The highly acclaimed play Just My Boy, performed by Leyton Sixth Form College's On Point Theatre Company, has been accepted by the prestigious International Youth Arts Festival for what will be the final performance of this acclaimed, hard-hitting drama which deals with youth violence - specifically the impact of knife crime.

The commission to create the work was awarded to college lecturers Katy Arnell and Justin Pierre, and began touring in 2018. It has been seen by over 2,000 members of the public, which included a performance at the Waltham Forest Assembly Hall, after councillor Ahsan Khan invited the cast to perform at the impressive Art Deco Grade II listed building.

The International Youth Arts Festival performance of Just My Boy will take place in the stunning 1,000-seater Rose Theatre, in Kingston, West London, on Monday, July 5, with the cast giving one last performance on home turf this Wednesday, June 30, at the college’s Alfred Hitchcock Theatre.East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

The invitation to perform at the International Youth Arts Festival firmly establishes On Point and Leyton Sixth Form College’s reputation as a centre of creativity and artistic excellence. 

Written and directed by Katy Arnell, lecturer of acting at Leyton Sixth Form College (originally titled Lock Down, until the pandemic struck, resulting in the name change to Just My Boy), Katy undertook an emotional deep dive into the causes of youth knife violence, undertaking extensive research working with the youth offending team in London, which works with some of the most challenging young people. 

Said Katy: “Through the research and devising process I came to the realisation that there is such a huge sense of loss and pain woven through all of the stories, and often that came back to the role of the mother.

"Whether she is the mother of the victim or the perpetrator, both lose their boy in the end, either to a prison sentence or in the worst cases, to death” 

On being invited to take Just My Boy to the International Youth Arts Festival, and what it means to both the performers and the college, Katy said: "We are delighted to have been included in the festival this year as The Rose Theatre is such an incredible venue.

"In the many performances we’ve given in the past the audience always leave visibly moved and the message of the piece is more important than ever before.”

On Point Theatre Company has built a reputation for producing critically acclaimed provocative, issue-based work which seeks to explore important socio-political themes of our time. A previous production, No Human is Illegal, was selected for the National Student Drama Festival and was subsequently performed in the Houses of Parliament, outside the Home Office and for London Mayor Sadiq Khan in 2018.

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For those unfamiliar with One Point Theatre Company, the actors are all students studying performing arts at Leyton College. The cast for Just My Boy are predominantly all young BAME actors, many previously “chewed up and spat out” by the education system. As well critical acclaim garnered by On Point for this and previous productions, company members have gone on to gain admission to some of the top drama schools in the country, such as the Central School of Speech and Drama, establishing Leyton College as one of the foremost launching pads for budding young actors.

The development of the play was supported by funding from the Waltham Forest Safer Neighbourhood Board and the extensive writing and devising process resulted in a piece of innovative and challenging theatre built around testimonies and lived experiences of those directly affected.

For members of the cast, being involved in a play dealing with a subject matter which for many is also a daily reality, had a profound and energising affect.

“Just My Boy' has allowed me to have a better understanding on street violence,” said Jeziah Mullings, 18. “Performing in this production has been one of the most exciting and rewarding things I have every done and has confirmed that I want to be a professional actor.”

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For fellow cast member Toni Quissua, 19, there was the understanding how being excluded from school can start a sequence of events which have tragic and life changing/life taking consequences.

“This production is unquestionably educational,” said Toni. “It actively demonstrates the variables that fuel knife crime - e.g when young adults go through  expulsion. The result of being kicked out of mainstream education is a likelihood of ending up in prison.

“This show has helped me to become more selfless and more aware of the society in which I live.”

College Principle Gill Burbridge is determined that the college plays a leading role in combating street violence.

She said: “I have seen the impact of youth violence on our young people and their families, our staff and our community. We are not prepared to stand by and watch while young lives are destroyed.

“We have established a range of initiatives and approaches at the college and Just My Boy is a fantastic example of the positive difference that young people themselves can make when they are allowed a voice and a platform from which to speak.”

For ticket information for the final performances at the International Youth Arts Festival, go to:

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