Take a bow

This week, I did something I was more than a little afraid of. I took over an inclusive disability drama group. The leader of the group had set it up around two years ago, as a project for university. Since then, it’s been pretty successful, putting on shows regularly at one of the theatres in the city. I turned up, not knowing what to expect, but hoping I’d be able to live up to expectation, and fill the boots left by the former leader. What I found was, despite their different abilities, despite their challenging conditions and in some cases, behaviours, I had entered a room of professionals. Focused, willing to participate, engaged and knowledgeable about each other, the class has already opened my eyes to the boundaries of my own understanding, and in a way, by own particular type of prejudice — the assumption that the class would be easy to run, would only require certain levels of technique and commitment.

What I’ve immediately realised is that this class means a lot to the participants, and consequently, should mean a lot to me. I made the assumption, like a lot of people that come into a situation or workshop such as theirs, that it only has a fleeting function of weekly entertainment, a break for their carers, not playing a pivotal role in enabling those involved to voice their experiences of their condition in dramatic form.

Admittedly, the play they are working on is their Christmas Panto, Cinderella, which has been expertly cast by the previous leader — with a burly typical Black Country bloke with sovereigns round his neck as the Fairy Godmother. But through harnessing the fun and developing the humour in the piece, I hope I’m able to do the group justice, and give them the space they need to develop their craft. They’re already teaching me. I hope I can at least be a facilitator to them in opening people’s eyes as to what it is to be differently-abled both on and off stage.