What is it you’re actually doing and what is ‘Hate Crime?’
We are currently touring AlterEgo Theatre Company’s new show, ‘Feel the Hate.’ The play is the fictional retelling of four different characters, deriving from a collaboration of verbatim narrative (taken from true stories of residents within the Cumbria area.) Ania – a sixteen year old Polish female, Susanna – a sixteen year old English girl who has converted to Islam, Joe – A sixteen year old homosexual male and Kim – also sixteen with MD (Muscular Dystrophy.)
It was at the beginning of 2016 when the company brought the script (in its early stages) up to Cumbria for a bit of a read. Between four actors, the director and police we had a session to scope where it was going and if there was any other relevant stories we could include that were issues up this end of the country that maybe we hadn’t touched upon. After discussing with Cumbria Police, they gave significant feedback and after a few tweaks and additions have stuck by the company resulting in the ‘go ahead’ and then commissioning us to make this project come alive and our tour possible!
In addition to this fantastic project, it just so happens that National Hate Crime Awareness Week (October 8-15th) falls during this time (on our third week of touring) and we’re feeling pretty darn passionate about not only the show but a lot of stories within the media that are extremely relative and linking to the post show talk at the end!
‘ Hate Crime is any incident which may or may not be a crime that anyone perceives to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards any aspect of a person’s identity. This covers race, identified gender, disability, ethnicity or sexuality.’
An Interview with Sean:
What made you want to write ‘Feel the Hate?’
I was approached last year by the office of the Cumbria Police & Crime Commissioner to write ‘Feel the Hate’. Cumbria had had a number of very successful tours of our CSE awareness raising play ‘Chelsea’s Choice’ and wanted a similarly impactive project that could raise awareness around Hate Crime
How did you find the character’s stories and are they real?
The main narrative of each character’s story is based on a real event that happened in the UK within the last 3 years – all the names have been changed though. I researched a lot of Hate Crime incidents (online, in conversation with victims and with support agencies) and chose the main story for each of the characters in the play. With the rise in Hate Crime incidents post-Brexit I did alter/add in a couple of things from other true stories within each narrative though to make it fit the objectives of the play a little more effectively.
What happened to the guy that punched Dominik?
The guy that killed Dominik was given a life sentence and was told he would serve a minimum of 16 years in prison.
When did you start writing and directing?
I originally trained as an actor at The Oxford School of Drama. About 7 years ago I side stepped into directing and my wife and I formed our own company, AlterEgo. We started off touring Shakespeare and other curriculum based plays into schools and were soon asked by a friend if we could do a play that covered alcohol awareness. I researched and wrote a play called ‘Smashed’ which toured to a number of London boroughs. That was my first go at writing a play and I’ve since written 8 others.
What inspired you to write for schools and to raise awareness about such big issues?
My first foray into writing, ‘Smashed’, went really well and was very well received. On the back of that I was asked by a Northampton based charity to develop a play raising awareness around Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). The resulting project ‘Chelsea’s Choice’ has now been seen by over 480,000 young people around the UK, has showcased in New York City and will showcase in Canada next year. As part of the first tour 6 years ago we presented it to a number of parents who’s children had been groomed and sexually exploited. When they were speaking after the performance, telling their heart-breaking stories, I had a moment of catharsis where I realised that we had a responsibility to use plays like ‘Chelsea’s Choice’ to have a direct and positive impact on young people’s lives. We’d recently had our first child and hearing parents speak about their children’s horrifying experiences hit to the core. We reformed the company as a not-for-profit social enterprise and set about developing a market for ‘Chelsea’s Choice’ as well as other new projects that covered issues that we cared about. Over the past 6 years AlterEgo has developed into one of the leading theatre-in-education companies in the UK – specialising in illustrating the narrative around complex social issues such as Hate Crime, Radicalisation, CSE, Domestic Abuse and Safe Internet Use. My inspiration comes from knowing that we have a direct impact all around the UK and, on a selfishly level, trying to make the world a slightly better place for my children, their friends and peers.
If for some reason you were suddenly forbidden to write plays or direct, what would you end up doing?
I truly don’t know.
What is most helpful to you as you sit down to write a first draft?
Having a really clear set of objectives on what the play needs to accomplish (when the audience leave the room they think/feel/know what?). Having done enough research, interviews, reading so that I know my subject matter backwards. Coming up with a detailed, scene by scene, plan for the play and working out my characters and their objectives in each scene. The dialogue can then take care of itself!
It’s known that you’re a busy man, but on your days off (if you ever got one), what would be your perfect Sunday?
A lie-in, cooked breakfast, Sunday papers, lazy morning, afternoon pub visit, home cooked Sunday lunch, family movie with the kids, evening box set (preferably new GoT) with my wife, red wine and log fire a’glow!