25 Mar 2024

Theatre of the Mind Collaboration with University of Exeter Applied Drama

Post written by: Erin Walcon

As part of a long-standing collaboration with the University of Exeter Applied Drama programme, we work in partnership each spring to support emerging theatre-makers to develop socially engaged work. This usually takes the form of Doorstep Lead Artists mentoring emerging companies who are devising original work for school settings, both primary and secondary.

This year, we teamed up with an emerging company, JSA Theatre, to support their development of His Father’s Son, a 35-minute original performance exploring themes of toxic masculinity for students in secondary school.

This collaboration is always a real delight – it’s particularly rich and meaningful when we see the work start to tour and test with potential audiences.

On Tuesday 19 March, this performance toured to St James School in Exeter where it performed to two groups of Year 8 students.

Performing in the smaller black box studio at St James, the students were a wonderfully engaged audience. The piece follows the story of a father and a son, told across a chronological long-term unfolding of time. We move with the protagonist character Tyler across his lifetime, set against a lush and addictive soundtrack of well-chosen music.

The performers multi-role a multitude of characters, and the set is minimal but evocative, enabling a constantly moving, shifting and dynamic landscape as we move between settings, years and moments. A single white sheet transforms from the dining tablecloth into a movie screen into a baby into a wedding veil.

The post-show discussion opens up vital conversations about toxic masculinity, friendship, families, and how we break cycles and make change.

After watching the first tour dates land, we really can’t wait to see what the possible next steps for this piece might be – here’s hoping it can go on to a much-deserved longer life with more touring to come!