Derby Theatre to stage Wheatle’s Home Girl

Published: 16 January 2021
Reporter: Steve Orme

Alex Wheatle with the cover of his book Home Girl

A new stage adaptation of Alex Wheatle’s Home Girl is to be staged at Derby Theatre through a “unique and exciting co-creation and collaboration” between Wheatle, the theatre, Derby’s Cultural Education Partnership, professional writers, care-experienced young people and other young theatre-makers.

Alex Wheatle MBE won the Guardian children’s book award in 2016 for Crongton Knights, adapted by Emteaz Hussain into a play which was produced by Pilot Theatre, Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, Derby Theatre and York Theatre Royal early in 2020.

The Home Girl theatre project began when Wheatle joined an online weekly book club during lockdown with members of Derby Theatre’s Plus One programme, a scheme for young people in care and care leavers which is part of the Esmée Fairbain leaving care programme.

Each week, Wheatle and the young people read chapters of the book, discussing and exploring creative, on-stage opportunities for the story. The next step was to issue a writing commission for professional writers to adapt the novel for performance in collaboration with theatre-makers aged 16 to 25. Nathan Powell and Nottingham Playhouse associate artist Sarah “Rain” Kolawole were appointed co-writers.

Wheatle 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.”

Derby’s cultural education producer Alix Manning-Jones added, “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.”

Wheatle, the writers, the young people and Derby Theatre’s artistic director Sarah Brigham will shape the story into a one-act play that will be performed on the main stage at Derby Theatre during summer 2021.