Shona McNeil is challenging schools to book her play and confront the issue of suicide head-on.
The Pauatahanui writer, actor and director relocated to New Zealand from Scotland in 2011. Her play, Dare2Hope, was a success in her native country and was shown to more than 2000 school pupils. She held pilot shows with Kiwi actors in the Wellington region in June.
Ms McNeil says the play confronts the issues of suicide, depression and pressure that young people face today. It was inspired by Kevin Hines, who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and changed his mind halfway down. He survived.
Ms McNeil wants the play to make a difference and especially to get school-aged children talking.
‘‘I don’t think young people grasp suicide, that death is final, the end.
‘‘ Dare2Hope is about finding solutions, finding what keeps you afloat, like Kevin Hines in the water.’’
The play is current, provocative, humorous and serious in equal parts, she says. Characters are pakeha, Maori and Pacific, gay, sporty, cut across all classes and have both weak and strong influences in their life. Ms McNeil says it wasn’t difficult adapating it from Scotland to New Zealand, as young people face similar pressures in their teenage years in every culture, but she did engage cultural advisors to make it relevant for a Kiwi audience.
‘‘They are stories from what I’ve seen in my experiences [Ms McNeil has suicide prevention training] and I’m glad we’ve been able to show to not just kids, but adults and the wider community. Suicide affects so many lives.’’
The feedback has been very positive and she wants to take Dare2Hope into schools. It will be showing at universities during Mental Health Awareness Week in October.
‘‘Along with the play, there is the opportunity to talk and ‘ workshop’ afterwards.
‘‘I just want to get people talking about this – sometimes I think kids are more willing than adults.’’
Go to purementaltheatre.co.nz for information.