How should adults answer kids when they ask about big world problems: Donald Trump, Brexit, Hong Kong, Iran? Gone to the Dogs Productions founder Miranda Duffy had an idea while watching her children play a heated round of rock-paper-scissors. Time to get booking for this Camden Fringe show!
Rox, Paper and The Scissors, for ages 9+, will have one performance only during this summer’s 14th annual Camden Fringe festival. It runs at London’s Cockpit Theatre on Saturday 3 August 2019 at 1.30pm, hot on the heels of a date at Exeter Fringe on Thursday 1 August.
How do you bring British values about democracy and the rule of law to life onstage for young audiences? Rox, Paper and The Scissors are three candidates battling to become school president who find out the hard way that not all elections are fought fairly.
As head girl, Paper is squashed between the might of autocratic school bully Rox and reckless class clown The Scissors. She must fight to restore her reputation from a false accusation of vandalism, and stop malign forces from seizing power of the school council. Who will win?
Talking to… Miranda Duffy
Rox, Paper and The Scissors is the brainchild of Miranda Duffy, who created the show and set up Gone to the Dogs Productions Ltd in order to bring to life the five British Values in the school curriculum – rule of law, democracy, mutual respect, tolerance and individual liberty. Duffy has Master’s degrees in British politics and theatre. A fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, she spent many years working on public and private sector projects before founding Gone to the Dogs. She has also worked with Harrogate Youth Theatre since 2017.
What gave you the idea to set up Gone to the Dogs Productions?
Like most parents/carers with curious kids, I’m bombarded by big questions: who’s Donald Trump, what’s going on with Iran, why are people marching in Hong Kong, what’s Brexit? I mean, where do you start?
I can give them an answer, but it’s only my opinion. Instead, I want to help them have the confidence to ask questions, and build the skills to find out and analyse the information so, in time, they can form their own judgments.
That’s why I started Gone to the Dogs: to use an arts-based platform to make kids laugh and think about the world, and to encourage them to ask questions. If we have a mantra it’s: don’t be frightened (to ask questions), be fascinated. Rollicking Politics = Confident Questioning.
Do you think parents should talk to children about Brexit/Donald Trump?
Yes. The worst thing we can do as parents/carers is stick our hands in the sand and pretend the world’s not shifting. Whatever’s coming next, we’ve got to adapt.
Why do you think it’s important for children to learn about democracy in 2019?
It’s a turbulent world. We have to augment youth political literacy because, whether Brexit works out for the best or not, it’s a risk; the next generation will probably have to adapt to a new political and economic environment. That’s why they need to learn about democracy: to understand what’s happened, why it’s happened, and what they can do about it if they do or don’t like it.
How does Gone to the Dogs fit into the school curriculum?
Democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance all have to be taught in primary schools under the PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) banner of British Values. When I was a School Governor at my kids’ school, I looked at these thumping great political concepts and wondered how primary school teachers were supposed to access them, let alone distil them and inspire the typical nine-year-old boy or girl. That’s why I use the arts, and theatre in particular: it’s a great way to get children to laugh, and thereby engage with politics without really realising it. It’s like taking the P out of politics (tee hee).
What was the inspiration for Rox, Paper & The Scissors specifically?
The inspiration for Rox, Paper and The Scissors came whilst watching my own kids play a particularly fraught game of rock-paper-scissors. A lot was evidently at stake – the first iPad turn perhaps – but it was interesting why and how they played it to make a decision: they all knew the rules, they (just about) played by the rules, and knew it would lead to a squabble if they did not observe the outcome. That’s not so different from global politics! From there, I realised that I could use the game as a prism to connect a school election with global leaders, and so Rox is an autocratic school bully, Paper as head girl represents the rule of law, and The Scissors is the most popular populist class clown.
Do you have a favourite moment in the show?
There’s a very funny scene when Rox, Paper and The Scissors demonstrate their (lack of) political skills as they stand for School President. They have to make a pie with whipped cream, tell the audience how they’re going to cut it up and distribute it. Scissors, being plain daft at the best of times, obviously gets it up his nose, and uses it to decorate his eyebrows whilst spouting a few lines from famous political speeches. The first time I saw it, I cried. It still makes me laugh.
What are your future plans?
Two more plays are planned and the basis of the story depends on who wins the election this year. Will it be starring Paper as School President desperately trying to hold on to her position, or will she be battling against Scissors or, heaven forbid, Rox, to wrestle the title from them? At the climax of the show, the audience votes for their favourite candidate. The 2019 vote count is already underway…
Anything else you’d like to add?
The cast includes my niece, London-based Hannah Duffy, talented playwright-actor Joe Kerry and former National Youth Theatre member Ed Lee.
The initial tour was held across North and West Yorkshire in March 2019 and we will be touring nationwide to schools in November 2019 and March 2020. We’ve had some brilliant electoral observers up on stage to watch out for Rox’s vote-rigging shenanigans, including the Mayor of Scarborough and the real Declaring Officer!
Rox, Paper and The Scissors runs for one performance (6o minutes) only at Camden Fringe, at 1.30pm on Saturday 3 August 2019 at the Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, London NW8 8EH. Tickets are £7.00. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Full festival programme
For details on all 300+ shows in the 2019 Camden Fringe programme, visit the festival websiteClick here