Back in April, I wrote a blog about a play called Hungry, by Y Touring Theatre Company.
I’ve worked with Y Touring for years in various ways on a host of plays and debates that tackled tough and controversial areas of biomedicine, from mental illness to the use of animals in research, from stem cells and cloning, to (yes it’s true and it was brilliant…) the electronic patient record.
What a difference six months makes. Y Touring had just turned 25 years old, was just over half way through a 5 year Wellcome Trust Strategic Award and looked set to continue its award-winning work for years to come. Until its host, Central YMCA, decided to bring the curtain down.
Undaunted, the director Nigel Townsend and his core team, bolstered by the Wellcome Trust who have been unreserved in their support for the work, have reinvented themselves as Theatre of Debate Ltd which launched this week in a gently celebratory party in London.
Joan Bakewell, former Patron of Y Touring said “Y Touring was an inspirational idea that seized on the eagerness of young people to know more and offered them brilliantly conceived dramas that neither condescended nor over simplified. Our rigid society doesn’t allow enough space for original, talented and energetic people to fulfill themselves and we should all be grateful that Nigel and Y Touring have made their mark over such a long period of time. Well done to them all and here’s to the new company Theatre of Debate Ltd.”
Apart from noting and praising the fact such a brilliant outfit hasn’t gone under, but appears to be growing newer and stronger wings, what’s all this got to do with us? Well, more on the details here soon but we are close to agreeing the terms by which we will work together, using the rest of the Strategic Award and some of my patient and public involvement (PPI) budget to do a play about….PPI. This will mark just the start of what we hope will be an extensive and enduring collaboration. As I said at the Theatre of Debate launch “This is a hugely exciting step for Nigel and his team and for us in Oxford. We were keen to work with Y Touring as part of engaging and involving patients in research, but with the creation of Theatre of Debate we can now build an enduring partnership capitalising on enthusiasms and skills across the BRC and beyond.”
Theatre of Debate’s plays, like those of Y Touring, will mostly be aimed at 14-16 year olds. The new project will tour schools nationally (tens of thousands of youngsters see each show live) and, in line with previous productions, is likely to be filmed for nationwide cinema screenings. The strength in their work is that they leave no stone unturned to produce the best quality theatre that doesn’t tell you what to think, but gently guides you towards what it might be interesting to think about. This could be a real game-changer for PPI – a dramatic boost.