Nurturing empathy through theatre: The impact of ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’

Through the eyes of its young protagonist, Ahmet, a newcomer to school who has fled his war-torn homeland, ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ delves into themes of friendship, empathy, and the refugee experience. Nick Ahad’s adaptation captures the essence of Onjali Q. Rauf’s original story, bringing its important themes to life on stage. As audiences follow Ahmet’s journey and witness the power of friendship, they are not only entertained but also educated – sparking crucial conversations about compassion and solidarity in classrooms and homes alike.

Farshid Rokey (Photo by Manuel Harlan)

As the lights dim and the story unfolds, a hush falls over the audience, underscoring the universal importance of storytelling. Young audiences eagerly immerse themselves in ‘The Boy At The Back Of The Class’ and its message of empathy and understanding. Despite the myriad distractions of the digital age, the play captivates young minds, speaking volumes about the enduring power of live theatre.

However, amidst this celebration of the arts, a harsh reality remains: the fragility of the theatre sector’s recovery. Schools are slowly returning to theatres, but financial, social, and physical barriers still hinder access. Cash-strapped families face tighter budgets, increased travel costs and the ongoing impacts of the cost of living crisis. This makes school trips to the theatre more challenging than ever before. For many, the prospect of experiencing live theatre remains out of reach.

Sasha Desouza-Willock, Petra Joan-Athene, Gordon Millar and Abdul-Malik Janneh (Photo by Manuel Harlan)

In the face of these challenges, support for initiatives like Children’s Theatre Partnership’s (CTP) ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ becomes more important than ever. By investing in accessible ticketing options, providing transport assistance, and fostering partnerships with local communities, we can ensure that all children have the opportunity to experience the transformative power of theatre.

As we navigate these uncertain times, we must not forget the profound impact of the arts on young minds. Through stories like ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class,’ we have the opportunity to nurture empathy, foster understanding, and inspire change. Together, we must work to break down barriers and create a world where every child has the chance to take a seat in the theatre and witness the magic of live performance.

Established in 2010, with a mission to produce and tour bold, ambitious, and imaginative theatre for young people, CTP continues to push boundaries with its latest offering, ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ by bestselling author Onjali Q. Rauf, adapted by Nick Ahad, exemplifying CTP’s unwavering commitment to engaging and enlightening young minds.

Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre believe that every child has the right to experience and enjoy our country’s culture and world-leading theatre, so we will be asking political parties to commit to providing funding and support for our aim in their general election manifestos – that every child goes to the theatre by the time they leave school.

Find out more about our Theatre for Every Child Campaign at