INTERVIEW: Protest | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Ali Wright, Art Direction by Studio Doug

A new play is coming to the Northern Stage, and it’s one that’s ready to make its voice heard. Protest tells the story of three school friends and their personal plights against the injustices they see around them.

“When I was asked to write a play for children as part of my Accelerator Award from Imaginate, I knew I wanted to write a play for children in those transition years from primary to secondary, and also a play that would engage their adults,” explains Protest creator Hannah Lavery. “In talking and working with young people from this age group, I was struck by their passion for social justice and their anxiety around the climate emergency and the impact upon their future. The play is really therefore a response to those conversations, and I hope a provocation to us all to find ways to support young people.”

Our protagonists, Alice, Jade and Chloe, all fall into that transitional age group Lavery has written for – an age in which many of us start to open our eyes to the less-than-perfect aspects of our lives, and an age where some may realise they don’t see themselves in media as much as they perhaps should.

This is a play about three young girls and it was clear to me that girls still feel that they’re not the main character in the stories that are being told to them

“This is a play about three young girls and it was clear to me that girls still feel that they’re not the main character in the stories that are being told to them, so I wanted to make sure that they were the leads in this play and that along with their grandmothers, it was these three girls that brought their community together.”

Protest places its central characters at the centre of battles against injustices we are all too familiar with as a society nowadays: sexism, racism, and environmentalism. “I think when it came to the specific injustices or causes, I was inspired by not only my personal experiences and the experiences of my children but the wider political and social conversations we have been having in recent years. It is a play written as we were coming out of lockdown, and so many of the political and grassroots movements that gained traction through those years, Black Lives Matter and the activism around the Climate Emergency, I had observed my own small community responding to and discussing. I thought it was very powerful how small communities came together to show solidarity and to make change, and I was inspired by that.” Indeed, instead of shying away from difficult subjects and conversations, Lavery seeks to create inclusivity in the discourse which surrounded her by opening it up to the next generation of activists.

Rather than feeding into any feelings of overwhelm or hopelessness, Lavery’s play acts as a parable, a how-to for starting to right humanity’s wrongs: “Protest! is about hope, hope in each other and in the power of our communities. It is a protest against those who wish to divide us and take away our agency. It is also about how we can come together across the generations to stand up for each other and the world we all share.”

“I would love audiences to be inspired to show solidarity to those who are excluded. To show concern for our planet. To find ways to come together in community and friendship. To be more kind.”

Protest comes to Northern Stage, Newcastle from Thursday 27th April-Saturday 6th May

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