New play aims to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour

The Blackout team during a visit to Fort Hill Integrated College in Lisburn,
The Blackout team during a visit to Fort Hill Integrated College in Lisburn,

The Lyric Theatre, Belfast has teamed up for the fourth year with the Department of Justice and Hydebank Wood College with a progressive project aimed at reducing crime and antisocial behaviour.

Throughout October, performances and workshops were delivered to schools and community groups across Northern Ireland to encourage young people to ask for help.

The production, Blackout, tells the story a young man from a dysfunctional family whose personal circumstances and reactions to adversity lead him into drugs and alcohol. The death of his grandfather results in a path, which results in charges, court and a possible custodial sentence. The high-energy production is unique in that it is followed by a Question and Answer session with a panel of three young people from Hydebank Wood College who have first-hand experience of custody and the judicial system.

The central message of the initiative is to portray the implications of making the wrong decision, and to encourage young people to talk and speak up before it is too late. To this end, it is accompanied by a social media strategy and an Instagram account encouraging young people to discuss their issues and directing them to organisations which can help.

Anthony Harbinson from Department of Justice said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Lyric Theatre with their Blackout Production. It helps the Department of Justice, through our partners, to make Northern Ireland a safer place by reaching young people, and making them aware of the impact of their life choices. This will be introduced across schools through their pastoral care supporting systems.”

Blackout has been previously performed to over 8000 young people, teachers and community leaders in almost 100 schools and community venues. In terms of the production’s ability to change opinions, 72% of respondents said they had changed their attitude towards young people and crime, and 79% of respondents said they are more aware of the consequences of taking drugs and alcohol.

Gary Milling, Governor of Hydebank Wood College said: “Hydebank are currently engaged in a number of creative projects with the Lyric, but are particularly proud to be jointly delivering Blackout. We are optimistic that the contribution by our students in both the live show and the on-line film will prove a sobering deterrent to other young people.”

The play’s director and Head of Creative Learning at the Lyric, Philip Crawford, commented: “After the tour of Blackout last year, we were inundated with requests from schools to run the project again. We are delighted that the NI Prison Service and Department of Justice NI were able to work with us to make that happen. With a new multi-media approach using film and live theatre, we hope the impact of the message will be even stronger.”

Blackout is currently on a four week tour of schools and youth groups across Northern Ireland, including Belfast, Lisburn Ballymena, Armagh, Cookstown, Enniskillen, Larne, Draperstown, Dungannon, Strabane, Carrickfergus and Carnlough. It is offered free of charge to schools and community groups.