Using Theatre as a Positive Tool in Combating Gang Violence

The Chickenshed Theatre was invited to London Met to bring their impactful play ‘Crime of the Century’ for social work students, social work practitioners and students across the School of Social Sciences and Professions. Using theatre as a tool for exploring the causes of gang violence the performance raised awareness about the harsh reality of gang crime and youth social exclusion. As well as the lasting impact on families. 

The performance portrayed the pain and grief experienced by those affected by senseless acts of violence, evoking strong emotions within the audience. Through their performance, they were able to spark an important Q & A dialogue with the audience who had the opportunity to connect with the cast on a range of issues brought up by the play including how to support victims as well as perpetrators.   

One social work student said I have never been to the theatre before, and this performance blew me away. The issues are really relevant to my placement, and I will have plenty to discuss with my practice educator at my next supervision!’  

Donna Jones, the Head of Subject, who arranged the performance said ‘It has been a great pleasure to collaborate with Chickenshed. They are a fantastic theatre company with values of social justice central to all they do that align perfectly with my Subject Area and the values and commitment of SSSP. I hope to develop strong links with them so that my students and staff can benefit from their powerful performances.’ 

This production carries a special weight for the theatre group as it explores the events leading up to the murder of a 14-year-old boy who was related to some members of the Chickenshed Theatre. Even though it was created over a decade ago in response to fatal stabbings, recent incidents have only reinforced its relevance. Knife-related crimes have surged by 76% throughout England during the last decade, with 247 deaths in the year to June 2023 (The Independent). Data released by the Office for National Statistics confirm that, despite a decline in homicides in the 13-19 age group, teenagers remain twice more likely to be fatally stabbed than they were 10 years ago (The Ben Kinsella Trust,  ONS).   

Paul Morrall, Executive Director of Education Training and Outreach from The Chickenshed Theatre, added:  

‘Chickenshed were both proud and privileged to share our Crime of the Century performance with Students at London Metropolitan University having been invited by Donna Jones. To perform such a powerful, physical and emotional production twice in the same day was made incredibly positive and worthwhile by the engagement of the students and the important dialogue between students and cast that took place after the performance. So many vital and productive debating points and potential ways forward for young people and communities affected by the issues of the performance – were raised and discussed demonstrating the power of an event where empathy for those at risk in an issue was very much the order of the day.’ 

The Chickenshed Theatre performance emphasised the transformative power of live physical storytelling and how it can inspire people to make positive changes in their lives. As they exchanged stories of how this show had impacted and motivated people for more than 10 years, cast members expressed that affecting just one person out of the room of the entire audience makes all their efforts meaningful. Initiatives like the ‘Crime of the Century’ performance serve as an important reminder that by having open discussions about these issues, we can work towards creating safer environments for everyone.