Press Release: Layla's Room
26 August 2016
The voice of a thousand teenage girls:
New play Layla's Room by Sabrina Mahfouz
raises urgent questions about sexual harassment in schools
Layla’s Room, a new play by feminist poet Sabrina Mahfouz, authentically captures the experience of navigating the battlegrounds of friendship, fear and feminism. A world premiere, Layla’s Room will tour schools and venues this autumn, using theatre to begin difficult but crucial conversations around the disturbing prevalence of sexual harassment in schools.
Inspired by a bespoke nationwide survey of 1000 young women, Layla has been shaped by their ambitions and anxieties, giving voice to a disturbing narrative that will be familiar to many girls. With 57% of respondents worried about ‘weight loss / weight gain’ and 50% citing ‘confidence’ as the main reason they wouldn’t enter the career they wanted, these statistics formed snapshots of a much bigger picture explored during the devising process.
A 2010 YouGov poll revealed that 29% of 16-18-year-old girls experienced unwanted sexual touching in school, whilst more recent findings from Girlguiding UK’s 2016 Attitudes survey noted that 81% of young women aged 11 to 21 report that in the past week they had experienced or observed some form of everyday sexism. It is the mounting pressure of these ‘everyday’ sexist behaviours, often seen as small and inconsequential acts, which drive Layla’s storyline.
Director Natalie Wilson said:
We wanted to create a piece of theatre that would affirm to all young people that being a girl is, can be and should be a celebration of greatness. I wanted to highlight the misogyny faced by all teenagers today and put it higher up the agenda. This work felt urgent, creating a safe space for young people to hold conversations around sexism, but also enabling them to cast off these stereotypes and behaviours.
Written by award-winning poet Sabrina Mahfouz, Layla’s Room is energised by the musicality of hard-hitting and heartfelt spoken word. Having recently written for Paines Plough, BBC3, Clean Break and Bush Theatre, this is Sabrina’s first play specifically for schools’ touring and will introduce her voice to a new generation.
This climate of sexism surrounding Layla’s Room has catalysed a wider scheme of work for Theatre Centre, as the company look to explore how, when and why childhood aspirations are quashed by sexist insecurities. Research published by Girlguiding in July 2016 revealed that 90% of 9 to 10 year-olds think that women and men have the same chance at succeeding in their jobs - but only 35% of 17 to 21 year-olds feel the same.
Whilst Layla’s Room addresses a status quo of sexism and harassment among teenagers, Theatre Centre’s new cycle of work – Level Playing – seeks to challenge the root cause of these gender stereotypes. Taking artistic participation into primary schools, the new research project has been funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Explore and Test Grant, extending the conversation sparked by Layla’s Room to children in primary schools.
With over sixty years’ experience of creating theatre that cuts straight to the heart of contemporary social issues, Theatre Centre continues to pioneer crucial cultural interventions with its productions, projects and resources.
Layla’s Room will tour schools and venues between September and November 2016.
More information can be found at:
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Emily Groves - Marketing and Development Officer
020 7729 3066
Layla’s Room Tour 2016
LONDON – Redbridge Drama Centre - 15 September
BRIGHTON – Brighton Dome – 22 September
MAIDENHEAD - Norden Farm Centre for the Arts - 27 September
PLYMOUTH – Barbican Theatre - 7 & 8 October
CARDIFF - Sherman Cymru - 11 October
KENT – Marlowe Theatre - 20 October
LONDON – Southbank Centre - 22 October
YORK – York Theatre Royal - 1 November
LANCASTER – The Dukes – 8 November
LEICESTER – Upstairs at the Western - 9 November
LONDON – Stratford Circus - 22 & 23 November
Facts & Figures
YouGov Poll 2010
Girlguiding, Why We’re Empowering Girls Through Camp CEO
Girlguiding Attitudes Survey 2016
Theatre Centre empowers young leadership and youth activism through the arts, supporting and transforming children and young people to change the world by enriching their learning and leadership potential with theatre productions, creative projects and resources. A registered charity, Theatre Centre has been empowering young people through the arts since 1953. The company has worked with award-winning writers Lisa Evans, Noël Grieg, Mike Kenny, Bryony Lavery, Brendan Murray, Philip Osment, Manjinder Virk, Roy Williams, Benjamin Zephaniah and many others. Theatre Centre is supported by Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation.
Visit the website at www.theatre-centre.co.uk
Sabrina Mahfouz is currently writing plays, poems, librettos and TV for Paines Plough; BBC3; Kate Whitley; Futures Theatre, Theatre Centre and Aakash Odedra. She has been a Sky Arts Academy Scholar for Poetry, a poet in residence for Cape Farewell and an Associate Playwright at the Bush Theatre. Her creative work has been recognized with a number of awards including a 2014 Fringe First Award; a 2013 Sky Arts Futures Fund Award; an Old Vic New Voices Underbelly Edinburgh Award and a Westminster Prize for New Playwrights. Her book The Clean Collection is available from Bloomsbury.
Recent praise for Theatre Centre’s touring productions:
****, The Stage
****, What’s On Stage
****, The Public Reviews
“Revolutionary” The Hackney Citizen
“Timely and relevant” A Younger Theatre
Quotes about Theatre Centre:
“The work of Theatre Centre has enriched our students’ lives for many years now.” Charlotte Grosvenor, Head of Drama, Cardinal Newman School
“I have long admired Theatre Centre’s work in producing fine plays for young audiences and doing everything possible to promote the genre through new writing.” Susan Elkin, The Stage
“Theatre Centre defies clichés” The Guardian