All photos are from past productions of Curious Monkey.
The theatre company Curious Monkey in North East England engages young people in care, refugees and asylum seekers. Their work shares stories of marginalised and underrepresented communities, raising awareness of the issues people face.
Since 2018 Kavli Trust has supported Troupe, the theatre company’s group for young people aged 14-21 with experience of the care system. A new 2-year agreement of 150,000 Euro (NOK 1.5 million) ensures continuation of the project.
“We are very pleased to continue the cooperation with a new funding agreement that will allow Curious Monkey to continue and develop their Troupe activities,” says General Manager of Kavli Trust, Inger Elise Iversen.
“Troupe offers unique opportunities for young people to get involved in theatre by seeing shows and teaming up with professionals, giving them the opportunity to develop their skills, creativity and self-esteem. We are proud of our partnership and everything they have achieved,” she says.
Theatre rooted in experiences
“Through having fun and meeting other young people with similar experiences, they grow in confidence, try out new skills and have improved wellbeing, says Executive Director at Curious Monkey, Jenny Dewar .
Working with professional creative teams, they shape the participants’ stories into fresh, direct theatre that is rooted in the experiences of the people they work with.
The aims are to improve participants’ life chances and wellbeing through creative and cultural activity and skills development, and influence societal change by sharing their stories and voices with people in power, decision makers and audiences.
Fall through the gaps
Many young people “fall through the gaps” between services, or find the transition between one service and another challenging. Maintaining positive wellbeing and mental health is a challenge for many of the young people involved in the Troupe project.
The support from Kavli Trust has helped the theatre company to secure funding from other trusts and foundations, moving Curious Monkey from a project-to-project model to a more sustainable multi-year revenue funded organisation.
Funding from Kavli Trust has also enabled Curious Monkey to provide long term, regular and consistent support for this group of young people who often have chaotic and unpredictable lives.
Curious Monkey works with professional local artists to provide one off workshops to explore different skills in theatre and performing arts. This can range from stand-up comedy to lighting, set design or sound recording.
One of the innovative activities implemented by Curious Monkey is a film project using VR technology.
“It has proved to give a moving account of what it is like to be a young person in the care system. Even with the best of intentions, it is not always easy to imagine what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes, being misunderstood, undermined or lonely,”, says Jenny Dewar.
With the support of Kavli Trust, Curious Monkey has used VR technology to make several impactful 360 films. Wearing a VR headset, the viewer is transported into the shoes of a young person in care, being taken on a journey through the different experiences young people face when living in the care system.
The goal is to provide more knowledge among foster parents, social workers and the first-line service about what it is like to be a child in foster care families.
“In the coming year, members of the group will be training as facilitators and devising a workshop to go along with the films. We will be meeting with partners in local authorities and a university to plan events where the films will be shared with students, professionals and young people as a training and awareness raising tool,” says Dewar.
New production in October
Troupe are currently working on a new production that will be on in October. The group have been working on this all year with a team of professional artists, and it will be on in October 28th and 29th at Live Theatre.
“In the early phase they have been sharing monologues that they have been working on. Then a writer has been involved to work on the play with them, and started the devising process,” says Dewar.
Members of the group have expressed an interest in animation and AV (audiovisual), so during the year the group has recruitet an AV artist and professional actors to their creative team.
“The play will incorporate live performance and projection. It’s going to be really exciting,” says Dewar, adding:
“Also, we are rolling out the most recent 360 films to a number of different training settings with universities and local authorities, alongside a workshop that will be run by older members of Troupe and our team,” she adds.
Bringing performances out to the public
During the pandemic, Curious Monkey developed the initiative “Caravan” where the theatre company brings its performances out into the local community instead of inviting people to their own premises.
This helps the theatre to get in touch with young people more easily, and creates a generous and inclusive environment.
Mental health support
With the recent support from Kavli Trust, Curious Monkey will also hire a mental health worker who will work to strengthen children and young people’s mental health, their ability to cope with life and not least to help deal with emotions and challenges that arise as a result of the activity they participate in.
“We are so grateful for the support from Kavli Trust and the relationship that we have with the team there who take real care and interest in our work. The support we have received has been key to the company’s development over the last few years, and continues to help us to reach more young people, giving them the opportunity to explore their creative interests, ultimately improving their wellbeing and confidence,” says Jenny Dewar.
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