Being 10 feet tall means further to fall, as a play aimed at young Northland people points out.

The message that life can be what people make it, and anyone going down the wrong track can change direction, has been delivered to around 2500 young Northlanders over the past five weeks in the play, 10Ft Tall, by local company Playworks Productions.

The play, which toured the region with support from Te Puni Kōkiri and Northland District Health Board, is the third in a series of resilience-building programmes for taiohi/youth.

In the play, no one is 10 feet tall and bullet proof, as the saying goes. It focuses on the harm that "P" - or methamphetamine - and other drugs can do, and follows the character Jesse, a rebel and risk taker, as she gets caught up in the drug and runs off the rails.

Playworks Production's playwright and director Bryan Divers performs in the play with former Whangārei Girls' High School student Nevandra Straker as Jesse, Lionel Wellington from Ngunguru and Auckland actor Jacob Dale.

Nevandra Straker, left, Jacob Dale and Lionel Wellington receiving a thank you gift from Northland DHB's Tania Papali'i.
Nevandra Straker, left, Jacob Dale and Lionel Wellington receiving a thank you gift from Northland DHB's Tania Papali'i.

After each show the cast spent an hour with the audience in workshops discussing how Jesse might have done things differently and strategies to help friends, whānau or themselves.

"The audience train you up to a certain extent and as an actor, you listen to them and deliver things in a way that they respond to. Their reaction has been great, and they've all participated in the workshops,'' Divers said.

Nevandra Straker said that early in the tour, they noticed a few students might have been going through something and they were able to reach out and offer help.

"It was great having all the support people there and being able to talk to these kids and show them that I'm just like you and I have issues sometimes, but it's okay, and you can still do great things and be someone that people look up to. There might be bumps in the road, but you're still on the right track."

Straker said the young audiences told the actors the way they portrayed the issue was really positive, and they appreciated the play didn't sugar-coat anything.

"They were thankful that we were blunt but in a way that it wasn't damaging, just stating facts and knowing that they are old enough to realise. Plus we gave them options and having the workshops helped it sink in because they were able to talk about the messages in the show."

NDHB Suicide Programme leader Tania Papali'i said the play is part of a suicide prevention strategy. The drug meth, or P, is one of the known drivers of suicide, along with family violence, relationships, alcohol and bullying.

"It has helped reach our taiohi and it has all the aspects of help-seeking behaviour woven into it, so having the support services at each show has been a critical element," Papali'i said.


Detective Sergeant Renee O'Connell, who leads the Te Ara Oranga Northland Police Meth Harm team, said supporting the 10ft Tall tour had given police a chance to reach a younger age group. She was surprised how many students didn't know about the 1737 support line.

Where to go for help:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. If you or someone else is in danger call police immediately on 111.

To talk to someone else:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7); Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7); Youthline: 0800 376 633. Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7); Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7); Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm); Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7); Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155