IT was an “awesome” moment for director Natalie Ibu when the whole cast and crew lined up on stage for a photoshoot for her new show – and every single one of them was female.

From the technical crew to award-winning playwright Hannah Lavery, the entire team involved in the production of Protest is female, which is unusual even in the 21st century, according to Ibu.

“One of the aspects of this production that I am really proud of is that it has brought together a cast and creative and technical team that are all female which is really amazing and emboldening,” she said.

“It feels really exciting, particularly in an industry that has seemed dominated by men.”

The moment of the photoshoot actually reflects the theme of Protest which is about three young girls who manage to find their voices to speak out against the injustices of the world.

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“The photoshoot echoes the play because at the end the girls get together for a protest and come face to face with a bigoted individual who is unhappy about it – they say ‘he is just one but we are hundreds’,” said Ibu.

The play came about because Lavery, whose past work includes Lament for Sheku Bayoh, was working with the Lyceum youth theatre and found that many of the members felt overwhelmed by aspects of the modern world.

“It felt important to write a play for young people which offered hope,” said Lavery. “We are living in such tumultuous times that can leave us all, and especially young people, with a sense that we have no agency to inspire and create change.

The National: Director Natalie IbuDirector Natalie Ibu (Image: Christopher Owens)

"I wanted to celebrate those young people who within their local communities, within their schools, families and friendship groups are working to make their world a better and fairer place for us all.”

Protest centres on three girls in primary seven who are just about to go on to secondary school and who each have to deal with injustice and challenges that threaten to overwhelm them.

“The play is about their journey to finding their agency, learning to not underestimate themselves, even if the world does, and stand up for what they believe in and that feels really critical just now for lots of reasons,” said Ibu.

“It’s reminding us of our power and capacity in a post-pandemic world where we have been through a lot and our awareness of injustices in the world has grown, whether that is racism, the climate crisis, misogyny or the unfair distribution of wealth.

“All of those things can feel overwhelming and confusing, particularly for our young people, and what is really brilliant about this play is that it does not ignore the challenges of life but is still really hopeful. It reminds us that big actions start with small ones and that an action is never too small and how our actions can inspire other people.”

Ibu said it is also a play about community and how the different generations can inspire and support each other.

“Whether we have children or not, we all have a role to play in how we bring up the next generation, so the three girls are inspired by each other’s actions but also by the encounters they have with each other’s grandmothers and mothers,” said Ibu. “That feels really important for both our young and adult audiences.”

She said she hoped Protest would inspire more young people to find their voices.

Protest goes on tour this Thursday, April 27. It was co-commissioned by Fuel, Imaginate and Northern Stage where Ibu is artistic director and joint chief executive.

Edinburgh-born Ibu was previously artistic director of tiata fahodzi, the only Black-led theatre company in the UK with a sole focus on new work.