Community Theatricals With Pericles
by Saskia Schuit
Set up as a charity theatre group, Saskia Schuit explains how the Pericles Theatre Company enables the assimilation of adults with learning disabilities with professionals in the theatre business.
“I enjoyed it very much,” “loved working with the masks,” “amazing,” “such a harmonious and supportive way of performing.” These are just a few comments from actors involved in The Pericles Theatre Company, an innovative project which integrates learning disabled adults with professional actors, designers and musicians.
Founded in 1999, registered charity Pericles Theatre Company, offers performances – mostly family shows – that are a unique combination of drama, storytelling, masks and puppetry, woven with live musical accompaniment. Like a pop-up storybook, at narrative rises magically into a three-dimensional performance, offering a dramascape for the whole family. The original stories, usually derived from fairy tales, are adapted for stage by the members of the group during the rehearsal process. Depending on their interests and gifts, adults with learning disabilities are fully involved in the production process from page to stage with wider groups of learning-disabled adults becoming important contributors to the production. Set, masks, puppets, props and costumes for the performances are made in the soft and hard craft workshops of Pericles Training and Therapy, which this year is proud and honoured to be selected as one of the best practice representatives within the social care eld in The Parliamentary Review.
Focusing all the time on what we can, not on what we can’t, became our main strategy of work. We aim to take away the misconception about disability, supposedly meaning ‘less’ or ‘unable’. As a recognition of our work in 2015 Pericles Theatre Co. won the Best Family Show Award at a fringe show in Brighton (voted for by audience members).
Our current show is The Promise of Everlasting Youth. In the next quarter of this year we will start touring with a brand new production, The Little Mermaid, directed by our award winning director Vasile Nedelcu. Hans Christian Andersen makes two distant worlds collide in a story of love, suffering and sacrifice between a young prince and a mermaid princess.
We would like to send a huge thank you to grant givers who have supported the current production, the Leyden House Fund and the Innes Fund at Sussex Community Foundation, Community Initiative Fund of West Sussex County Council, Soroptimist International of East Grinstead and the Garfield Weston Foundation for their generous grants and donations. These made it possible for the group to bring such magical drama and touch the hearts of many people, crew as well as audience members. Pericles Theatre Co. also received a lot of support from Mid Sussex Voluntary Action regarding fundraising for which we are also very grateful.
We are open to collaborative ideas or if you would like to make a donation please look at our page at localgiving.org/charity/periclestheatrecompany.
Photos: Don Collishaw