Evlynn Sharp is producer of 'UNPROVOKED'. She is also a poet, lecturer and creative arts facilitator.
In UNPROVOKED, previewing this weekend at the Roundhouse, there is a scene in which the mother of a murdered girl talks about being in her own prison of hate inside. She has to move from that place to be a mother for her other children. She must no longer remain in resentment and bitterness. As far as Mary Foley is concerned, forgiveness is an “act of freedom”, which goes beyond people’s disgust “at the very idea of forgiveness.”
UNPROVOKED is a powerful portrait of girl-on-girl knife-crime based on Mary’s experience – in 2005, her 15-year-old daughter Charlotte was murdered by another girl at an East London party. The Forgiveness Project, Metropolitan Police Service, and Roundhouse Theatre now join forces to present this play.
Written by Kathrine Smith – whose TV credits include The Bill and Hollyoaks – UNPROVOKED is performed by an all-female cast and features actress Lorna Gayle in the role of the mother. The play examines the impact of teenage bullying, and follows a bereaved mother's journey towards reconciliation and forgiveness.
Kathrine said: “Mary’s story is an inspiration. Incredibly, she was able to find compassion for the girl who took her daughter’s life when she understood more about her vilolent home life.
“I hope the play gives some insight into the nature of teenage bullying and the consequences of what can happen when young people grow up believing life is a fight.”
The complex nature of teenage violence plus its impact on families needs an urgent response. Lorna Gayle said: “In UNPROVOKED, I wanted to give the mother a voice. When young people take a knife and push it into someone . . . they don’t understand the impact of it. There’s a lot of crime and they haven’t got a clue what the value of a life is.
“I don’t know where this mentality is coming from. Everything that’s shown to young people exposes them . . . TV, video games. And where are the guns coming from?”
On Mary’s act of forgiving her daughter’s killer, Lorna remarked: “I completely understand that once Mary has forgiven, it is such a release. Mary says her daughter would love the fact that she has forgiven this girl. That is so touching.
“I believe in the whole process of forgiveness. When we feel revenge, anger or bitterness, we can’t have a healthy life by holding on to that.”
As part of a wider initiative between the Metropolitan Police Service and The Forgiveness Project, UNPROVOKED collaborated with teenagers from Young College Southgate who shared some of the harsh realities of their lives through writing, art and music. Aspects of their work have inspired the production.
Performance poet Nelissa Mendy, co-facilitator of the writing workshops at Young College, said: “I don’t feel the voices of the young people are heard. The decisions made are not always the best for them. At the moment, it is like they are in a dead-end alley of no hope, no future, no prospects. We can only see the backfiring of reactions from that.
“The girls – as part of this dead-end alley culture – have no role models. Who are they following? Beauty models? And the music is sexualised. What is there for young girls to identify with to get out of the ghetto mind or the gang culture? These girls are the mothers of the future. What future?
“Communities are being stripped of all their assets. What is left at the bone? And as regards black women, where do they fit in on the social structure? What is their community saying?”
UNPROVOKED is directed by Emily Momoh and Angus Scott-Miller who both agree about the necessity of intervening before we reach the point of no return. Emily said: “All of us have a responsibility to try and bring about change. Why are young people thinking that volence is fun? Why do they get fun out of violence? They don’t realise the consequences.
“Everybody in society, to a degree, is responsible for this particular social group of disaffected young people and the way that they are behaving.”
Angus said: “I believe that theatre has a power to change people’s thoughts, to be able to create debate. It is a powerful tool that can speak out not only to young people but to everyone and open a space for conversation.”
UNPROVOKED highlights that everyone has a role in halting the decline in our communities. We need to create a better foundation for the future of all our young people. After the premiere, copies of a DVD of UNPROVOKED with teaching notes will be sent to schools, colleges and youth groups to encourage dialogue on personal choices and the consequences of actions.
“We need to support young people of all backgrounds towards positive change, aspiration and achievement,” says Marina Cantacuzino, Director of the Forgiveness Project. “This play looks at how violence wrecks lives but also at how forgiveness can start a healing process.”
END NOTE – UNPROVOKED:
The Forgiveness Project in collaboration with the Metropolitan Police, with support from the Roundhouse presents the premiere of UNPROVOKED at The Roundhouse, Saturday 12 – Sunday 13 November.
Running time between 50-90 minutes
Including a Q&A session after the play
The advisory age for UNPROVOKED is 14+
To book or for more info
0844 482 8008
Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8EH
(NB: L/Underground sign) Camden Town and Chalk Farm
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