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A stage show. A man is standing in front of a microphone. A woman is sitting on the floor in front of him holding a microphone.

Exploring mental health with the Young Co.

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In recent years, the Citizens Theatre Young Co. have explored the topic of young people’s mental health. Members of the group had recognised this as a priority in 2019 little did we know where we were heading and how this issue would be even more relevant in the next few years.   

This generation have been through tough times. Their future has been directly affected by a pandemic, Brexit, disruption to their education, climate change, war in Ukraine, political upheaval, and an energy and cost of living crisis. No wonder so many young people are left feeling helpless and depressed.  

The nature of Young Co.’s collaborative and creative activities offer a positive approach to mental wellbeing. For the group it has been a chance to explore their emotions, find fresh perspectives and share their views. Read more about some of these projects here: 


In early 2020, the group took audiences on a wild and exciting journey with their production Adrift  

The sell-out performance impressed audiences and critics alike – getting a 4 star review in the national press.  

4 star rating

an emotional voyage fired by the wayward power of the imagination 

The Herald

A young woman in a hospital gown kneeling on a hospital bed floating in the middle of an ocean.

The play addressed suicide and the group worked closely with Greater Glasgow Mental Health Network throughout the rehearsal and devising process:  

  • The Young Co. took part in workshops to help them with terminology around mental health and ensure everyone was comfortable with the subject matter. 
  • There were mental health first aiders on hand at each show. There was also a quiet room available. 
  • There was a post-show chat to discuss the themes of the play. 

Young Co. members gain skills in all aspects of theatre making. It was great to have past and present members taking on roles behind the scenes. The play itself was written by former company member Catriona McNicoll, while Lauren Mitchelljoined the team as Assistant Director and Cameron Rickardsled on Sound Design. 

A theatrical production. A young woman lies in a hospital bed. A second woman is perched on the side of the bed and a young man is standing talking to them holding a clip board. They are surrounded by a group of people all wearing striped tops. One of the group is holding a painting of a yacht and another is holding a up an IV drip.
A stage show. Women wearing striped tops and floral swimming caps. They are standing in row with their arms outstreched.
A stage show. Three people lying across an old fashioned hospital bed.

Press 2 For Help

For the group’s first performance in front of a live audience post-Covid, the Young Co. worked with professional playwrights  Eve Nicol,  Martin O’Connor,  Sara Shaarawiand May Sumbwanyambe on a new writing project.  

Four people sitting around a table. There are sheets of paper and pens on the table in front of them.
A young woman holding up a piece of paper with writing on it. She is wearing a face mask.

The four mentors collaborated with the young people, sharing their skills and knowledge. Each mentor worked with a small group – supporting them through the process of taking an idea onto the page. They then workshopped drafts and added some of their unique creative style to each of the pieces. It was a real gift to have four of the industry’s innovative writing talents mentor Young Co. members in this way.  

It’s been 15 years since I was in the Young Co. – yet I’m categorised as a “young writer” in professional circles. I’ve enjoyed hearing from actual young people. What’s changed in the last decade? What’s stayed the same? Projects like ‘Press 2 for Help’ allow young people to speak for themselves.

Eve Nicol, Playwright and former Young Co. Member


Young Co. Members presented their new writing in an entertaining and thought-provoking evening. The final scripts were diverse in form and content. They ranged from naturalistic and poetic to darkly comic. All shared the common thread of young people’s mental health.  

A stage show. A woman is standing on stage. She is wearing a school uniform. She is waving a vodka bottle in the air and holding a backpack in the other hand.

PAL: Your AI Care Companion 

Following the success of Adrift and Press 2 For Help, the group premiered a bold new production written by Sara Shaarawi. 

Throughout autumn 2022, Sara joined the Young Co for their weekly sessions. Together they improvised and discussed themes, stories and character ideas. Inspired by these conversations, Sara started writing the play and shared an early draft in December. After reading this, the group offered plenty of questions to explore and move the play along.  

I’ve really loved getting to know the members of the young co both individually and as a group, they have a really great energy and spark. I just really enjoy the space they’ve created for themselves, and the generosity they brought to the room, as well as the curiosity they brought when we chatted about the themes of the play and about what kind of theatre and art we enjoy, and they threw themselves into any task we asked them to. As a playwright, there’s really nothing more you can ask from collaborators.

Sara Shaarawi, playwright

Headshot of director Sara Shaarawi smiling at the camera.

The final draft was a timely and darkly funny piece: 

Set in a dystopian near-future Glasgow, PAL: Your AI Care Companion explores a future where the NHS has become a fully automated, run-for-profit enterprise dominated by the “personality” of an autonomous AI. 


A stage show. A woman is sitting on steps wearing a sling on her arm. A woman is stood behind her holding a bandage to her head. There is a man to the side of them. The word PAL is projected on the wall behind them.
A stage performance. A young woman is dancing with gusto. There is an old fashioned tape player on the floor in front of her. The screen behind her says '01 May 2044'

Creative teams


Written by Catriona McNicoll
Director Neil Packham
Assistant Director Lauren Mitchell
Set Designer Neil Haynes
Lighting Stuart Jenkins
Sound Design Cameron Rickards
Movement Consultant Jen Edgar


Press 2 for Help 

Direction and Dramaturgy by Neil Packham and Catrin Evans
Writing Mentors Eve Nicol, Martin O’Connor, Sara Shaarawi and May Sumbwanyambe
Lighting Design Stuart Jenkins
Costume Design Elaine G Coyle
Design Consultant Ailsa J Munro

PAL: Your AI Care Companion 

Writer  Sara Shaarawi
Director  Neil Packham
Set & Costume Designer Ailsa J Munro
Lighting Designer Stuart Jenkins
Sound Designer Rikki Traynor
AV & Sound Supervisor Rob Willoughby
Assistant Director & Assisting Community Practitioner (supported by Scottish Opera) Roxana Haines
Assistant Director (Birkbeck Trainee) Eleanor Felton 


Adrift was supported by The Austin and Hope Pilkington Trust   

Press 2 For Help and PAL: Your AI Care Companion were supported by the National Lottery Community Fund’s Young Start programme.   

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