‘NIGHT TRAIN comes from the true stories of young people who run away… from home, foster parents, residential units, the coppers, everything…’
Night Train was written in 2007 by four professional actors – Roy Barber, Curtis Cole, Sarah McDonald Hughes, Dee Shepherd – supported by Kevin Dyer, Associate Writer, Action Transport Theatre. They interviewed many young people in care and the professionals responsible for that care. They were inspired to tell the stories of the young people they met – untold stories reflecting voices which often go unheard – and to turn those facts into a powerful and moving fiction. Four young people in particular who had spent much of their childhood in care – ‘looked after children’ – played a major role, as care leavers, in the making of this play. They were Jeff, Emma, Sarah and Liam. Hannah Rayfield, Children’s Rights and Participation Officer, Cheshire County Council, enthusiastically supported the work and gave much informed advice to aid authenticity and the truthfulness of the piece. It was she who strongly argued for the inclusion of a theme that her department was currently addressing – that of under age girls being targeted by older men and developing inappropriate relationships.
In 2006 a conference was being planned for professionals working with children and young people. The subject was ‘Running Away’ as it was a subject of concern in the county. I was asked to work with some young people with experience of being in care and of running away to bring their perspective to the conference.
I recruited 4 young people who had recently left care and then joined with a writer, Kevin Dyer from Action Transport Theatre, to find out their stories. Together we worked on a workshop for the conference that invited professionals into the young people’s world so they could gain an insight into what might be going on for young people who run away.
From that beginning a joint project was born to write a whole play, spread awareness of young people’s experience more widely and to produce a training DVD for professionals. Night Train was the result.
The development of the play was an intense and creative period which, following hundreds of hours of groundwork, gradually shaped the story. There was much discussion, note taking, improvisation, collaborative writing and sharing, monologues to deepen character and the process repeated many times until a script began to emerge. While this process was taking place, informal viewings were held to test the piece – other young writers like Faye Christiansen, members of ATT youth group, a foster mother, Handstand video recording more interviews, composer Mark Melville starting work on music to heighten the dramatic tension of the piece, Mike Francis experimenting with lighting effects to enhance the effect of designer Alison Heffernan’s abstract blue set and director, Joe Sumsion, watching the play grow. It was all go!
After further weeks of intensive writing – more drafts and refining of the script – Night Train was ready. My photographs of the development of the play up to the dress rehearsal can only hint at the amount of work and commitment to get to that stage…
‘Night Train is a gripping play about a world most of us know nothing about. It follows the lives of Deano, Tanya and Lainey; three volatile, sharp humoured and resilient young people, all fighting to be heard, placed under the same roof of a residential care centre. For the care worker, Roy, it’s like trying to put a tornado in a tin can. This new, exhilarating play takes the lid off what can happen when young people live together in care and what happens when they take flight.’
The Creative Team:
Director Joe Sumsion
Producer Louie Ingham
Composer Mark Melville
Set Designer Alison Heffernan
Costume designer Gemma Pill
Production manager Mike Francis
Project |Manager Jessica Egan