Billy Cowan, award-winning playwright and Creative Writing lecturer at Edge Hill University, has received huge recognition for his play Care Takers, which is showing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The play has received a 5 star review from Broadway Baby, who describe it as “pure theatre at its best: a simple plot wrapped in a clever script performed by consummate actors.” And the most recent review comes from Steve Stratford, National Adviser for the Arts Council of Wales and Judge for Wales Theatre Awards who states “Care Takers is a blisteringly strong script with delicious ambiguity.”

In addition, Care Takers has awarded one of the most coveted accolades after being named one of the critics’ best shows at the Festival.

Care Takers, which was produced by Truant Company, also received a 4 star review from The Stage while also winning one of the Stage Edinburgh Awards for acting excellence. When the award was presented, the judge highlighted the importance of the play and stated that Care Takers was “intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging that seeks broader truths while navigating an ethically knotty plot.”

DSC05109-300x244“As a writer and director, I’ve never done the Fringe before, so I thought it might be a good way to gain that experience and also to get more exposure for the play, and therefore more research participants. So I just decided to do it. With help from an Edge Hill University Research grant and funding from Arts Council England, it was made possible.

“It feels great to have some recognition especially at Edinburgh which is so competitive. There were over 3,300 shows this year, so to stand out in any way is an amazing achievement. So, I’m very happy.”

Billy first wrote Care Takers in 2009 after spending some time at a secondary school as a freelance drama facilitator, and hearing about some cases of homophobic bullying. Instead of looking at the usual homophobia in the playground, Billy decided to focus on what would happen if the teachers were homophobic.

After hearing from colleagues in the Faculty of Education about the new British values agenda that teachers were having to cover in schools, and from seeing more and more reports of homophobic attacks in the news, Billy decided to update the play, this year, to show how things had become more complicated for teachers, especially ones in multi-cultural, inner-city schools who had to deal with homophobic bullying.

The play ties in with Billy’s current research project, which focuses on how schools tackle homophobic bullying.

“As a writer, you always want to know if the things you write have an impact in some way,” said Billy. “I began to think about the impact this play could have on teachers, on trainee teachers and educational professionals, even on the public and their ideas around teaching and bullying. So, I thought it was a great way of seeing how effective the play could be as a learning tool. I wanted to know if showing a play to trainee teachers was a more stimulating and effective way of them learning about aspects of teaching, especially in how to deal with management and bullying.”

“I also wanted to see if the play was a good way of raising awareness of British Values and how schools deal with bullying, and whether the play could have an effect on what people thought about these issues, and also if it could open new ideas on how to tackle homophobic bullying. So, it became a research project to try and answer some of these questions.”

Care Takers will be shown every day from 16th – 29th August. Click here for more information and to book tickets.