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West Side Story may be set in New York but its tale of violence and misplaced loyalty among young men, is resonant no matter what the location and time.
A fact Chief Constable Simon Cole has picked up on as part of Curve theatre’s forthcoming production of West Side Story in a contributory piece he has written for the programme.
The force, along with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) works in partnership with other agencies, including peer mentors to educate others about the dangers of gang culture and the violence that can often coincide with this.
Alongside a group of peer mentors, Chief Inspector Manjit Atwal, from the force’s Serious Harm Reduction Unit, has spoken to cast members about what fuels gang culture today to help provide further insight into their roles.
She said: “Anything which can help us highlight the dangers of gang culture to young people and the destruction it can cause, has got to be good.
“The peer mentoring scheme delivered through probation and Youth Offending Services, is an important part of that because it gives young people the opportunity to reflect on their actions, while providing the chance to divert them towards more positive pursuits. Who better to show them there is a way out, than a peer mentor who can directly relate to what they are going through?
“It’s a fact that those who choose to carry a weapon, such as a knife, are more likely to become a victim of knife crime if they do. For that reason, I hope as many young people as possible get to see this production because of the resonance it has today.”
Curve’s artistic director Nikolai Foster said: “The themes of gang warfare, racism and social exclusion are as prescient today as when this play first hit the stage. We want to ensure we represent the lives of the young people portrayed in our production with real integrity and truth.
“Working alongside Leicestershire Police means we are able to relate our production to what is happening in the world today. As well as presenting the musical with truth and guts, we hope that young people from challenging backgrounds working with us in the rehearsal room and being part of the process of making a show, will see the invaluable advantages of being involved with live theatre and just how life-affirming it can be.”