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West End show Cookies to be released on film to help teachers tackle cyber bullying!

Over the past 10 years or so, the term cyber bullying has become rapidly commonplace. If you ask any person, from young to old, chances are they’ll have some sort of awareness of what cyber bullying is. In spite of this, there is a persistent lack of awareness of what cyber bullying really means: what it means for bullying to take place on a platform that distances it’s users from immediate consequences and encourages anonymity.

Cookies play photo

There is also a lacking recognition of how prevalent cyber bullying is. According to a report conducted by the University of Buckingham and Sir John Cass’s Foundation, 53% of teenagers have stated that their photograph has been posted online to embarrass them, yet only 22.1% of parents knew of this happening to their child.

Alarmingly, it’s not uncommon for young people to overlook online harassment or bullying as harmless banter. Cookies cast member Makir Ahmed describes how ‘it doesn’t happen how you think. It’s never “give me your lunch money dude”, but much more subtle, where someone could brush it off as calling it banter.’

Cookies Film Logo

In October 2016, the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust, alongside Kidscape and the Pureland Foundation, decided to tackle the stigma and unawareness of cyber bullying through a series of theatre-based workshops for young people.

In a supportive environment, over 100 young students worked alongside theatre professionals to share their intimate experiences of being online; to learn from each other and to be part of an empowering initiative which aims to address the impact of cyber bullying and the wider digital realm.

Cookies play photo

It is through hearing the voices of these young students that Emily Jenkins was able to conceive Cookies, a bold, new play which directly addresses some of the issues brought up in the workshops through live performance. As well as a professional cast of 7, the final production featured 25 of the original 100 students as an ensemble. The show premiered for two performances only on the 29th of October 2017, however a filmed version will be available for free from the beginning of Anti-Bullying Week 2017.

The aim of Cookies is two-fold. As student cast member Natalia Szymaniak describes, the project has allowed the students to ‘express and share’ their experiences, while learning about them ‘at the same time’. With the help of theatre professionals, Cookies provided a platform for young people to develop their understandings of the online world and to spread this awareness to the wider community and other young people.

Shiri Fileman, another student cast member hopes that audiences of Cookies at the Theatre Royal Haymarket took away ‘a much deeper understanding of what cyber bullying is, what it can do to people, but also how you can partake in it without even noticing’.

Cookies play photo

Cookies creative producer Rhiannon Newman-Brown comments, ‘if we could get young people to be much more alert and have much more social responsibility for each other, then I think that’s how to solve the problem.’ By staging the possible consequences of cyber bullying, Cookies has the potential to lead the way in helping young people to proactively tackle the negative side effects of the online world.

However, Cookies isn’t just a platform to be used by young people independently, but has been crafted to be used by schools as a creative device to nurture engaging and important conversations with students from Key Stage 4 and 5. Alongside the filmed version of the play, teachers can access free PSHE and Drama resource packs, with a range of Cookies related activities that align with the PSHE Association and AQA A-level and GSCE Drama.

This blog was written by Georgie Anderson from Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust.

The filmed version of Cookies by Emily Jenkins will be available on the Masterclass website for FREE from Anti-Bullying Week 2017!
For more information on Cookies and access to the education resources, click here

03 Nov 2017