Northern Ireland

Alcohol is child's play in youth production

Cast of Current Image copyright Pamela Cassells

Police have praised a group of young people who are taking to the stage to tackle the issue of underage drinking.

'The Current,' which will be performed at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on Saturday, follows five friends on a camping trip.

It shows the consequences after one young person encourages the others to drink alcohol.

More than half of young people aged between 11 and 16 in Northern Ireland say they have tried alcohol.

'Younger children'

Police in the Portadown area have backed the production and say they are providing education about alcohol abuse to children as young as 12 years old.

Writer and director Pamela Cassells said the cast is determined to send a message.

"As the play progresses, we see what happens as a consequence of drinking alcohol," she told the BBC.

"The group are really passionate about doing it and I'm very lucky we have a strong group of young people who believe in the power of theatre.

Image copyright Pamela Cassells

"They wanted to make a difference."

Sgt Billy Stewart, of the PSNI, said: "The use and misuse of alcohol is something that is really important to us as a police service.

"We try to engage with youth at all levels and really this play is another dimension and opportunity to get that across.

"Unfortunately, I see the effects of misuse of alcohol nearly every weekend.

"It's something that's always been there but the culture I would say is more towards younger children.

"Twenty to thirty years ago my experience would be late teens misusing alcohol, but unfortunately that age has lowered and we now give talks in schools to children as young as 12 and 13 years old."

'Drugs, depression, anxiety'

Sgt Stewart said some young people had been hospitalised due to drinking alcohol and that, on a number of occasions, because of community intervention by youth workers and groups, lives have been saved.

Michael Bradley, 19, plays the part of the influencer in the play.

He said: "Drink can lead to other things such as (taking) drugs, depression and anxiety and it needs tackled before it gets worse.

"I just want to show people how serious it can be to go out and take a drink at the weekend.

"I know people who have gone out for one night for a drink and come home in a coffin".