6 Jan 2016 / Laura Enfield, Features Writer / lily_laura
Revenge porn, online bullying and cyber crime are all issues young people are faced with these days. But with so much of the online world hidden from view and the parameters of technology constantly shifting how do we equip them to deal with these problems?
Playwright and founder of Theatre is Real Life Productions Alan Spence hopes his new production My Name is Tom will help to open up a discussion between the generations about how the internet effects our lives. It will be performed for four nights at the Dudgale Centre next week starring a cast of nine-actors from across London including 13-year-old Holly Butcher from Enfield Community School.
“Young people say sexting is almost normal these days,” reveals the former British Steel worker who moved from Middlesborough to north London in the 1980s to study history and drama at Middlesex Polytechnic. “I was on a train coming home recently and some teenage girls got on and got out their phones and one said ‘oh look he’s got it out again’. They just seemed oblivious to me being there and were in their own mobile phone world.
As a governor of Face Front Inclusive Theatre, Alan was first inspired to look at online issues by the company’s SEX FM, an interactive forum production which has been touring schools for more than 15 years. “Then in 2009 I saw an article about sexting and realised that teenage relationships were perhaps about to go to a much darker place and of course since then it has all gone complete out of hand.”
After drafting the play, which revolves around what happens when young couple Paris and Darnell are horribly exposed online, the former teacher started working with schools such as St Anne’s Catholic High School in Palmers Green to develop the themes.
“They were concerned about revenge porn and young people’s need for gratification online and how the more people you are friends with the better person you are and the lyrics of rap music and popstars making money out of young people and what sort of moral attitudes they are giving to young people and even bullies needing TLC because they have been damaged. So it’s a many layered and textured problem, “says Alan who lives in Bush Hill Park.
The play also explores how the adults are affected by the young people’s actions and he believes it will spark conversation. The production has been given a grant from the Enfield Priorities Fund so it can be filmed and shown in schools and Alan has set up a Crowdfunding appeal to help create an education pack to go alongside it. He hopes it will help people deal with some of the issues faced online.
“In our last meeting, despite the girls I spoke to being very confident and articulate and well-cared for at home and school they told me the overall atmosphere online was one of a sense of bullying and that they could do nothing about it,” he says. “And that is very worrying.”