What young people say and think is really important to us. We were delighted, then, when Abi Burns, 18, agreed to give us her first impression of ‘Object’.
‘Just out of school myself, I felt sceptical.’
Watching the group of 14 to 15 year olds walk in, I felt sceptical. Having just come out of school myself, I remembered clearly that in my experience, no matter how engaging or thought provoking the material being set before us was, we didn’t want to hear it. We just didn’t want to know. Even if we did, we couldn’t let anyone else know. Our true reactions were often smothered- cue shrinking further down into our seats, hiding embarrassment behind jokes. Awkward laughter. This especially applies to anything vaguely cringe inducing, like porn and sex. It hits a bit too close to home.
‘At school we didn’t want to hear.’
As the presentation progressed, however, it was obvious that the information was sinking in. Facts about prostitution and porn addiction certainly had an impact. Acting out the situations and thoughts of real young people from schools in Wokingham was also very effective. The actors were able to portray the feelings of frustration, fear and loneliness that made these instances come to life. As the audience watched the scenes unfold, the recognition in their reaction was obvious. Although a lot of it was shocking, there was no unfamiliar territory- these are things that on some level, almost every teenager in that room had engaged with.
‘Object had impact. These are things almost every teenager in the room had engaged with.’
By the end, my scepticism was replaced by surprise. I was especially intrigued when the dynamic changed after the workshop. No longer able to hide in a crowd- one of the many, pupils were now divided into smaller same sex groups. I was prepared to watch them clam up, unwilling to give away any thoughts or opinions that may not be accepted by the majority. However I was pleasantly surprised to find that quite a few people voiced their opinions, with a bit of coaxing, sure. I watched the girls for a time, then moved on to the boys. I expected uncooperative, laddish behaviour. There was none. For the most part they did chat amongst themselves, but when asked they had mature, well thought out opinions.
‘They were asking themselves, What am I comfortable with?’
Some were willing to voice their opinions, some weren’t, but they were all sorting through their own thoughts and feelings, starting to think about what they had just seen and how it fitted in with their own reality. Asking themselves questions that perhaps had not occurred to them before; What would I do in this situation? What will I look for in a partner? What am I comfortable with?
Object is a conversation starter- it started the conversation these students needed to have with themselves, with each other, with parents and friends. Hopefully, they will find some answers.
By Abi Burns