Alex Wheatle’s Home Girl to be adapted into stage production through collaboration with care-experienced young people

Summer 2021 will see a brand new stage adaptation of Alex Wheatle’s Home Girl  on the main stage at Derby Theatre through a unique and exciting co-creation and collaboration between Alex Wheatle MBE,  the Theatre, Derby’s Cultural Education Partnership, professional writers, care-experienced young people and other young theatre makers.

Alex Wheatle MBE is an award-winning author who won the Guardian Children’s Book Award in 2016 (for Crongton Knights) and Home Girl, one of the Crongton series novels, is fast-paced and funny, tender, tragic and full of courage. It tells the story of Naomi, a teenage girl growing up fast in the care system.

The fourth film in Steve McQueen's highly acclaimed Small Axe series (entitled ALEX WHEATLE) which recently aired on BBC One, is based on Alex's life, his experience in care, his teenage years in Brixton and being jailed after the Brixton Uprising in 1981.

The Home Girl  theatre project began its journey when Alex joined an online weekly book club during lockdown with members of the Theatre’s Plus One programme, an award-winning scheme for young people in care and care leavers which is also part of the Esmée Fairbain Leaving Care Programme. 

Each week, Alex and the young people read chapters of the book, as well as discussing and exploring creative, on-stage opportunities for the story. Following on from these sessions, the project aims were further established, and the next step was to issue a writing commission opportunity for professional writers to adapt the novel for performance, in collaboration with young theatre makers aged 16-25. Following a selection process, led by the young people, Nathan Powell and Sarah ‘Rain’ Kolawole were appointed as co-writers to work on the adaptation.

Nathan Powell is a Director and Writer who makes new work that invites people into the theatre with open arms and a smile. He makes work that feels accessible to people that are not regular theatregoers, whilst giving regular theatregoers an exciting night of something new.

Sarah ‘Rain’ Kolawole is a Spoken Word artist, poet, Soho Theatre alumni playwright and Associate Artist of Nottingham Playhouse theatre. Sarah is originally from Nottingham and has been writing poetry and performing spoken word for approximately 16 years and has been playwriting for five. 

A young writer has also been given the opportunity to work with Nathan and Sarah on the adaptation, as well as offering other young people and artists the chance to work on the overall project through Reimagine, a young people’s performance project led by Derby Theatre, and the Cultural Campus (Derby’s Cultural Education Partnership). Reimagine is one of 5 National pilot programmes, funded through Arts Council England and DMCS as part of the Youth Performance Partnership Fund. Supporting children and young people to engage with high quality co-created theatre making and shine the light on career opportunities that are available within the industry. 

Alex Wheatle MBE said: “As a care-experienced writer, it’s really heart-warming that the Home Girl theatre project is being created, led and shaped by young care-experienced people. It’s a joy working with the young people, Derby Theatre and its partners.”

Alix Manning-Jones (Derby’s Cultural Education Producer) said: “During lockdown, we set-up an online book club with our Plus One young people. We sent out copies of Alex’s book and invited them to join in a weekly online book club session which provided a safe space for our young people and consistency at the time they needed it the most. We were honoured that Alex joined us every week, and we read chapters of the book together, discussing the characters and creatively exploring the ideas around the music, poetry and our vision of what the story would look like on stage. This is such an exciting opportunity for our young people and an inspiring first step into bringing such an iconic story to life to which many care-experienced young people can relate.”

Over the next few months, Alex, the Theatre, the writers, the young people and Sarah Brigham, Derby Theatre’s Artistic Director, will work together on shaping the story into a one-act play that will be performed on the main stage at Derby Theatre during summer 2021.

Home Girl  is a wholly modern story which sheds a much needed light on what can be an unsettling life - and the consequences that can follow when children are treated like pawns on a family chessboard.

More details about the production, and how to book, will be announced soon.