By Rachel Lankester.
Sket – a look at the drama of the sexting world.
This review is an update to the earlier article about Sket by Prav MJ which you can read below.
When I met Prav, the director of new play Sket, at the Women in the World festival earlier this year and she thrust a flyer in my hand, I had a feeling this was a show I wanted to both see and support.
I went along to opening night last week and was glad to see my gut was right. Sket is a short but very powerful piece about the dangers of sexting and how endemic it has now become amongst young people. It’s at times a graphic portrayal of the sexual pressures on young people today. If you’re over 30 be prepared to need your online Urban Dictionary to keep up with the dialogue!
The play is a challenging in-your-face depiction of just how far behaviour, language and technology has changed since anyone over 30 was a teenager. If you have teenagers you struggle to understand I’d say it’s a must see – and go with them. It might just open up conversations you thought you’d never be able to have. It will certainly make it crystal clear what kind of pressures teens may be under. They may squirm sitting next to you but it’ll be good in the end!
At times it felt like the play couldn’t really be based in reality. That it perhaps tipped over into fantasy. Does that really happen at that young age I found myself asking. Unfortunately I know that’s probably wishful thinking on my part. Sket is most likely closer to many young people’s reality than we adults care to either admit or often engage with. Seeing it all laid out so bluntly in such a condensed timeframe and in such a matter of fact way, was quite shocking for the middle class audience at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, London.
But for all its brutal depiction of young people’s daily reality, Sket was also at times hilariously funny. Thank goodness! The young actors are also all brilliant and very believable as tormented youth. The play offers hope that if only kids and adults will talk together about these issues, and question their normality, they loose their power to wield such damage.
There were echoes of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The young man who assumes he must be gay because he doesn’t enjoy perfunctory oral sex from a classmate is a lone voice questioning what other young people assume is normal. See I warned you it was graphic! The young teacher grapples to relate and she’s at least twenty years my junior. But talking about this stuff is where the real power lies.
And that is exactly what Prav is trying to foster. She is hosting free talks after every show and the play is being taken into schools to start debate amongst the young people it depicts. What a great thing to do!
Sket is at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London until 14th May 2016.
By Prav MJ
Sket, a play about sexting, premières at the Park Theatre, London
Director Prav MJ tells us why raising awareness of sexting is so important.
A recent NASUWT study about young people revealed more than half of teachers are aware of incidents of children sexting at their school including primary school pupils as young as seven!
Sexting is illegal under the age of 18. In September 2015, a 14 year old boy sent a naked selfie to a girl aged 14 via Snapchat who then shared it with others, and he is now on a police database. The child’s mother told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “ I think at best it was naive and at worst he was just a teenager”. She added ‘sexting’ was “just how teenagers flirt these days”.
The World Première of Sket by Maya Sondhi at the Park Theatre (Finsbury Park, London) from April 19th – May 14 2016, deals with this highly topical issue. It’s rampant in our schools and parents need to be more aware.
Maya Sondhi is best known as an actress for playing long-suffering daughter Shazia Khan in ‘Citizen Khan’ (BBC One) and soon to be seen as WPC Maneet Bindra in the third series of drama ‘Line of Duty’ (BBC Two). As a writer, Sondhi has written for ‘EastEnders’ (BBC One) as well as the popular Sky 1 comedy ‘Mount Pleasant’ and ‘The Kumars’ (Hat Trick for Sky 1). Sket is her first play.
The play follows the lives of six young people in an inner city school as they negotiate the minefield of technological advances, ever-changing laws and moral dilemmas. . They are obsessed with 21st century technology and like so many young people today, live their lives through social media where ‘sexting’ and ‘selfies’ are the norm and access to sexual imagery is available 24/7.
In Sket, these simple words “You’re so beautiful… take a picture, take one for me right now and send it” generates a ‘sext’ which launches a spiral of events that has far reaching consequences…
Mistakes which once might have been forgotten, can now remain forever in the virtual world.
As a National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) spokesperson said, “ When something goes wrong, the consequences can be devastating. Apart from exposing them to bullying when images are shared, it could make children targets for sex offenders in some cases.”
Accompanying the play are a host of free post-show talks (see below for full list) with speakers including David Cohen from the Evening Standard talking about gangs, Julie Bindel, a feminist anti-porn campaigner and Tanith Carey who will be reading from her latest book “Girls Uninterrupted: Steps for Building Stronger Girls in a Challenging World. Charities including Brook, Ditch the Label (anti-bullying charity) and Childnet International will be talking about their work with young people.
Sket has also been crowdfunded through Kickstarter to help stage and fund schools to see the play.
