Ballot box drama's creative approach to pupil engagement

Published Wednesday, 6th February 2019

A new play which aims to help young school pupils learn about political concepts such as democracy and the rule of law is coming to Hartlepool.

Rox, Papers & The Scissors  is taking place at Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre on March 15th at 10am and tells the story of three characters –school bully Rox, head girl Paper, and reckless class clown The Scissors who battle to become school president, but find out the hard way that not all elections are fought fairly.

The show has as its tagline “Want to change the world? You have one vote. Use it wisely”, and as it comes to a climax audience members are asked to vote in a process that echoes a general election. The result will be declared online at the end of the tour. Online electoral forecasts and an exit poll will also mimic these aspects of political elections.

The hour-long show, aimed at 9 to 12-year-olds, is written by University of Leeds PhD researcher Miranda Duffy as part of her study into how basic political concepts can be embedded into live theatre.

Since 2014, key themes of individual liberty, mutual respect, tolerance, democracy and the rule of law have had to be taught in schools as “British values”, part of the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) requirement of the National Curriculum.

“I am trying to bring these concepts and values alive using an arts-based strategy,” said Mrs Duffy, from Leeds’ School of Performance and Cultural Industries, who also runs a theatre production company, Gone to the Dogs Productions.

Miranda Duffy (left) with niece Hannah Duffy who plays the part of Paper, and Gone to the Dogs Productions' mascot Woof.

Miranda Duffy (left) with niece Hannah Duffy who plays Paper, and Gone to the Dogs Productions' mascot Woof.

The play is the first in a series of three, and the outcome of the election resulting from the first will influence the narrative of the second production, due to be staged in March 2020.

Mrs Duffy, from Harrogate, explained: “The inspiration for my research came from taking my own children (then aged nine, seven and four) to see Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild.

“They left the theatre inspired by the story, and so angered by the idea of illegal logging and its environmental impact that they boycotted biscuits and crisps that contained palm oil for a surprising number of months.

“The biscuits won in the end – they are kids after all! But it demonstrated to me the thought-provoking impression that a live theatre experience could have on this age group.

“How to sustain this interest is a different matter, and this is what I hope to explore in an academic framework.”

Tickets to Rox, Papers & The Scissors cost £6 each with free admission for school teachers. If you would like to book this show please contact the box office on (01429) 890000 (Tuesdays-Fridays 10am – 4.30pm, Saturdays 10am–4pm).