A PLAY developed by a university in York, created to support the NSPCC charity, explores challenging themes around domestic violence through drama and workshops with secondary aged children.

Performance students and theatre alumni at York St John University have taken to the stage to raise awareness of interpersonal domestic violence in a play called ‘It’s Not Love’.

Commissioned by the NSPCC as part of the Together for Childhood ‘Give it to get it’ Healthy Relationships campaign, the play explores challenging themes around what constitutes healthy and unhealthy relationships.

The play follows four characters negotiating domestic abuse within families, between friends and in intimate partner relationships. The play is tailored to students in Years 7 to 9 and was first performed at Norton College on Monday July 3.

The performance, question and answer session and drama workshops allowed the young people to explore the impact of the decisions that the characters make, investigate potential allies and intervention moments, whilst exploring questions about healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Feedback from students and teachers was positive, reflecting on what they had learnt from the performance and workshop. A Year 8 student described the impact of the day as giving them “opportunities to discuss important topics with friends and using drama to do this."

Meanwhile, a teacher involved in the delivery of the day added that the play was a “very challenging topic to explore but was done with professionalism and targeted right for the age group."

The play was co-created and directed by Rachel Conlon and Jules Dorey Richmond, senior lecturers at York St John University and experienced theatre practitioners. The pair have research, collaboration and development experience, both with the NSPCC and young people.

Rachel said: “We’re proud of this work and the part that it plays in raising awareness of unhealthy relationships. The recent inquiry by the Women and Equalities Committee highlights the importance of relationships, sex and health education for both girls and boys and we work hard to make content that’s relevant and engaging for our young audiences. 

“The work is also such a meaningful and valuable opportunity for our students and alumni. Having the chance to be paid to work on live commissions and engage in real world learning in the community as part of their degree really enhances the students’ learning experience and employability.”

Previous projects developed in collaboration with the NSPCC include the ‘It’s Not OK’ play, which raised awareness around child sexual abuse and exploitation and reached an audience of over 45,000 pupils, practitioners and teachers. 

Jules added: “Our collaborative approach to delivering effective, exciting and high-quality work resonates with and engages young people. The partnership has gone from strength to strength and we very much hope that it continues to do so.”