Education: Sean fancies Tania: Lynne Wallis joins the audience at a boys' school for a theatre company's lessons in safe sex

SEVENTY schoolboys await their first proper lesson in HIV infection and safe sex. Some wait eagerly. Most look bored. For the afternoon, the boys at Isleworth and Syon Boys School, Middlesex, are going to be watching the progress of the Boring, Boring and Bollocks Advertising Agency, whose task is to create a campaign to educate the public about safe sex.

Enter four executives from the agency. The out-of-touch, bespectacled account director is briefed on the campaign objectives by his female colleagues. 'We have to stress that HIV is not just passed on by gays,' says one. 'And that there is a difference between Aids and HIV.'

'Right then,' he says, with a clap of his hands. 'We could have a film called The Joys of Virginity. We could use Cliff Richard.'

Titters from the audience. The boys are interested.

Cut to the scene of the making of the film. Enter Tania, 15, who tells a friend that Sean, her boyfriend, wants to go 'all the way'. Tania really likes him but is worried about getting pregnant, and about HIV.

Caught in the Act Theatre Company has been playing to school audiences for more than two years, exploding the myths about sex and HIV that thrive in the playground environment of ignorance and adolescent fear. The play, Just Be Good To Me, is aimed at 14- to 16-year-olds. It works by anticipating teenage responses. 'The giggling must be got out of the way quickly,' says Jenny Dee, the 29-year-old director. 'That is the philosophy. We say, let's be one step ahead of them all the time.'

Double standards are illustrated by Tania's brother Adrian, 17, a streetwise disc jockey who drawls: 'Yeah man, this party was really amazing. Wicked. I hardly got no sleep last night.'

Tania moans: 'He never comes home until the morning and we all know what he gets up to, but that's OK because he's a boy.'

We meet boastful, loudmouthed Lee, who belittles the opposite sex. 'Jane, you seen that film Honey, I Shrunk My Tits?' he jeers. He is soon put in his place when he becomes a contestant in Go the Distance, a tacky gameshow that awards points for sexual technique. Lee is presented with a blow-up doll and told to chat her up. 'Er, hello, er, I really like you, will you go out wiv me?' he stutters. He grabs the doll and starts kissing it with a fumbling passion that has the audience hooting.

Tania fancies Mark, but he confesses he is gay. The pupils have been told they can walk out at any time if they feel uncomfortable, but their eyes are riveted on Mark as he says: 'Just because I don't wear a chiffon scarf and go around calling people 'luvvie'] I don't know why I'm gay. But I am. And I'm happy.'

Sean invites Tania round when his mum and dad are out. They both want to have sex, but Sean refuses to wear a condom. 'You can't feel nothing,' he says knowingly, having told Tania he has had sex before.

'What if I get pregnant?' asks Tania.

'I won't, you know . . .' mumbles Sean.

'You'll withdraw, you mean? That's unsafe.' Tania is adamant: no condom, no going all the way.

The plot unfolds: Sean admits he is a virgin after all, and he and Tania do have sex, safely.

In Hollywood style, the couple convey their passion with lots of tango-like head movements, arched eyebrows and puckered lips, while a sickly American voiceover says: 'This is a modern romance called safe sex. The tale of Tania and Sean. Young lovers lost in the maze of . . . safe sex.'

Cut back to the advertising agency. 'I like it, I like it,' enthuses the director. Rapturous applause.

In the 20 remaining minutes the audience asks questions. To save the boys embarrassment, the actors respond in character. 'What turned you gay?' is the first question.

'Well, I didn't wake up one morning and think, Christ I'm bored, I think I'll be gay,' replies Mark.

'Do you feel abnormal?' asks another.

'Should I?' says Mark.

Tristan Middleton, 24, who plays Sean, says the plays work because the characters are well researched. 'We have studied youth culture to a point where we know what to wear, how to speak, and how to gain the audience's respect. If you use language they think is just a bit naff, you've lost,' he says.

Paul Ritter, 26, who plays Mark, Lee and Adrian, says: 'We don't have many disruptive audiences, but when we do we usually handle it ourselves. If a teacher steps in to ask them to be quiet, we lose our advantage.'

All four cast members prefer playing to mixed audiences. Debbie West, 27, who plays Tania, says girls exert a positive influence. 'They ask more concerned questions. They are really interested and it's easier to get through to them.' And there are other advantages of mixed groups, she explains. 'One big lad was making silly comments, when this attractive blonde girl gave him such a withering glance he shut up for the rest of the afternoon.'

Jenny Dee, who founded Caught in the Act two-and-a-half years ago, describes herself as an HIV educator rather than an actress, and warns against groups setting up with no proper research. 'We are in a very influential position, and kids really respond to us.'

Other Caught in the Act plays target different age groups: one for 10- to 12-year-olds is called Kissing with Confidence, and another, Sex, Lies and Stereotypes, is for sixth-formers upwards.

Why do they think their approach works where others fail? 'We tell kids what they need to know but we give them an emotional reality,' says Jenny. 'The plays kaleidoscope with children's experience. With drama, their suspense of disbelief is immediate and they are prepared to accept that one minute I am 16, and the next minute, I am an HIV-infected mother.'

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger Jonas Gutierrez reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Head of Maths

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Head of Maths position at a prestigious ...

RE Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Teacher of Religious Education ...

Maths Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Long term Math Post - potentiall...

Science Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are currently recruiting for ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week