‘I had tears in my eyes’

Students from the Customised Training Services, Derry pictured during their visit to Derry's Playhouse Theatre earlier this week. Included is tutor, Caroline Ming (second from left).
Students from the Customised Training Services, Derry pictured during their visit to Derry's Playhouse Theatre earlier this week. Included is tutor, Caroline Ming (second from left).

It was a play aimed at young people but after it was over Customised Training Services tutor, Caroline Ming, left the Playhouse Theatre to go and buy a carbon monoxide detector.

“I had tears in my eyes watching the play and the video afterwards. I had a bit of an idea what carbon monoxide poisoning could do but I didn’t know it was so serious. I am buying a detector as soon as I leave here,” said Caroline.

The reason Caroline reacted in the way she did was because she, along with over 40 young people from Customised Training Services, had just sat through ‘Toxic’, a play written and directed by Patricia Downey and performed by Belfast theatre company, ‘Spanner In The Works’.

The play told the story of a school boy who only felt ill when at home. It transpired that a faulty oil burner was emitting carbon monoxide into his home. He ended up dying from exposure to the poisonous gas.

After the play was over an emotive video, made by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), was screened. It brought it all very close to home.

Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson both died of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in Castlerock, County Derry, in August 2010.

The video detailed what happened the two boys and presented interviews from both their heartbroken mothers.

Sixteen year-old Andrew Hall attends Customised Training Services in the Shared Future Centre in the Waterside. Andrew said he enjoyed the play but found the video “shocking beyond belief”.

“I had no idea that carbon monoxide poisoning existed,” said Andrew.

“I thought the play was excellent. It was funny, it really engaged with young people and managed to get its point across.

“The video was so heartbreaking. I really felt for the two mothers. It’s not something I ever want to have to through so when I get home I am going to make sure we have a carbon monoxide detector.”

Members of Destined (a support group for adults with learning difficulties) and Foyle Disability Resource Centre also attended the play.

Managed of the Feeney branch of Destined, Charlene Keenan, said she thought the play informative and hard hitting.

“Sometimes people tend to think that this sort of thing doesn’t effect adults with learning difficulties but the fact remains that many of our members live independently so it’s important that they know about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning,” she said.

Margaret Hyndman is a day care worker with the Foyle Disability Resource Centre.

“I thought the play was so well- acted and engaging. I know that all of our group really enjoyed it.

“I didn’t know too much about carbon monoxide poisoning but it’s something that I am going to focus on within the resource centre. When you think that a little detector could save your life you’d be mad not to get one,” she said.

The Playhouse’s ‘ArtSkills’ group also used the play as a chance to see how to manage and present a piece of amateur drama.

‘ArtSkills’ helps those wishing to gain new skills attain qualifications in performing arts, story writing and web design to become more employable. The group will stage their own piece of performing art in the Playhouse theatre tomorrow (Monday).

“Obviously the main message here today is about carbon monoxide poisoning but I wanted to use it as an opportunity for our ‘ArtSkills’ group to see how a theatre company such as ‘Spanner In The Works’ operates,” said ‘ArtSkills’ co-ordinator Emma Jane Logue.

“Today’s play and video showcase has been really successful and I would hope to see ‘Spanner In The Works’ theatre company back at the Playhouse again in the future.

Thursday’s event was funded by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), the European Social Fund, the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Playhouse Theatre.

For more information on the dangers of carbon monoxide or to make a donation to the Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson charity, visit www.gisahugfoundation.co.uk