Guest Blog: Chris Woodley

The truth hurts. This summer I will be taking my solo show The Soft Subject (A Love Story) to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. My company Hyphen Theatre is making their Fringe debut with is a pop fueled autobiographical love-story looking at drama teaching and mental health.

It took me about six months during the writing process to admit my true feelings about where my mental health was at after my first long term relationship ended. The Soft Subject was originally meant to be about drama teaching and the value of arts education. I have been a drama teacher in secondary schools for a decade. I love it, but sometimes I find it so incredibly formulaic. The show tries to playfully explore this in a one hour five-part drama lesson.

If you’ve ever taught drama in school you will know the highs and lows of writing reviews on theatre in less than a thousand words on Blood Brothers, The Women In Black, Coram Boy, Warhorse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time the list goes on and on. It can be so incredibly dry. I’m not afraid to say that I find students reducing a piece of art into marks out of 40 in a drama review desperately dull. Is this really how theatre should be assessed in an exam? My show also looks at the power of theatre with young people engaging in performances that have changed their lives. As an openly gay teacher I’ve always directed shows on sexuality like The Laramie Project and pushed to have a dialogue about LGBTQ rights in my lessons. I invited my partner at the time, who was a theatre producer, to school plays and Christmas shows. If you’ve ever had to teach Performing Arts Business, it’s super useful just to get your boyfriend to teach it. Done. Tick.

During my first year of teacher training I took my students to a DV8 show about sexuality and on the train home quite unexpectedly my A level student came out to the whole class. Having LGBTQ visibility in schools allowed other students to come out and discuss their sexuality in a safe space. I love it when theatre has made a difference to the student’s lives. But the most important part of making this show for me has been to present a truthful snap shot of my teaching experience as honestly as I can. Teachers are not machines. When my relationship ended after six years I really wasn’t very well. I didn’t return to school for weeks, and I went into a depression. I won’t spoil the ending, but working on the show has been exceptionally liberating. I’ve learnt that often the things you are afraid to say, or embarrassed to say are usually the most interesting things. Sometimes the truth isn’t for everyone, but in this show I’ve signed up for it, so I need to get on with teaching my drama lesson.

The Soft Subject (A Love Story) by Chris Woodley 3rd- 28th August Assembly Hall. @ImChrisWoodley #TheSoftSubject @HyphenTC @AssemblyFest

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