A PLAY that warns young people about the dangers of drugs is coming to Henley next month.
Professional actors will give two free performances of Mum, Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid? at the d:two centre in Market Place.
The play is based on a book by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips, of Twyford, whose son Nicholas killed himself while battling heroin addiction.
It will be performed twice to pupils at Gillotts School and The Henley College before the free public shows at 7.30pm on September 17 and 18.
Nicholas and his twin brother Simon, who has since kicked the habit, enjoyed a comfortable upbringing but began smoking cannabis aged 17.
The pair, who lived in Reading, then progressed to stronger substances like ecstasy and cocaine before smoking and later injecting heroin. Mrs Burton-Phillips and her husband Tony, the boys’ stepfather, spent thousands of pounds bailing them out of drugs debts.
Nicholas killed himself aged 25 after a drug-fuelled row with Simon, who cleaned up his act shortly afterwards.
The play is now touring schools and prisons around the country.
Henley youth and community charity Nomad has paid £6,000 to bring it to the town. The Henley Festival has donated £1,000 towards its costs and the Henley Educational Trust has also given funding.
Nomad says a growing number of Henley families are struggling with drug or alcohol problems and it wants to tackle this.
Some people who seek the charity’s help are themselves addicted while others are concerned about a friend, partner or relative. Tim Prior, Nomad’s youth and family team manager, said he wanted to raise awareness of the problem.
He said: “About half of the people we deal with are in some way affected by substance misuse, which is a significant figure.
“It is an important issue that people should know about. It is a relatively small issue in Henley but it can destroy families.
“We want to address it in a practical way by helping young people to make good choices and not just go along with the crowd.
“The problem goes across the age ranges though we will focus on young people as that is our remit. A lot of young people just want to experiment and have a good time but for various reasons some can’t grow out of that phase.
“They drift into regular use and it affects their mental health, their education and those who care about them. It can have huge consequences.
“Some Henley families can go their whole lives without being aware of drugs but if you’re looking you don’t have to dig too far.
“The family in the play are like a typical middle-class Henley family; from the outside their lives look fine and you wouldn’t think anything was wrong.
“It’s a very powerful play but it’s not just about despair. There is a lot of hope too.”
Nomad runs educational activities in local schools as well as mentoring schemes and life skills workshops for young people at risk.
It is also trialling a family support group in partnership with the national charity DrugFAM, which Mrs Burton-Phillips runs. The first session will be held at the d:two centre from noon to 1.30pm on October 3. If it is popular, it will become a regular fixture.
Mr Prior said: “We don’t claim to have all the answers or be experts but we are a useful point of contact on the streets.
“There are other services that we can and will refer people on to if necessary; we’re not trying to tackle the problem alone.”
To book a seat at the play or find out more about Nomad, call (01491) 635737 or email firstname.lastname@example.org