Press Release: Little Boxes

21 November 2016


Theatre Centre is developing a new model of theatre-making that places primary school children at the very centre of its inception, process and production. Level Playing is conducting important research into how theatrical practice can better involve and enthuse young people by creating work where they are active participants in its creation and delivery. Workshops have inspired a final touring production, Little Boxes, a play interposed with opportunities for interactivity which empower young people to play a bigger part in their story.

Funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation ‘Explore and Test’ grant, this ambitious child-centred research facilitates a unique and creative space for children to explore and reflect on gender. Utilising this new model to understand how early gender stereotypes impact children, Theatre Centre have drawn upon their reflections, writing and experiences to create a new piece of interactive theatre. Little Boxes is now touring to the original partner schools as well as expanding its reach to further schools across the country, supported by a grant from the John Lyons Charity.

Layla’s Room, the companion piece to Little Boxes, was a springboard for these conversations. Currently touring secondary schools and venues across the UK, Layla’s Room investigates the prevalence of sexual harassment in our schools. Sabrina Mahfouz’s script was inspired by conversations with over 1000 teenage girls and it is this ‘collaborative’ story-telling that Little Boxes builds upon.

The practitioners have undertaken four two-day residencies in primary schools in four different areas across the UK leading creative activities and conversations on the subject of gender with children from Year 5 and 6. These activities have actively encouraged children to explore how they associate and identify with their own and the opposite gender. The workshops have helped to establish compelling routes of creative inquiry surrounding the limitations of gender, the impact of segregating groups by biological sex and the context within which children navigate real and perceived differences.

During the devising stage, writer Rob Evans (★★★★★ The Ballad of Pondlife McGurk, Broadway Baby) and director Amelia Sears (★★★★ Brimstone and Treacle, The Telegraph) and the company have broken down typical theatrical parameters and invited young audiences to be part of their story, empowering them to be an active audience with genuine agency from the start to the very end of the process. The cast of Naomi Ackie, Lucy Bairstow and Lucy Jane Parkinson have further developed this over 3 weeks of devising and rehearsals.

Vigorous evaluation by development psychiatrist Dr Natasha Kirkham of Birkbeck University and Culture Shift evaluator Nicky Crabb will support Theatre Centre in addressing the social and artistic impact of the model. Theatre Centre believes Level Playing can develop into a sustainable model with genuine social and artistic impact, as measured through this evaluative approach.

With over sixty years’ experience creating theatre that champions young audiences’ understanding of contemporary social issues, Theatre Centre believes Level Playing will make an important contribution to their extensive history of pioneering cultural interventions. By positioning children as both audience and collaborator, their stories are heard more freely, instilling the importance of activism, engagement and cooperation as vehicles for social change.




Emily Groves - Marketing and Development Officer
020 7729 3066

Level Playing has been funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation ‘Explore and Test’ grant.



Up to 60 children, aimed at 9-11 year olds and their families



Writer: Rob Evans
Director:Amelia Sears
Sound Designer: Elena Peña
Designer: Ellan Parry
Producer: Marigold Hughes
Stage Manager: Amber Taylor

Naomie Ackie
Lucy Bairstow
Lucy Jane Parkinson

About Theatre Centre

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 and national new writing company, Theatre Centre has been empowering young people through the arts since 1953

Recent praise for Theatre Centre’s touring productions:
★★★★The Muddy Choir, The Stage
★★★★★Rise Up, The Morning Star
★★★★Advice for the Young at Heart, What’s On Stage
★★★★Layla’s Room, Reviews Hub

“Revolutionary” The Hackney Citizen
“Timely and relevant” A Younger Theatre
“Thought-provoking” Tribune

Quotes about Theatre Centre:
“Theatre Centre is at the heart of a really vibrant conversation about how we go about making the best possible work for young people” – Lou Ramsden

 “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