Encouraging positive social change through performing arts

Schools have an advantageous opportunity to help shape boys’ values and standards of behaviour. Particularly at Senior School level, boys are at a developmental age when they are establishing their independence and exploring identity. This is an ideal time for schools to educate, foster critical thinking and encourage self-reflection in adolescent boys in a meaningful way.

However, sometimes the tradition lecture-style format can be a less effective way to get important social messages across, particularly for boys.

In recognition of the importance of respectful relationships education, BGS decided to break from the usual format and engage Phunktional Ltd to perform Love Drunk to the Year 11 and 12 boys. Through the use of theatre, the performance highlighted the impacts of risky behaviours – drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, poor problem-solving skills, and sexual safety.

The Love Drunk narrative revolves around three teenage friends, two males and one female, who experience personal difficulties and draw on their friendship for support. The use of alcohol and drugs is depicted, which leads to the sexual assault of the female by one of her male friends.

Unlike traditional education packages in the form of lecture presentations where students are required to sit silently and listen, Love Drunk embraced the boys’ natural energy and youthful enthusiasm. The performance was not only entertaining; it also engaged the boys. Phunktional Ltd made it clear that immediate responses and boisterous interaction was expected and encouraged.

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While there was some concern initially that the social messages of safety and respectful relationships may be lost through the entertaining delivery, the performers were skilled at effectively encouraging dialogue and self-reflection. At several times throughout the performance, the performers paused and asked the boys what they would do if they were in that scenario, and then improvised these responses into the show, making the performance more relevant and engaging.

Through the use of theatre, the production was able to convey the emotional nuances and complexities of life that may not have as effectively been portrayed via a lecture presentation. The boys’ level of engagement and responses to the performance were encouraging. Most importantly, it evoked thought and provided an opportunity for discussion about issues that boys (and girls) commonly face during adolescence.

Hien Nguyen

Senior School Psychologist