The #GetHelp arts performance, written and produced by O’Neill, is routed in real-life situations based on stories of people in the Salford area.
I asked O’Neill what his inspiration was for behind the play.
“Graham my manager from the Broughton Trust, approached me January of last year about maybe writing a play and throwing some ideas around knife crime and see what we could do if there’s anyway theatre could help the issue and helping the community, helping young people speak about it to be aware of it.”
“We started conversations, I then did some research, met some people affected, looked at local stories and over the 3 months I wrote GetHelp”.
O’Neill is from Salford, and graduated drama school in 2014. Being an actor, director and writer, O’Neill believes his artistic talents can be used effectively to raise awareness of one of the countries biggest crime problems.
“It’s about helping the community and young people. If we can do that through theatre and creative expression then that is what we should be doing.”
“I have lost friends to it (knife crime). I know people being from Salford, knowing the affect it has on a grander scale. I think with my experience and expertise, if I can help make some change and raise awareness in the area that I’m from for the people, then that’s what I should be doing”.
I also spoke to one of the actors, Noé Sebert, and his involvement in the play.
“Its been quite eye-opening, and being apart of the project as an actor I’ve been lucky enough to run some of the workshops we do. Seeing the direct impact on the audience has been incredibly fulfilling”.
There are many elements explored in #GetHelp, mental health being one. The progression of discussing mental health has risen over the past years, and O’Neill believes that mental health problems are directly linked with people convicted of knife crimes.
“I think there is a direct relation between mental health and knife crime.
“It is incorporated in GetHelp, you see the aftermaths of one of the characters who is a victim to knife crime. You then see the mental health and its effects through he’s friends, his girlfriend and how its effects their lives moving forward.”
“There are stories after the show where young people have said to us they’re scared to leave their house just because of the fear of knife crime, that is anxiety and depression, which is causing isolation”.
With knife crimes on the rise, O’Neill and the Broughton Trust are providing a positive platform to opening discussions for younger people. O’Neill hopes that the #GetHelp show will expand into other schools in Manchester and spread the message further.