfar Academy. They made many helpful observations, often about the language. They surprised everyone by deeming excessive what had seemed like only moderate swearing. Words such as "dude" and "cool" they thought best avoided, and they were quick on the differences between Glasgow and Angus, such as "polis" for police. Although "paedo" is a common playground term of abuse, it still carries its dictionary meaning.

Baldy Bane, T: 0141 632 0193.

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