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Smashed - theatrical approach to underage drinking influencing young and old

A theatrical education programme to help Year 9 students counter peer pressure to drink alcohol is being held in Gisborne next week.

Smashed has been brought to New Zealand by responsible drinking initiative The Tomorrow Project and is being delivered by The Life Education Trust.

The programme was established in the United Kingdom in 2005 and is being presented in 21 countries worldwide this year.

Smashed features a play about a group of young friends who get into trouble as a result of a drinking session.

Each performance is followed by an interactive workshop where students are invited to probe the cast on issues brought up during the play and discuss the consequences of underage drinking.

The Gisborne performances are at Gisborne Girls’ High School and Gisborne Boys’ High School on Monday, and Lytton High on Tuesday. The cast then travel to Wairoa and other regional towns.

Since launching last month in Auckland, Smashed has been seen by thousands of Y9 students.

Tomorrow Project spokesman Matt Claridge says the Smashed programme is a valuable opportunity to address under-age drinking, as well as encourage adults to have a responsible approach to alcohol.

“We know from our own research that the younger people are when they begin drinking alcohol, the more likely they are to develop poor drinking behaviours later in life, and this is a pattern that we are looking to change.”

“The unique theatre-based approach is proving incredibly successful globally as students are engaged in an interactive way.

More than 380,000 students had taken part in the programme in the UK, resulting in a significant drop in the number of young people drinking alcohol.

“From 45 percent of eight-to-15-year-olds in 2003 to 14 percent today.”

Mr Claridge said Smashed would reach 18,000 Y9 students in 120 New Zealand schools this year.

Funding had been secured to roll it out to all 60,000 Y9 students in the country next year.

Life Education Trust chief executive John O’Connell said Smashed was the organisation’s first foray into secondary schools.

“We’re delighted we have the opportunity to work with youth and support them with a programme that has a proven track record internationally.”

The uptake from schools booking Smashed had been significant.

“We’ve had a huge response from schools which indicates it’s an issue they see real value in supporting their students.”

The three actors selected following auditions for the New Zealand performances of Smashed were Carrisse Utai, Troy Vandergoes and Kieran Milton.

SMASH HIT: Stage show Smashed, which incorporates theatre with education, is continuing its success from the United Kingdom in New Zealand. It is being presented in Gisborne next week. The Kiwi actors selected for the New Zealand performances are (from left) Troy Vandergoes, Carrisse Utai and Kieran Milton. Picture supplied