Post People: Empowering Barking and Dagenham’s teenagers with theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 February 2016

Natalie Smith uses drama at Dagenham's Arc Theatre group to challenge issues such as FGM, racism and child sex exploitation

Natalie Smith uses drama at Dagenham's Arc Theatre group to challenge issues such as FGM, racism and child sex exploitation


Educational director at Arc Theatre, Natalie Smith, 41, tells Sebastian Murphy-Bates about her 25 years using drama to arm young people against social evils like FGM

“I started working at the theatre when I was doing work experience and I loved it so much that I’ve never left.

“The first performance I was involved in was a campaign against racism in football back in 1991 called Kick it Out.

“I love performing but now I tend to play background roles and take more of a directing role because our group is about empowering teenagers to deal with difficult issues through drama.

“I’m really lucky to be working in this job because the variety means no two days are the same.

“I really enjoy working with teenagers because they want to know everything – they’re like sponges for knowledge.

“Growing up in London’s great but it’s not always easy.

“Most problems young people face are due to low self esteem – we have teenagers coming to our classes with eyes on the floor.

“Theatre’s a really powerful way to educate and we use drama to tackle issues that might not come up at school or at home, such as child sex exploitation and female genital mutilation (FGM).

“I’m always out on the road going into schools in Barking and Dagenham with the aim of tackling subjects that I feel passionate and helping young people be a part of that.

“When they learn about things like that they get passionate and want to do something about it.”

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