We've been asked to put together a short forum theatre piece for a Teenage Cancer Trust conference in London next month and much of the day was spent with preliminary research.
The Trust are keen for us to look at post-cancer care and have provided us with several stories of young people who struggle with the transition from patient to 'survivor' - a term which, even in itself causes controversy.
The initial problem seems to be how we can create a composite scenario with a clear protagonist for the delegates to swap in for. What exactly is the oppression of post-cancer care and as ever, when using the arsenal of the oppressed in a pre-scripted situation how do we ensure the work has credibility?
One former patient Natasha Vince has written an extended account of her whole journey from initial diagnosis, as a fifteen year old, to her sense of herself as a healthy young woman in her early twenties. The story has, as you'd expect, massive ups and downs, but also reveals a few surprising moments.
Two ideas struck me straight away. Firstly the abruptness Natasha felt when she reached eighteen and was transferred from a paediatric to an adult oncology unit. Suddenly she was the youngest on the ward by several decades. Doctors didn't wait until her Mum was with her before undertaking invasive and painful procedures and visiting hours were restricted to blocks of time. She also, despite having lived with cancer for a couple of years, had to negotiate new relationships with the doctors and nurses at the new unit. The anxiety is very similar to that many children go through when leaving Primary School and heading for Secondary
The second thing that really came through was Natasha's sense of guilt once she'd been given clear scan, which seems in part linked to the idea that she made it, when many of the friends she'd met through treatment and on the wards hadn't.
The guilt it seems is exaggerated by the relief that everybody around you feels and the attempts to celebrate this return to healthy life.
I'm not sure how we can convert these ideas to the play yet, but it's important to try.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.