It is with real gratitude and real sadness that we announce that our theatre company In Yer Face is to close after 20 years of cutting-edge theatre in schools and churches across the UK. Team member and In Yer Face leader Matt Britton reflects.
A theatre alternative to the World Wide Message Tribe is how Rik Brown conceived In Yer Face in the mid 1990s. Short, sharp sketches that would grab young people by their collars (or hoodies) and shake them out of their indifference.
Early work with youth at risk informed our style and approach. A pragmatic response to audiences with no previous church experience or understanding of hushed theatre etiquette, created our loud and proud, ‘in yer face’ approach.
In our second decade we joined The Message Trust, where we helped write Word 4 U 2day, as well being part of Hope08, Heart for Haiti and resourcing schools and prisons. Intensive theatre tours followed soon – with tens of thousands of young people reached each term.
In partnership with the Arts Council and SGMLifewords, 2014 saw IYF deliver thousands of replicas of the WWI John’s Gospel to young people as part of the All Is Calm tour, culminating with public performances at the Imperial War Museum in Salford.
Now, as IYF comes to an end after twenty years, things are bright. Shows were daring and inventive, tours were booked up, audiences responded to Christ – and we even ended up at BAFTA being nominated for a broadcasting award. Christ had far surpassed any of our expectations. So why did it all end?
In a word, ‘surrender.’ The company had lost no passion for the lost, we didn’t lack new, creative ideas, and we still felt like ‘mates on a mission.’ Individually, however, we all sensed God leading us elsewhere. Trusting God’s purpose without fully understanding the circumstances or the next destination, we surrendered, calling time on the company’s hallmark of ‘hard hitting theatre for a hard-hearted generation.’
Who would’ve guessed it would last this long? From day one, there had been suspicion that Christian theatre could be confrontational, subversive and occasionally offensive. IYF was often all those things. And yet, God was able to use it to hit hard hearts and soften a generation. Whatever the future holds for all us In Yer Facers (ordination and careers with the police, if past members are anything to go off), I dare say a part of us all will be long nostalgic for electric chairs, spitting and cocky year nine assemblies.
Andy Hawthorne adds: ‘In my opinion, it’s impossible to fully measure the impact of In Yer Face’s unique, no nonsense, non-religious blood and guts theatre. Pretty much unlike any other Christian theatre company. What a blessing they’ve been.’
Please join us in thanking God for his faithfulness through the work of In Yer Face and for all those who have come to know Christ through their work.