Boys Don’t

A young man experiencing the pain and disappointment

Who picks up the pieces when boys hide their feelings?

Boys Don’t is a performance poetry project for pupils in Year 5 and 6 exploring societal attitudes to boys’ emotional expression and the impact of this upon all young people’s mental wellbeing.

Pupils take part in three workshops and watch a performance, all of which takes place at your school.

This projects gives insight into male experiences of growing up, and offers the possibility of supporting more open communication between girls and boys. This project offers role models closer to home; male poetry performers from BAME and other minority groups, exploding some of the myths, and sharing their feelings through a carefully crafted performance.

What is included:

  • Three school based workshops for pupils in Year 5 and/or 6, plus staff members (around 1 hour).
  • The show ‘Boys Don’t’ for up to 90 children (1 hour).
  • An online toolkit to continue the work in class.

The Performance:

From the playground to the classroom, from home to the uncharted waters of online, boys learn that displaying their feelings is a no-no. But what happens to emotion that can’t be let out?

Boys Don’t explores through spoken word what happens when boys show their feelings, written from real-life experiences of the diverse male cast. Through a series of funny, familiar and sometimes heart-breaking stories of boys in the emotional spotlight, the show delivers insights into male experiences of growing up, and offers the possibility of more open communication for us all.

In partnership with Half Moon Theatre, and Apples and Snakes (South East), Boys Don’t features some of the UK’s leading poets and performers in repertory, including Justin Coe, Hadiru Mahdi, Tanaka Mhishi & Steve Tasane. It is the latest work from Papertale, following on from the Suitcase Trilogy of spoken word performances about migration for young audiences, directed by Rosemary Harris.

The Workshops:

This is a poetry-based project to enhance literacy attainment among pupils, with specialist input, as this is an area of the curriculum many feel less confident about delivering in a creative and engaging way.

These workshops explore the show’s themes through poetry and culminate in seeing a poetry theatre performance by professional spoken word artists.

Poetry outcomes:

  • Explore free verse through similes and metaphors.
  • Explore rhythm and rhyme.
  • Explore narrative poetry.

Wellbeing outcomes:

  • Explore gender roles through creative language use.
  • Examine self-identity in relation to gender role stereotypes.
  • Building self-confidence and self-expression.
  • Exploring expression of emotional distress.
  • Examining broader responses to gender role stereotyping (e.g. family, school, media, etc).
  • Exploring possible paths of achievement and self-expression.

Reviews for Boy’s Don’t:

Nominated for Best Production for Young People aged 8+ for the Off West End Awards 2017.

“Has the power to reach those who often feel alienated from the arts scene.”
(Live Theatre UK) ★★★★

“Boys Don’t is a play which speaks to boys and men. But it’s not intended exclusively for them. Girls need to think about these issues too. I rather wish I’d seen it when I was in Year 5, in fact.”
(Susan Elkin, Sardines Magazine)

….better than any other thing I have ever watched. It’s good because boys don’t talk about their emotions. They are worried that people take the mickey…
(Yr 7, St Leonards Academy, Hastings)

….I liked the rhyming words and the stories and even when the boy was crying everyone still liked him the way he wasIt shows how boys feel…
(Yr 5, Lansbury Lawrence Primary, London)


The cost of the project, including all three workshops and the performance is £2085 + VAT.

Images and Videos:

There are a range of photos and a promotional trailer for this production available to view here.

Boys Don’t was live streamed from the Brighton Festival on 21 May, 2017. This recording of the full production can be watched again at any time via the video below or here.

Promotional Trailer here.

Young people talk about Boys Don’t here.


Boys Don’t extract – Hadiru Mahdi here.

The 2017/18 programme was supported by Ironmongers Company.

For more information please contact Beccy: or call on 0207 709 8908.