Herts Inclusive Theatre offers children and adults with learning and physical disabilities the opportunity to take part in professionally run arts, drama and theatre activities. We have been working with a group of adults in the Stanmore area of Harrow since 2011. Over the years this group has grown and developed. Each new term attracts more and more new participants, the level of skill from the participants and the challenges and opportunities that they have been working on has increased.
In consultation with the group leaders, the participants stated that they would like to perform a full scale musical, and chose Hairspray as their favourite. The production will follow on from a small production of the musical Grease which the group performed in 2018 but will be much bigger with more costumes, props, set and music.
By providing the adults with the opportunity to take part in the workshops, rehearsals and the final performance it helps to give them life skills that they might not be able to access otherwise.
The performance will give adults with learning and physical disabilities the opportunity to perform the professional version of Hairspray the Musical. We are certain that this will be the first time a full production of Hairspray has been performed by a cast of adults with learning and physical disabilities.
The theme of Hairspray is very much about inclusion and diversity so by doing this particular musical we are reinforcing and tackling inclusion and diversity from a different angle. Hairspray as a production has a number of secondary roles, as well as the leading ones, this will enable each and every cast member to show their talents and have more 'stage time' than most productions.
Rehearsals for the finished production take place at the weekly workshops. Bringing the group together in this safe space builds their confidence, helps them to socialise with others and gives them the opportunity to form friendships which continue outside of the rehearsals and performances. We have a number of volunteers who will support the project, some helping every week and others just with the productions. The volunteers get to know the cast members supporting them not only during the rehearsal process but onstage during productions too, sometimes overcoming their own self-confidence issues in order to do this for others.
Why the need?
Herts Inclusive Theatre’s vision is that everyone should have opportunities to enhance their lives through creative and educational activities in environments that are positive and welcoming to all, regardless of people’s background or abilities.
Unfortunately, society is not inclusive, and mainstream drama, theatre and arts activities are not capable of working with the needs of some of the participants that Herts Inclusive Theatre welcomes through its doors. We aim to break down the barriers in society and provide high quality theatre and arts activities that everyone can take part in.
Our work brings together adults from socio-economic backgrounds, different races and mixed abilities to learn from each other. Inclusivity is at the heart of our work from our performers and audiences to our stage crew.
Adults with learning disabilities come up against many barriers within society and there is a need to break these down. Our activities create a safe and secure place for people to feel comfortable to be themselves and express their thoughts and opinions. By attending our groups on a weekly basis our participants gain the courage and opportunity to seek employment and/or volunteer work either within Herts Inclusive Theatre or with other organisations.
Disadvantaged groups, particularly the disabled, are more likely to be inactive than the general population, and the likelihood of inactivity increases with more disadvantages. 37 per cent of disabled people were active in an organisation compared with 47 per cent of non-disabled people. (Office of National Statistics - Focus on Social Inequalities).
What's the cost of the project?
Alfie, a young man with learning disabilities, had been attending the group for three weeks. Each week he would sit at the side of the room, not joining in, but listening to and watching the activities. One week during a music and singing activity, he stood up and joined in, singing ‘Come Fly With Me’ word and pitch perfect. He now takes part in all the activities each week, and is hoping to take on one of the main characters in Hairspray.
Through the eyes of a Carer
“Drama has helped the people that I’m supporting a lot. I observed that they are more sociable, out-spoken, independent, self- confident and also it’s very easy for them to modify the plays by using their initiative.
All the factors I mentioned have been observed by other authorities. An inspector visited us from the local Care Quality Commission. She said that Simran has improved verbally, socially and is happier. She said when she met Simran two years ago she couldn’t express herself fluently. But she was amazed the way Simran entertained her in their two-hour interview.
In conclusion this has also helped staff supporting them as they can make choices and decisions easily and express themselves in time of need.”