I have just got home from the first public preview performance of Beyond Hillsborough at the school where I am a teacher. It is a dramatisation of how the lives of various families and other interested parties has been indelibly marked by the Hillsborough tragedy. The play was written by two drama teachers at the school, Jo Halliday and Layla Dowie, and is based on many hours of interviews done with (amongst others) Stephen Kelly, Jenni Hicks, Sheila Coleman, Kenny and Wendy Derbyshire, Jimmy McGovern, Neil Sampson, Brian Reade, Rogan Taylor, Steve Rotheram and Rob White. Many of these interviewees were also present tonight for the premiere.
I have to confess, when I heard about the endeavour, I was a little worried. I wondered whether a bunch of teenagers (mostly 6th formers) would be able to deal appropriately with the content of the interviews and represent the issues accurately and with the proper sensitivity.
I have left the school this evening absolutely knocked for six. The play was remarkable, and all the more so for the fact that it was performed by young amateur actors, so young they were not alive at the time of the disaster. They performed the roles of the real family members and other interested parties with real sensitivity, emotion, humour and heartbreak. Joe Davies' portrayal of Stephen Kelly in particular was absolutely breathtaking, and Rachel Jones (yes, a girl!) playing Rogan Taylor was brilliant and very funny.
It was certainly not a piece that shied away from some difficult issues, and one of the areas explored was the divisions between the three campaign groups, as well as the personal stories of the bereaved. It was a remarkable piece of theatre, and very professionally produced.
The teenagers involved have been raising money for some months to take the show to the Edinburgh Festival, and managed to reach the £16k total they needed to put the play on in the Scottish capital and bring the issues to a wider audience - the Edinburgh Festival is, as we know, an international event. It will play from August 6-11 at 11.40am at Venue 40 (Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace), and I would encourage anyone who lives in central Scotland or who is visiting the Festival to make the effort and go and see the play (which lasts an hour). The tickets are £8/£5 concessions.http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/beyond-hillsborough?day=06-08-2012&performance=1:3137http://www.scotsman.com/the-scotsman/scotland/edinburgh-fringe-festival-looks-beyond-the-tragedy-of-hillsborough-1-2237999