Artistic Discoveries in European Schoolyards

Arjunan Manuelpillai (Great Britain)

School Ties

Text Extract

Understanding a Rude Boy

Prefects 1-2
Rude Boys 1-5.

[The audience is gathered outside in a graffiti covered corner]

Prefect 1: So here we are outside the chill-out room, staring over a slightly worrying group. Look at the body language, the facial expressions, the hoods and the one glove.

Prefect 2: This group of strange looking creatures are called the Rude Boys. They are found in the nooks and crannies of every school, often in a cloud of cigarette smoke behind the bike shed, often testing the authorities and pushing the boundaries of what is and isn’t allowed.

Rude Boy 1: How do we know who is a Rude Boy I hear you ask.
Let me break it down for you.

[Hip-hop tune plays (loud)]

When you see a Rude Boy one of the first things you’ll notice is the walk.

[All Rude Boys do their walk]

Some call it the bop, others the swagger. It’s all important to find that personal walk.

[All Rude Boys stop and do ‘cool’ pose]

If you try too hard to be cool you’ll soon be un-cool, and if you ain’t trying to be cool sometimes that can be proper cool and sometimes you can be dressed hot in order to be cool, but then you could be cold but still maintain your coolness.

This is trying too hard….

[Does a crazy over dramatised walk]

But this is just right.

[Does a ‘good’ swagger]

Watch the floating arm, the sliding toe and of course the trousers.

Rude Boy 2: The trousers are a trademark of da Rude Boy. They gotta be low, like lower than low.

[All Rude Boys pull trousers down]

But again, don’t over do it.

[Some pull their trousers up a bit]

The best Rude Boy’s trousers hangs on da thigh bone. Now, the adults tell us all how it originates in the prisons blah, blah, blah, but let’s set the record straight -

All: We don’t care!

Rude Boy 1: Now, notice the hands.

[All Rude Boys put their hands down their trousers]

Either it’s about hiding a ferret under your boxer shorts or your hands constantly need warming. All Rude Boys have a need to hide their hands underneath a part of clothing. For some it’s the jacket, for others the trousers.

[Some move their hands up under their jacket/tops]

They want to keep an element of mystery…what is behind that jacket and that trouser, what lies in that tiny bag propped like a monkey on their backs.

Rude Boy 3: Only when the Rude Boy is really close you will notice the face.

[All Rude Boys lean head forward and do a ‘screw face’]

Known to many as the screw face, it wards off enemies and stumps those thinking they may be up for a chat.
Look at it closely.

[Some Rude Boys push the face too hard and end up looking constipated]

Again don’t push it too far or you will end up looking like Quasimodo munching a fizzy cola bottle. It has to be subtle, defined and worked on.

Rude Boy 4: Finally, now that the Rude Boy is close enough to speak…

[All Rude Boys take a step forward]

…he may begin to communicate. The language of the Rude Boy is his finest tool, his code language only understood by da youth, for example the Rude Boy may say:

Rude Boy 5: Yes blud, borrow me a pound.

Rude Boy 4: Which translated would mean: ‘Excuse me my friend, would you mind lending me 1 pound please.’

If talking of their language they may say:

Rude Boy 5: Trust me blood, nuff man dem don’t understand how manz chat, get me… they chat bare rubbish bout how they wanna be down with the yout dem, how they understand. But they don’t know jack.

Rude Boy 2: Believe me. A lot of folks don’t understand our language. They talk about how they can relate to us but they don’t. They don’t know anything. Now get out of here.

Rude Boy 5: Yeah! You’s makin’ me all twitchy an’ that- we needs our space yeah.
G’wan, get goin’ yeah…


Come with us on a journey into the deep, dark, dusty corridors of your memory. Inhale the stale stench of floor polish, click open your Barbie lunchbox, tuck in that shirt and straighten your tie! You’re back at School.
School Ties begins with the first day back after the holidays: it is a site-specific work designed to be performed in a school, from the playground and hall, to classrooms and dusty storerooms. The audience gathers in the playground amidst the pupils, joining with their games, their arguments and their celebrations. We hear the bell calling us to Assembly where we wait nervously to meet the three-headed Headmaster.
After the usual preaching, beseeching and admonishments from this giant of a man we are sent on our way to explore the school grounds and the characters which inhabit them. In class–sized tour groups we meet the teachers: the deaf and drunken Mr Humpledink, who fails to contain us with the classics of English literature; the delightfully dippy Miss Hunniford who barely bothers to attend; and the passionate Mrs Harris whose teaching enthrals and inspires.
In the classrooms, corridors and storerooms we find the students: from Geeks and Barbie dolls to Rude Boys and Gossips, you’ll meet them all and perhaps recognize something of yourself. They let us in to the real life of the school and remind us just who really is in charge. Have you done your homework? Did you bring your lunch money? Whose side are you on? And just how cool are you?
In every school there are students entrusted with higher responsibility; the Prefects. They guide, educate, inspire confidence and occasionally mislead us. As the tour comes to an end they bring us together to witness the bizarre life of the playground: a place where pack mentality rules and strength, scent and allegiance are king.
The school year has been squeezed into a single day. There is a hint of celebration in the air, a whiff of freedom heightened by expectation and tempered by memory. The laughter, the tears, the lessons learnt and the experiences shared.
The bell rings.


© Emergency Exit Arts acts as Agent for ‘School Ties’ and for Arji Manuelpillai in relation to Platform 11+ Publications and subsequent performances.


1st Production February 2010 by Emergency Exit Arts (EEA) in collaboration with Lewisham Youth Theatre (LYT).

First performed in the classrooms and corridors of a disused school in south east London: the audience were treated as though they were new students on their first day of school.
The audience was divided into three ‘class’ groups and led around the building by young actors playing ‘Prefects’. There is great scope for improvisation and interaction with the audience both from the Prefects and the Students.
The three sections of the tour were performed simultaneously and repeated three times before bringing everyone back together for the finale. Each Section team took over an area of the school and worked as an independent performance team.
A permanent soundtrack of ‘school’ was played throughout the corridors.

M: 15
F: 15