Ground-breaking drama project at Derby Theatre

Solace%20TallUsing powerful literature and live drama Derby Theatre is currently a key player in an innovative project to engage more young people in the two subjects.

Siobhan Dowd’s Carnegie Medal winning novel Solace Of The Road is about loss and homecoming and it has been selected for adaptation for the stage because it is a story with which young people, especially those in care, can resonate with on many levels.

Playwright Mike Kenny has worked with Drama in English experts Paul Bunyan and Ruth Moore (who also happens to be deputy head teacher at Hasland Hall Community School in Chesterfield) to use the book to develop a play and a scheme of work aimed at raising standards in English in schools and giving an authentic voice to children in care in the stage production.

Consultants Paul and Ruth are no strangers to such projects and have worked with theatres across the country including the National – in fact they were behind the stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Solace Of The Road tells the story of Holly whose favourite care worker has left for a new job. She is fostered out to a well-meaning middle class couple.

‘Materially she is home and dry but Holly is sure that ‘home’ should be more than this and that if she can just get to Ireland she will find her lost mother and a better life.

She borrows her foster mother’s wig to make herself look older and sets off. Headstrong and street-smart, she boldly sets out as her glamorous blonde alter ego Solace. So begins a bittersweet, and sometimes hilarious journey as Solace swaggers and Holly tiptoes across England and through memories, discovering her true self, and unlocking the secrets of her past.

This road trip turns out to be more about finding herself than looking for answers.

The play is being staged at Derby Theatre from February 27 to March 14 and stars Rebecca Ryan, who is known for her appearances in Shameless, Waterloo Road and a Taste of Honey.

Derby Theatre’s head of learning, Caroline Barth, is delighted that she and her team have been able to become involved in the project that is linked to 33 schools and colleges in Derbyshire.

“The work we do with young people in care alongside Derbyshire County Council’s Uni-fy project is really important to us.

“To be able to involve those youths in a project like this is very exciting,” she said.

She explained that a dozen or so young people in care had joined workshops and rehearsals and had acted as consultants for the cast and production team.
“They were able to suggest how Holly may have reacted in different circumstances and help the actors understand by discussing their real-life experiences. They have had a real influence over a full-scale production,” she said.

As well as involving young people in the production the learning project has also taken workshops out to the county’s schools to help develop critical thinking and their literacy skills.

“Young people who may not have initially engaged with literature or the theatre have become involved in the project and we hope that they will go on to develop new interests that we will be able to sustain,” added Caroline.

“The quality of the writing and the subject matter means that it will be of benefit to many students and also result in a really high-quality production for our audience.”

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