Me+You=4Eva adapted for a Residential Special School in the South West

This week saw a one off return visit of Me+You=4eva, which toured to a residential special school that caters for all boys. Distinctive from other tour dates we have been on, Sarah discusses how this visit required a more specific angle on the story bringing the character Joe further into the foreground.

To be honest, I’ve lost count of the number of different versions of Me+You=4Eva that have been performed to different schools now. The show has developed over the past couple of yours, some versions more obviously than others, but our latest visit was perhaps the most distinctive version yet.

During rehearsals for this piece Unique Voice have often explored what the character Joe’s background might be. Undoubtedly the differences for this latest performance were added to ensure the piece met the boys needs; the character Joe, who controls his girlfriend Jess, was essentially vocalising the fact that this was learnt behaviour -more specifically from his Dad.

The boys we worked with have all experienced severe emotional trauma. Some come from domestic violence backgrounds, others tell a different story, but something that joins them all is a fear of turning out like their fathers. There are two things that I want to say about this alone, firstly I can’t imagine the intense fear and shame that this feeling must bring to them. To feel that such a repeat in behaviour and character is inevitable must leave them confused, scared and angry. But on the other side of that, if any of us strongly expect something to happen, we run the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy- allowing our expectations to lead a situation more strongly in a certain direction.

This is why it was crucial for us to pass a very particular message on to this group of boys, that each of us can chose our own behavioural path, that events we have experienced do not need to dictate the way we behave in the future, and that with the right guidance, help and emotional support we can learn to put those memories into a safe and comfortable space, which in turn can allow us to move on with our lives and make of them what we want to.

Within the workshop part of the visit, a new activity was added in which asked the boys to imagine Joe years down the line and think about what his life might be like. They were asked to think about whether he would have changed, if he might have another girlfriend, what his job might be. Overwhelmingly, every group portrayed Joe in a positive light; working for a computer game company, socialising with friends, winning a medal at the Olympics, dealing brilliantly with stressful situations and even helping others to overcome their controlling behaviour. The message seemed to read loud and clear- if you want to, you can change your behaviour and indeed your future.

The boys responded really well to the activities we set them, and indeed to the performance. It became clear very early on that they really responded to being able to relate their thoughts back onto one of the characters actions or a particular way one of the characters in the play felt. Even those who usually struggle to articulate their feelings were confidently identifying particular scenes and comfortably highlighting the emotions behind it. Many of them really pushed themselves to participate in the workshop, offering to share back their work to the rest of the group, and throwing themselves fully into the session.

It was a huge privilege to be able to work with these boys, and I will be keeping my fingers firmly crossed that Unique Voice are able to revisit this school in the not too distant future!

Any Questions?

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