You may also like Teens And Tinder: What are the risks?, Keeping Teens Safe Online: The Ultimate Guide, Teens and Sexting – 5 Tips for Parents, Teens, Beach Parties & Selfies – Summertime Digital Safety Tips
Prav MJ trained as a director at the American Repertory Theatre in Boston, USA and as a designer at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She founded PMJ Productions in 2014 to support emerging writers and actors, and to stage plays that create debate. The first play produced was the European premier of The Lonely Soldier Monologues by US playwright Helen Benedict, a verbatim piece about female soldiers in the combat zone. The play was nominated for a Liberty Human Rights Arts Award and excerpts were broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Today programme. Her credits include Fallujah (The Cockpit Theatre), Six Rounds (LOST theatre), Olives and Blood (Brixton East), The Girl who Loved the Moon (SLAMBoston 2007, Boston Center for the Arts), The Kiss (FeverFest 2007, Multicultural Arts Center. Cambridge, MA. USA). www.pmjproductionsltd.com Prav is on Twitter @pmj2014
Free post-show talks taking place in the theatre directly after the show (no separate tickets required)
Tuesday 19th April – Julie Bindel
Julie Bindel is a freelance journalist, author, and feminist campaigner against men’s violence to women and children. She is a founder of Justice for Women. Her book on the international sex trade will be published in late 2016. (@bindelj)
Wednesday 20th April – Brook
Brook is a national charity that helps young people to make positive and healthy lifestyle choices and to improve their personal health and emotional wellbeing (www.brook.org.uk). PMJ Productions has partnered with Brook, who have created a resource pack from Sket, for schools to further discuss the issues highlighted in the play after they have seen the play.
Friday 22nd April – Tanith Carey
Tanith Carey is an award-winning journalist and author who writes for a variety of publications across the world including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The New Statesman and The Huffington Post among others. She has also written seven books. She will be reading from her book ‘Girls Uninterrupted: How to build stronger girls in a challenging world’.
Saturday 23rd April – Maya Sondhi
Sket playwright Maya Sondhi talks about bringing her first play to the stage.
Tuesday 26th April – “Gangs” with David Cohen
David Cohen is the Evening Standard Campaigns Editor who won the prestigious Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism for his Frontline London campaign on gangs. He will describe his experiences of living on the notorious Angell Town estate in Brixton for a week in 2015 (@cohenstandard).
Wednesday 27th April – “Cyberbullying” with Ditch the Label
Ditch the Label is a national anti-bullying charity working to reduce the prominence and effects of bullying and hate crime in young people aged 13 – 25 years old. (www.DitchtheLabel.org).
Thursday 28th April – “Internet Safety” with Childnet International
Childnet International is a non-profit organisation working with others to help make the internet a great and safe place for children (www.childnet.com).
Friday 29th April – “Young People and Online Behaviour” Dr Elena Martellezzo (Middlesex University)
Dr Elena Martellozzo is a Criminologist and specialises in sex offenders’ use of the internet and online child safety. She offers regular expert advice to the London Metropolitan Police and Italian Police Force (Polizia di Stato and Carabinieri).
Saturday 30th April “Young people’s everyday language and its power to hurt” with Jamie Wareham
Having been an activist in the LGBT student movement for nearly 8 years, Jamie Wareham is the Director of Communications for National Student Pride. Jamie also works at podcasting platform audioBoom as a Digital Broadcast Journalist. When he isn’t editing audio, he’ll be getting excited by Twitter, Toy Story quotes and Taylor Swift gifs.
Tuesday 3rd May – “How to Empower Young Women” with Suzanne Virdee
Suzanne Virdee is an award winning BBC TV News Presenter and freelance journalist. Since leaving the BBC she has written her first book, A Teenage Girl’s Guide To Being Fabulous, which is out now on Amazon. The book is about empowering the next generation of young women and boosting self esteem. It talks openly about the dark side of social media, sexting, relationships, grooming and surviving those tricky teen years unscathed!
Wednesday 4th May – “The Challenges of Child Sexual Exploitation” with Deborah Clark
Deborah Clark is the Nurse Manager for Reproductive and Sexual Health Outreach (WUSH – Wise Up 2 Sexual Health) for Young People for Guys and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust. WUSH is a small team of nurses who work across Lambeth and Southwark delivering expert clinical advice and interventions in sexual health and contraception to vulnerable, hard to reach young people in outreach settings.
Thursday 5th May – “Young People and Sexual Health” with Dr Mel Gardner
Founder of peer-led sexual health education program Sexpression (www.sexpression.org.uk), Dr Gardner is a GP in Kings Cross and a teaching fellow in Ethics and Law at UCL Medical School. She currently coruns a medical student group, Viva la Vulva, which provides education to teenagers about contraception and consent, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), abortion, body image, FGM and sexuality, and campaigns about various women’s rights issues.
Wednesday 11th May – “Young People and the Law” with Tunde Okewale
Tunde Okewale is a barrister from Doughty St Chambers and the founder of Urban Lawyers, an organisation that makes the law more accessible to marginalized groups in society. Urban Lawyers aims to provide inspiration and education to all who have or will come into contact with the law and/or legal profession. (www.tundeokewale.com / www.urbanlawyers.co.uk).
Thursday 12th May – Safe Ground
Safe Ground is a charity using drama to educate prisoners and young people at risk in the community, so reducing the risk of re-offending and building stronger communities (www.safeground.org.uk).