March 3, 2022

Look me in the face

For over 30 years my international theatre work has taken me to many countries – much of it in Europe. I have many friends in eastern Europe and Russia so I feel I can’t avoid the situation in Ukraine. My angle though is young people and the impact it has on their lives.

We all know the playground. If you pass by any school playground in the world you hear the same larger-than-life noisiness, even if the children don’t seem to be doing anything to make all that noise. It has always mystified me.

“In my experience most people are decent and want things to be on an even keel – they like to be happy.”

We have all experienced our own school playground and from it we learnt valuable and sometimes painful things about life that the school itself doesn’t teach – how to make friends, how to deal with friends who turn against you, how to have fun, how to withdraw, how to step up and how to deal with bullies. It’s just as much a learning environment as the classroom. In my experience most people are decent and want things to be on an even keel – they like to be happy.

But there are people who are not drawn to harmony, some people, for whatever reason in their life, are drawn instead to chaos. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They can be sly and secretive or there in plain sight throwing their weight around, “Don’t mess with me or you’ll regret it”. For 6 years I taught in a challenging inner London school. When there were fights in the playground and it wasn’t that often, it would draw an ever-growing group of on-lookers who would start to chant, “Fight! Fight!”. If I waded in to sort out a fight, I would always find the same thing – two kids in the centre trapped in the situation. They were in over their heads and didn’t know what to do about it. If I said, “Right this stops now. You and you go directly to the office. NOW!”, they would both meekly walk – glad that someone was rescuing the situation. “The rest of you go,” ended it.

As we know most bullies are carrying a problem and often they are deeply insecure. They want to control, they want respect, they demand attention, but they are like the Wizard of Oz – lots of huffing and puffing to make them seem all powerful, but they’re not. They are just like the rest of us – a human being.

“If everyone then slowly pointed one finger at the bully I guarantee they would walk away. The group never realises how powerful it is until it stands with the underdog.”

If someone started picking on someone and instead of chanting, “Fight! Fight!”, everyone went and stood staring at the bully (because we can usually tell the difference between the bully and the bullied) the bully would feel very uncomfortable. If everyone then slowly pointed one finger at the bully I guarantee they would walk away. The group never realises how powerful it is until it stands with the underdog. Human nature makes us want to protect ourselves and look the other way, but the world knows from history that you can’t allow tyrants to hurt people – whatever it takes.

To my friends in eastern Europe, I say if this playground is the world and a teacher is not about to help us out we all have to do our collective bit to bring justice, if for no other reason than we want our children to know that you always call out a bully.

Theatretrain, a nationwide provider of weekend theatre schools for young people aged 4-18, specialises in weekly classes in acting, singing, and dancing. An emphasis is placed on learning valuable life skills such as confidence, empathy, courage, and resilience. If you know a child who loves to dance, act and sing or could do with a little confidence boost why not visit to find out what our performing arts classes can offer your child at one of our 80 locations across the UK.

Related Articles

Summer Schools Make a Difference

Kevin Dowsett, Artistic Director of Theatretrain, highlights the transformative power of residential summer schools. These immersive experiences allow young people to step away from their daily routines and engage deeply in creative pursuits. At Theatretrain's summer school, participants form lasting friendships, hone their talents, and discover new dimensions of themselves through intensive workshops and collaborative activities.
Read more >

Company Call

Last Sunday, Theatretrain held the company call for their 102nd large-scale show. Artistic Director Kevin Dowsett witnessed seven Theatretrain companies, who had been rehearsing since February, come together for the first time. In just three hours, they transformed a school theatre into a hive of creativity and talent, setting the stage for an unforgettable performance. Read the full blog to dive into the details of this extraordinary day!
Read more >

Sometimes We’re All Empty Vessels

Dive into the captivating world of human behaviour and self-perception with Kevin Dowsett, Artistic Director of Theatretrain. From actors' veiled insecurities to the art of projecting confidence, Kevin explores the intricacies of the human condition. Discover how the stage becomes a training ground for courage, humility, and self-assurance, shaping tomorrow's resilient adults.
Read more >

The Best People Care

Enter the vibrant realm of Theatretrain alongside Artistic Director Kevin Dowsett, where character isn't measured by interactions with animals, but by how we treat children and young people. Join us as we explore the dichotomy of theatre technicians, from begrudging gatekeepers to enthusiastic allies, and the profound influence they have on the stage.
Read more >

Knock Knock Who’s there?

Join Kevin Dowsett, Artistic Director of Theatretrain, and his daughter Grace on a delightful journey through the whimsical world of knock-knock jokes. From Grace's infectious enthusiasm to Shakespearean echoes, each jest is a playful dance of control and delight that transcends generations.
Read more >

Going Mobile

Discover the impact of mobile phones on young minds in this insightful blog by Theatretrain's Artistic Director, Kevin Dowsett. With 25% of 5-7-year-olds owning phones, concerns arise. Yet, Theatretrain offers an escape, fostering a focus on arts and connection, free from distractions. Join the discussion on reclaiming youth in a smartphone-dominated world.
Read more >