“Hard-hitting and authentic” – high praise for Cookies

Cookies, a play written from and about young people’s experience of cyberbullying, has been hailed as a “great piece of modern theatre”, “authentic” and “hard-hitting” by its debut audience.

Following the lives of seven teenagers, entwined through social networks and texting, the play was described as “an authentic cry from the heart by all those who are caught up in the most powerful communication tool to face contemporary humanity”.

After two gala performances at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London last month, there was unanimous praise for the show’s authenticity and nuanced understanding of the troubling issues young people face online. Almost half of all teenagers have been victims of cyberbullying, according to Beyond the School Gates, a recent report from the University of Buckingham and education charity Sir John Cass’s Foundation.

The play was written as part of the Cyberscene Project – a collaboration between anti-bullying charity Kidscape, the Theatre Royal Haymarket and the Pureland Foundation – and involved a series of theatre-based workshops organised to draw on the experiences of 120 young Londoners.

The result was Cookies, which was scripted by Emily Jenkins, directed by Olivier Award nominee Anna Ledwich and featured 25 of the original students performing alongside a cast of established actors.

Formal reviewers included Frankie Crossley, film and TV editor at Miro Magazine, who said: “Cookies makes an arresting and empowering statement about social media,” and Rachel O’Regan from Hiive, who defined the play as a “foundation of truth”.

Several members of the audience praised the staging of the show. “Wonderful energy,” said one, who continued: “Fabulous direction – generous performances. Great use of space. I hope this goes on to be acknowledged for the brilliant work that it is.”

Another said: “Fascinating show. We went with two 17-year-olds, who loved it. It’s slick, informative, illuminating and touching. It illustrates how quickly and potentially devastatingly lives can be changed by people’s actions online.”

A third reported: “Convincing enough to make me very glad I’m not a teenager today! Fast paced and acted with conviction – deserves a longer life in a smaller venue.”

Cookies cast, crew and audience are now hoping that the play will get the chance for a longer run next year.