Potent mix of football and wine

30th May 2003 at 01:00
West Lothian Youth Theatre's latest production for schools further enhances its established reputation as a godsend for personal and social education programmers.

Currently on tour in Lothian schools, Buckied, a faux tribute to the fortified wine, focuses not simply on the perils of drink but more usefully and effectively on choices and how young people come to make them.

A carefully prepared script, that was devised by theatre director Scott Johnston after consultation with teenagers and which reflects not just their language but also its rhythms and cadences, hooks PSE classes within moments of the start. The company's familiar style, combining drama with group discussion and opportunities for the audience to control the direction of the plot, also works extremely well with S2 and S3 audiences.

In the play we meet Tam, an S3 football star, on the eve of a big semi-final game. The coach entrusts his striker's wellbeing to his best pal, Malky, "the Toast Monster". Unfortunately, Malky's Friday night plans involve Big Davie's party and a huge carry-out, paid for in part by pound;20 from Tam's trusting ma.

Tam just wants to do his best for the team and to convert his longstanding friendship with Kirsty into something more romantic. However, some bad choices are made and Tam ends up being grounded, missing the match, and coping with a giant hangover fuelled as much by guilt as alcohol.

The audience has a chance to reflect on Tam's choices, to discuss the characters with the actors and to offer suggestions for a successful resolution to Tam's problems: how to end the grounding and regain his ma's trust, how to build bridges with Kirsty after his drunken insults and whether or not he wants to resume his friendship with Malky.

As with all the best drama, Buckied engages its audience and makes us think. There was palpable shock among the pupils when they realised Tam's party indiscretions meant he would not play in the match.

It should also be mentioned that the rather po-faced and ineffectual, baldy-heided PSE teacher gives some of us pause for thought!

The facilitators and actors relate well to their audience and generate a lot of discussion and reaction. Above all, there is the perfect alliance for a PSE setting of humour, warmth and relevance.

Once again, Mr Johnston's challenging production makes the point that strong messages are sent successfully when we involve pupils, rather than lecture them.

Sean McPartlin is assistant head at St Margaret's Academy, Livingston

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