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Page last updated at 08:54 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 09:54 UK
Young actors tackle mental health issues in Drum drama
Jo Irving
BBC Devon

Rehearsals of adult child/dead child
13 to 17-year-olds perform a play about issues surrounding mental health

Young actors are taking on a controversial subject in the latest performance by the Theatre Royal Plymouth Young Company.

Rehearsals are well under way for adult child/dead child, being produced at the Drum Theatre in April 2010.

The 13 to 17-year-olds are tackling subjects which are often taboo.

The play's director, Kevin Johnson, believes the challenging subject matter of mental health has really made the young group look at their lives.

"It's incredibly relevant to everyone working on it and is all about having a voice and getting adults to hear it."

The Young Company rehearse at TR2
The play is about a woman's life heading out of control

Claire Dowie wrote the award-winning monologue in the 1980s.

It looks at how a young woman's life can spiral downwards into mental illness.

Kevin chose it for the theatre company after he came across it 10 years ago at university.

"I've always had an interest in mental health," he told BBC Devon.

The Plymouth theatre group has had hands-on access to dividing up the text so the performers feel more involved in the production process.

"The play is about going through life with an invisible friend. It leads to multiple personality disorders and general mental health problems," said Kevin.

"There are some really sensitive issues in the play so the young actors had to be prepared.

"It gives them a real understanding of what life is like at a really confusing time in their lives.

The Young Company rehearse
The Young Company rehearsing at TR2

"I've always likened it to wanting to understand the world when you're young but you haven't earned your spurs yet."

The play opens to a disused playground and uses some of the group's personal memories of den building in the set.

"I feel they've got more involved with this production compared to some of the older ones we've done like the Greek texts or Shakespeare.

"We treat them like professional actors and we make a contract with them," added Kevin.

But this play isn't all doom and gloom - the troublesome topic is given some light relief. There is humour and humanity too.

adult child/dead child
Tues 13 - Sat 17 April 2010 at 7.45pm
Drum Theatre, Plymouth
Tickets: £7 (concessions available)
Box Office: 01752 267222

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