After many years based at Our Lady of Lourdes, Ten Ten Theatre outgrew us! They have now moved to Muswell Hill; their new address is Chester House, Pages Lane, London N10 1PR. Everyone at the parish is delighted in the part we played in their success. So, farewell, Martin and Clare and the team: we wish you well!

“One teacher said to me, ‘We’ve been trying to book Ten Ten Theatre for years’.  So I told her that can’t be right.  We’ve only been touring schools for less than a year!”

Anecdotes such as this are testament to the impact that Ten Ten Theatre has had in schools over the past few months.  Described as a theatre-in-education company with an underlying Catholic ethos, the company has been formed over many years by its founder and Artistic Director, Martin O’Brien:

“I was a professional actor for many years and in between jobs I did some work at the SPEC Centre in the Westminster Diocese.  SPEC encouraged me to write and produce theatre for young people and this provided a great opportunity to develop this kind of work.”

Martin continued to develop his craft at events such as Celebrate and the LIFE Northern Ireland Schools’ Conferences as well as producing theatre tours in parishes in the Greater London area.  In 2004, O’Brien held discussions about the possibility of developing a series of resources for Catholic schools in sex and relationship education.  He described the meetings as “exciting, but as can so often happen with these things, nothing came of it.”  But the spark never went away.  In 2007,  he decided to throw caution to the wind and launch into schools across the UK.

“The response was phenomenal.  Based on our initial mailout, over 30% of all Catholic secondary schools in England, Scotland and Wales made enquiries about our work.  We were literally inundated.”

The play that launched Ten Ten Theatre in schools was ‘Babies’.  ‘Babies’ was, in fact, the first “proper drama” that O’Brien ever wrote when he was 24 and it has endured for many years.  A powerful, moving, short drama, ‘Babies’ tells the story of a young couple who are faced with the problem of a crisis pregnancy and charts how they, and their own parents, deal with the situation.  Originally made into a film by LIFE in 2000, Ten Ten Theatre worked in partnership with LIFE once again to deliver an integrated education resource to schools.

“We toured for three months in 2007 and presented the play to over 15,000 people.  Working on such as scale for the first time, so many things could have gone wrong and we were very much riding on the wings of the Holy Spirit.”

However, the reaction to the work was very, very positive indeed and the company has garnered an impressive array of endorsements from Archbishop Vincent Nichols to Frank Skinner!  However, the work doesn’t stop there.

“Launching ‘Babies’ in schools was the first phase.  We want to create a whole series of integrated primary and secondary school resources.  In 2008, we launched our new play for Year 9, “Chased”, which offers young people a vision of how they can be in relationship with one another without caving into the pressures of their peers or the media.

“Although theatre productions will always be at the heart of what we do, we don’t want it to stop there.  We have created our own follow-up Teacher Resources and these are constantly in development.  We also want to work in partnership with other organisations who are working in the same field.  So, for example, we’re fully integrating our resources with the ‘Called to Love’ programme, which has recently been launched by the Scottish Catholic Education Service.

“Next year, we’re starting to work in primary schools and will also possibly add a third resource for Years 7 and 8 in secondary schools.  Ultimately, we want young people to hear the same message year after year in the hope that it will, in some way, counter the many opposing messages they receive on a daily basis.”

However, Ten Ten’s work is not only restricted to sex and relationship education.  The company played a significant role in the Oct06 event at the Birmingham NIA with the challenging comedy-drama, “167 Hours”.  In 2007, they obtained the rights for the first ever UK production of Tim Robbins’ play “Dead Man Walking”, based on his Oscar-winning-film.  This was performed in schools throughout the north-east and at the Sister Helen Prejean conference at Newcastle City Hall.  

In 2008, Ten Ten worked closely with CAFOD to produce the drama “Degrees of Change”, a story of how four young Catholics respond to personal tragedy and the universal effects of climate change.  “Degrees of Change” was launched at the Live It! event in Manchester and is now available for sixth formers to download and produce.

Like many new companies, Ten Ten are beset by financial concerns.  “We want to run self-sufficiently based on the bookings we receive.  This is a challenge because it is going to take a couple more years until we reach that level.  So we’re fundraising for that shortfall.  In the meantime, the whole project is glued together by the voluntary work of my mum in the office.  She officially retired last year and has never been so busy in all her life!”

It has certainly been a hectic year for the Ten Ten team over the past 18 months and they have no intention of stepping off the gas just yet.

“Sometimes I agree with that teacher who thinks we have been around for years,” says O’Brien.  “It certainly feels like it!”

To learn more about Ten Ten's work, visit their website.