YOUNGSTERS are to take to the stage in a specially commissioned play looking at issues surrounding mental health.
The eight strong group of 13 to 18 year olds from Ovalhouse Theatre's youth programme worked with award-winning playwright Joseph Wilde to develop the story, characters and script for the piece which will be performed at the Kennington theatre on March 28 and 29.
Kaleidoscope finds sister and brother Lisa and Leo with only each other to count on and a small group of friends. They are all struggling to make their way in the world, cope with the often underestimated stresses of teenage life, the possibility of the onset of mental illness and to top it off Leo has started seeing the ghost of his father!
It is a story of ghosts, exams, first dates and what happens when Leo’s dad tells him it’s his mission to ‘save his generation.’
"When we first started talking to our group of young people about mental health, we were amazed to find how much the subject resonated with them as an issue, and so we wanted to take a further step and look at the issues as a play," says the theatre's head of youth arts Naomi Shoba.
"There are many stresses and risk factors that affect the lives of young people which may have a negative impact on emotional well-being, from poor housing to economic disadvantage, serious illness, homophobic bullying, abuse or bereavement.
"They told us about their feelings of extra stress and pressure from home, school and life in general and what struggles they were facing. These also included the influence of media and social pressures of image.
"Also through our research we found Lambeth has nearly three times more people registered with severe mental health illness than the national average.
"It's a taboo subject for many so being able to discuss it openly and honestly has been fantastic for everyone involved."
The group got together in September and since then have been working on the piece, rehearsing regularly and developing the characters and storyline from their own experiences.
"The response so far has been amazing, and we’re really pleased to see so many of the group so passionately engaged, presenting a play that came from their hopes, concerns and ideas," says Naomi.
"But it's not just about some of the negative issues," she adds. "There are a lot of positive influences in the play and we explored what makes young people happy and the positive things they are engaged in.
"It is also part of the nationwide Truth About Youth programme which works to dispel negative perceptions of young people in society and the media as well as empower young people as advocates and role models for others.
"The whole process has been incredibly interesting and rewarding for them and we are really excited to be bringing it to the stage."
Kaleidoscope is on at Ovalhouse Theatre on March 28 and 29.
Tickets cost £5 or £3 concessions. Visit www.ovalhouse.com or call the box office on 020 7582 7680.