Disadvantaged Youth Confront Homelessness In Performance

The first of two self-devised productions given this year by disadvantaged youth will take place on Monday 16 June at Belvoir St Downstairs Theatre as part of Company B’s Youth Express Program.

Designed to assist in the development of communication and coping skills amongst disadvantaged, homeless and at-risk youths, Youth Express is in its third year and forms an important part of Company B’s Education Program.

On June 16, audiences in the Downstairs theatre will get to experience Blood on our Hands, created by Key College, a high school in Surry Hills for chronically homeless and drug addicted young people run by Father Riley’s Youth Off the Streets.

Blood on our Hands investigates prejudice and marginalisation towards homeless adults amongst homeless youths, and the denial of self-worth in relation to homelessness amongst both adults and young people.

According to Program Director, James Winter, the performance is about young people’s reaction to homelessness in older generations – many of the students view youth and adult homelessness as fundamentally disassociated.

“For this year’s performance we decided to start from a dramatic event and build a theatrical piece on the story that evolved. In the past we had only devised from collective personal experiences – to the detriment of a clear narrative and opportunities for dynamic performances from individuals.

“Created primarily through improvisation, the initial concept was developed into a script over time while discovering the characters, relationships and messages that would inhabit this dramatic landscape.

“Blood on our Hands focuses on the Key College students as performers, rather than as homeless youths. And because many of the students had already seen a Company B production, if not more than one, we needed to align what they were doing with what they’d seen on stage at Belvoir St Theatre,” he said.

James has been running the Youth Express program for three years and acts as creator, dramaturg, teacher and director. For Company B he runs drama workshops with students from Key College, Marist College in Toongabbie and Rozelle Inner Skill Youth Space, a Government project aimed at young people aged 13-19 who are not currently connected with mainstream education.

“My role in these projects has been dramaturgical in relation to bringing together the creative ideas from the participating young people and enabling the pieces to slowly find clarity and resolution, while allowing for the content to inform and inspire debate in the rehearsal room about our place, role and legacy in society,” he said.

Company B’s Acting Education Manager, Robyn McLean says, “As youth homelessness continues to grow across Australia, the need to create programs that assist in getting children and young people off the streets and assimilated back into society is even greater.

“A report released recently by the National Youth Commission cried out for a national commitment to eliminate youth homelessness over the next 25 years. The report found the number of homeless teenagers has doubled to 22,000 since 1989, and one in two homeless youths is turned away from emergency shelters every night because services are full.

“In creating programs like Youth Express, Company B is reinforcing its commitment to providing disadvantaged young people with access to a professional theatre company and their artists to improve and expand their skills and confidence, and hopefully enjoy a better way of life,” she said.

James Winter has worked extensively with young people at risk, including a six-month project with young people in a Sudanese refugee camp in Egypt. He is also co-manager of Queen Street Studio and artistic director of Ashfield Youth Theatre in Sydney.
The Youth Express workshops are part of Company B’s Education Program and form the first stage of a year long project for young people at risk, supported by Company B’s Education Partner Freehills and the City of Sydney.

The workshops, which began in February, take place once a week and involve an introduction to improvisation, movement, voice and play-building. They culminate in the performances talking place on June 16 and September 15 this year.

For further information on Company B’s Education Program, or to attend the Company B Youth Express performance on June 16, please contact Siobhan Robertson on 02 8396 6242 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Company B Youth Express Program performance
Monday June 16 2008, 2.00pm
Belvoir St Theatre

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