Our Voice: Bullying at the Sweet Shop

Our Voice: Bullying at the Sweet Shop

Sarah Fullagar, who plays the lead role Carly in our production of Repeat After Me, gives us an observant blog around bullying.  As she explores the position of the bully by looking back at her own character exploration, one cannot help but see the bully in a different, vulnerable light.  This blog is truly insightful. May we all take something from this…

I was at work earlier this week (at my significantly less exciting job in a sweet shop) and overheard this conversation from a group of young teenage girls…

‘God I hate her.’

‘Yeh, like why does she even have any friends?’

‘They probs hate her really..’

‘It’s her own fault though’


‘Like, if she wasn’t such a bitch’

‘Yeh she’s such a bully.’

I don’t know these girls, I don’t know the girl they were speaking about, and am therefore not able to pass judgement on her actions. But I will say this; whilst I’m not denying that kids can be incredibly mean to each other, and make each other’s lives miserable, I don’t believe people are born nasty.

The above conversation could well have been about Carly, the character I play in Repeat After Me.  She’s the girl who seems to have it all; the queen bee who swans around school doing as she pleases, just managing to stay on the right side of her teachers, and manipulating everyone around her.

Or should I say bullying.

Carly is subtle, she’s clever enough (most of the time) to know how to cover her back. She turns people against each other whilst maintaining her own popularity. She’ll even trick you into believing she’s actually being a good friend. There’s something oddly compelling about her that makes her peers continue to associate with her despite knowing how sly she can be.

I know, doesn’t she sound a treat.

I’m going to defer from taking the predictable route with this blog. I could sit here and write about all the reasons she is a nasty piece of work, how she has brought difficulty and conflict into the lives of many of her peers… but let’s be honest- we probably all know a ‘Carly’, and whether it’s from our own days at school, or from stories we’ve heard from people still in education, we all know how nasty people can be. I’m not about to defend her either, but I do want to talk about the reasons which could have contributed to her behaviour.

Despite Carly’s perfectly made up face, immaculate hair and bubbly yet feisty exterior,what lies beneath is in fact a painfully self-conscious girl. We’ve all had days where we’ve put on that extra bit of make-up to make us feel more confident, or overcompensated with energy when we’ve felt uncomfortable or awkward.  Thinking back to times in my own life, I remember all too well the effort it took to appear confident and indeed how hard it was feeling unable to talk about what was troubling me. During rehearsals for this piece I spent a lot of time thinking about Carly’s back story; previously a victim of bullying herself, she has been left feeling incredibly insecure about herself and her body. In short she feels she is not good enough, thus her behaviour comes from a warped attempt at self-preservation.

‘If I’m the hard one, if I show people they can’t mess with me, then I’ll be safer’. As distorted as it may seem, I’m sure we can all understand something of that misjudged logic.

Of course there is no ‘stereotypical’ bully. They are impossible to spot and, with the help of the technology crazed world we live in, can be hard to keep track of. There is no doubt that too many children are victims of bullying. Social orders, cliques, gangs and popularity ranks all have a part to play, no child wants to feel intimidated or weak, and for some the act of knocking down others provides, I’m sure, a temporary (yet somewhat transparent) ego boost.

The message of Repeat After Me is clear- we can’t keep falling into the trap of repeating negative and bullying behaviour we’ve experienced before. For anything to change we need to break the cyclic pattern that so many youngsters seem trapped in.

We can’t condone this behaviour, or any sort of bullying, but we can try to understand it. People know that bullying is wrong, and yet it is still a significant problem within educational institutions. From our two days of performing this piece and leading the accompanying workshops at Merchant’s Academy back in November it became clear to me that children are aware that bullies are often unhappy, and that many of them will have very low self esteem. It’s one thing to say this, and continue to point the finger, but I strongly feel that in addition to discipline as punishment for their behaviour many of these children need support- maybe as much as the people they bully.

Had Carly known who to turn to when she was being bullied, perhaps she wouldn’t have gone on to behave in the way she did. If she had only felt able to speak to someone she trusted she may have mended her self-esteem and not felt the need to ‘protect’ herself in the same way. If she may have known what to do to stop the bullies her story might have followed a different path.

My hope is that through sharing this piece with young people we can open their eyes to how things could be different. Yes, of course we need to fight to put a stop to bullying, but we also need to think about supporting those who are bullying attempt to deal with their own issues. By showing young people what they can do to improve the situation if they find themselves or others in it we have a real chance of changing the outcome.

Any Questions?

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Useful Links

Repeat After Me

My Child is the Bully: Tips for Parents