The voices and experiences of young people were heard in a strong performance in Cookies performed on Sunday at the Royal Haymarket Theatre.

Cookies intertwines three stories exploring the key issues of cyberbullying in today’s complex digital world. The play is the culmination of one year’s work of the Cyberscene workshops involving 120 students from four colleges across London. The play was delivered with pace and passion from start to finish. It was evident that the young people enjoyed having their voices heard on a West End stage, if only for a day.

Professional actors alongside 25 of the workshop participants delivered a thought-provoking 80 minute production.

Cyberscene, created by the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust in partnership with the Pureland Foundation and children’s charity Kidscape, provided a space for those who have been impacted by cyber bullying to share their experiences through their workshops, promoting the wellbeing of participants, capturing voices and bringing young people together.

Written by Emily Jenkins, winner of the Fringe First award for her play Rainbow and directed by Olivier Award nominee Anna Ledwich, the integrity of the work is evident as the voices of the young people are weaved into the stories, thus captivating the audience throughout.

Cookies communicated the situations young people unintentionally find themselves in, resulting in an overwhelming and complex mess. The three stories detail the experiences of Sosa, Eva and Salena, who find themselves dealing with the fallout of sexting, cyber bullying and forming close relationships with strangers online. The themes explored covered, the abuse and shame from sexting, where photos never intended for public viewing are shared: the impact of grooming, by the exploitation of mutual interests is enhanced in a secretive online world: the relentless pestering after being filmed by onlookers in a public situation causes distress.

The play demonstrated not only the impact on individuals but on friendships, community and family. It was a heartfelt and emotional play, sharing not only facts but feelings; stomach tensions, sickness and anxiety. The way in which the stories explored how we can be part of changing someone’s path through kindness, forgiveness and empathy, was heartwarming. Lily Allen, one of the Ambassadors of the project, made a reference to this anti-cyber bullying agenda: “I believe that allowing them to tell their stories and share them so widely through the play Cookies will equip us all with the tools to combat the adverse effects of cyber bullying head-on.”

Schools will have the opportunity to the show the film of the production to coincide with anti-bullying week from 13th -17th November 2017. A comprehensive resource pack will also be available to teachers to support discussions and explore with young people how we can all combat bullying and promote safety online. The theme this year for anti-bullying week is “All equal all different”.

Let’s hope there will be more opportunities for this play to be seen by more people to generate discussion, awareness and encourage victims to seek help and to know that they are not alone.
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