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NEWS: Punch ‘Talking Circle’ provides safe space for difficult conversations

9 May 2024

A ‘Talking Circle’, sponsored by Nottingham Trent University (NTU), is being set up outside Nottingham Playhouse during the run of James Graham’s world premiere Punch. The Talking Circle will host conversations for the community about some of the challenging themes raised by the play.


A physical installation, the Talking Circle has been designed by local designer Imogen Melhuish following a call-out and will provide a safe space for people to gather and communicate about the issues arising from the play. It can also be a place for individual reflection and contemplation.

The Talking Circle has been conceived in response to Jacob Dunne’s experience of Restorative Justice, which brings together both victims and perpetrators of crime to talk about the consequences and harm caused, through difficult conversations. Jacob, whose book Right from Wrong is the basis for Punch, will host the discussions, along with invited panels of guest speakers. Audience members and key community stakeholders will also be invited to take part.

Tara Lopez, Director of Participation at Nottingham Playhouse, commented:

“We are thrilled that NTU have been able to support our ambitions with the Talking Circle project. This is a hugely important part of the wrap around work for Punch and a brilliant way for the community of Nottingham to engage beyond coming to see the show. We hope that the Talking Circle will provide a safe space for people from across the city to come together, communicate and reflect on the themes of the show and any other issues that feel pertinent to them.”

Amy Bere, Director of Culture at Nottingham Trent University, said:

“Nottingham Trent University is proud to support Nottingham Playhouse’s Talking Circle project as a way to foster positive community conversations in response to the themes in James Graham’s Punch. We are committed to promoting good mental health and wellbeing within our University community and believe the Talking Circle will provide a forum and platform for individuals to gather in support of one another across the city of Nottingham.”

Jacob Dunne commented:

“If watching PUNCH inspires you to be the best version of yourself, then the Talking Circle is where the work begins. Whether that’s listening to a panel discussion, taking a moment for yourself to reset and breathe, or downloading the online resources and gaining some new relational skills. Change and growth happens one good conversation at a time.”

The Talking Circle will hold the following discussions:

  • Fri 10 May (after 7.30pm show) ‘Forgiveness’, in collaboration with The Forgiveness Project
  • Thu 23 May (after 1.30pm show) ‘Education & Youth Crime’
  • Fri 24 May (after 7.30pm show) ‘Masculinity & Mental Health’

The Talking Circle is designed to be a flexible, modular structure which can accommodate both small numbers and larger groups of people. After the run, the Talking Circle will move to NTU in the autumn, so that similar conversations can be continued with students.

In addition to the Talking Circle, Post-show Q&As will be held with guests Michael Palin (Full Circle and Great Railway Journeys of the World, BBC; Monty Python’s Flying Circus, BBC) and Nazir Afzal OBE (Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England and formerly Director in London; Chief Executive, Police & Crime Commissioners). Michael met Jacob in 2015 and has since supported his work in promoting restorative justice. Nazir Afzal has been instrumental in prosecuting many high profile and groundbreaking cases in the country and is an authority on the justice system.

‘The F Word’ exhibition from The Forgiveness Project will also sit in Nottingham Playhouse’s Company bar throughout the run of the play, displaying real-life stories of when individuals have chosen non-violent methods to resolve conflict.

For anyone who is affected by, or would like to learn more about, any of the themes raised in Punch, Nottingham Playhouse have prepared a Self-Care Guide, and provided links to organisations who may be able to help, on their website.

Punch is an unflinching true-life account of how Nottingham teenager Jacob throws a single punch – with fatal consequences. Released from prison, the parents of the victim ask to meet him. Their quest for answers results in an unlikely connection and Jacob’s life begins to turn around.

This fascinating new play examines the incredible power of forgiveness, whilst asking important questions about toxic masculinity, class and our education system.

At Nottingham Playhouse from 4 to 25 May 2024.

Sponsored by Nottingham Trent University and with thanks to David Stewart OBE.

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