Seen not heard, and all for children

A new drama seeks to reclaim the world's traumatised youth. Kim Sengupta reports
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The Independent Online
DISILLUSIONED with thestate of British theatre, dramatist David Glass set off to travel the world and discovered a mission - to use drama to help understand and rehabilitate some of the millions of children "lost" to society through oppression and abuse.

Two years of writing, lobbying and fundraising later, his dream came to fruition at Newcastle last month with the first part of the Lost Child Trilogy. It has now moved to Brighton and, after touring the country, the production travels to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Throughout his odyssey,Glass's main aim is to draw out experiences of childhood - be they from the latch-key kids of British inner-cities to orphans of war in Cambodia.

Glass, 40, a producer-director acclaimed for his productions of Gormenghast and The Mosquito Coast, based the trilogy mainly on mime and movement because he feels this is a better evocation of childhood experience. It will also make it more accessible to international spectators and participants.

The public will be invited to relate their experiences, some of which, as Glass discovered in his travels, can be extremely traumatic. There was the six-year-old runaway in Lima, Peru, found crying at the television screens in a shop window. His father had severely beaten the boy while watching television, and the child had learn to beg for help from the faces on the screen. Others had not been able to forget the nightmares of their youth, such as the Cambodian man in his twenties who witnessed the killing of his family by the cadres of Pol Pot.

Glass has avoided making the work overtly political, which has helped in gaining the support of government agencies abroad. The project has also received funding from the Arts Council and the Foreign Office through the British Council.

Glass firmly believes the tour will do some good. "Children themselves have extraordinary capacity to deal with what they have been subjected to," he said, "but they hide away these things. What we are trying to do is draw it out.

"These children share a common thread of experience, and the use their imagination to cope and survive. Children in Africa who have been conscripted into armies try to imagine what life would have been like if they had been allowed to grow up normally, and we have children in Lockerbie who dream of kids falling out of the sky."

Glass's production has received approval from senior Whitehall figures. While carrying out his research, Glass met Matthew Gould,Second Secretary at the British Embassy in Manila, who had been carrying out pioneering work in combating child abuse by Western tourists in the Philippines.

His initiative led to anagreement for Scotland Yard to train Filipino officers in child-abuse investigations, and this work is expected to be expanded to other South-east Asian countries.

Gould, now back in London as one of Robin Cook's speechwriters, is a strong supporter of the project. He said: "David is looking at this from the children's point of view, and this seems to me to be an innovative and very worthwhile project. I am glad he is being allowed to take it to different countries and its deserving of widespread support."

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