Five years in a special educational needs school

Published: 8 September 2018

Five Years, a new one-man play about school, escaping and a world that puts you into boxes, is coming to the North East.

Nottinghamshire-based poet Neal Pike and poet and theatre maker from Gateshead Matt Miller have teamed up to capture Pike’s experience of attending Foxwood, a special educational needs school in Nottinghamshire, from 1998 to 2002.

“Let me tell you about Foxwood,” Pike says, “a place that my skipping voice would not get me thrown down stairs. Unlike other schools. It was very much like other schools.”

Five Years is about trying to hold on to a sense of who you are during those messy, brutal and mundane years of adolescence. It explores identity, community and the parts of Neal Pike that were shaped by Foxwood. It combines poetry, storytelling and direct address with intimate staging by director Matt Miller.

Commissioned by New Writing North and supported by Arts Council England, Five Years has been developed alongside a series of writing workshops, and, with support from the Sunday for Sammy Trust, all the public performances are BSL interpreted and relaxed.

Pike and Miller met as members of Nottingham-based poetry collective The Mouthy Poets in 2012 and performed together several times throughout the UK and in Germany, since when Neal Pike has published his first poetry pamphlet Identity Bike Ride with Big White Shed and has had poems published in various disability inclusion magazines such as Inclusion Now. In 2018, he established the UK’s first disability writers collective, Tentacles, based in Nottingham.

Matt Miller has been a writer-in-residence at Live Theatre and Alphabetti Theatre in Newcastle and performed his poetry on BBC Radio 3 as part of The Verb New Voices scheme. In 2016, he completed his first solo show Sticking which he performed to sold-out audiences at Alphabetti, as well as at Contact Manchester, ARC Stockton and Gala Durham.

This is their first theatre project together.

Five Years premières at the Durham Book Festival on 14 October (7:00) in the Gala Theatre Studio and then runs for five nights from 13 to 17 November (7:30 to 8:30) at Alphabetti Theatre in Newcastle.

The show is suitable for age 16+.

Peter Lathan