Transcript for Prospero piece
Intro: [beep] (signifying hospital)
We have quite a high ratio of staff to guys and everyone really works together. So, although all of the people that are participants do have a disability, it feels much more inclusive than exclusive and we have Bex who does the art. So, she leads the art and I just help. I lead the drama and then we have, so Tina “To Kansas” and Michael, “Could we just ask that the small yappy person stays here with us?” “He’ll be safe here.” who are, our sort of assistants in terms of the drama; they’re both professional practitioners and then April is a member of the Heart of the South care agency and she does all the more difficult stuff in terms of the care, but she also does the drama, and we’re all trained in terms of the care but that’s not our specialism; that’s hers. And actually, quite a lot of the helpers that we have here also have special needs of some kind.
The therapeutic benefits being creative are pretty well known these days, thankfully, and it’s an absolute joy to put them into action every Friday. When we bring together the creative self-expression of performing, the ownership of creating props, through the artistic session in the afternoon, all of those things pulled together, you know there’s a huge amount of benefit to mental health and to our emotional well-being and a lot of relationship building goes on as well throughout all of those processes.
Many years ago, I was involved in performing and studying acting. I did my exams at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and I did some amateur dramatics, a bit of panto, and its something I’d shelved for a long time. So the opportunity to get back in to that from a personal point of view, combined with the creative aspects of running the art sessions and all of the benefits from all of those things, and bringing that to others, was a winning combination.
My assistants are my trainers and I go at the speed of light, so I can sort of change time; speed things up. “It’s the first marathon I’ve run for Prospero, this year I was really, really lucky to get a place in the ballot so I could choose who I wanted to raise funds for, so I chose to raise funds for Prospero because it is so close to my heart. The last 11 miles, I was on my own in a sea of people and I kept thinking back to all the guys at Friday Club and that they might be watching and they were rooting for me, and it just carried me through, just thinking of them.
I like to push the guys in this group beyond what they are capable of doing, well, what they think they are capable of doing, actually. I like to push quite a few of the others, quite a few of the members of the group, to come out of their shell and I like to make sure that when we are devising, when they’re in my groups, that they are in roles that they enjoy.
For this play, The Wizard of Oz, with the wicked witches I’ve been pushing the guys to go beyond what they normally would see as horror and what not. I like to get them to think of great detail, and in this case very gruesome details as well. I encourage gruesome details. Say, for example, the voodoo shrunken heads and door knobs made out of knee caps and also curtains made out of, made out of human skin.
One of the really important things, are that everybody here has goals that they aim for and it’s about moving people out of their comfort zone and challenging them. But not obviously taking them so far that they hit the panic zone. Or if they are in the panic zone to bring them back into the stretch zone or the zone of proximal development where we all learn the best. So, within that framework everyone has goals both artistic goals and social goals and one of the most important things that we work towards with the guys is independence. So, it’s all about resilience rather than reliance.
Hi, I am Daniel. I am an actor/volunteer for the Friday group and I enjoy it. I’ve been with the Friday club now for a year plus.
How has Prospero helped you?
Daniel: It’s helped me more, acting wise, and it’s now steering me on a path towards caring for other people.
Can you tell me a bit about Monday club?
Daniel: Monday Club is the exclusive adult group which is a few adults that get together and they make a show because it’s all part of the “mindfitness”. So, we base all our plays around that, with how to cope; with anxiety and depression, all that, it all comes under mindfitness with the “fox hole”. Yeah, it’s a thing where you go into your mind; it sort of takes you somewhere in your mind where you trap yourself and it puts you on a downward spiral and it put you into this state where you can’t get out of, like a deep well that you’re trying to climb out of and you can’t.
How does what you gain from Friday and Monday club differ?
Daniel: I think there is a variety of difference between Friday Club and Monday Club. Friday Club, I’ve got a bit of both acting and helping. But Monday, it’s more focused on the acting. It’s focusing on all the strong points what I need, in order to push myself forward to be a better actor. So, it’s what gradually that Beth does it’s a step-by-step process of pushing me to do different things. Then learning all the points where…, all the areas where I am blank and then kind of feeling in them spaces of the blankness, then just progressing forwards.
Three words to describe Prospero?
Daniel: It’s an absolutely brilliant group
We give a huge amount of support in the way that it’s most needed, so for example we have one person who’s with us at the moment who’s been with us for a few years now, and when he first came, he came with a carer for the whole day. And then he came with a carer up to lunchtime, this was after a term. And then he came with his carer just up to the coffee break. And then just in the morning for morning coffee before we start. Now he not only comes on his own but he leaves on his own, and that was again a staggered process; first lamppost, second lamppost until he’d got all the way home and his sense of achievement is extraordinary. And it’s the same in terms of the artistic challenges that we do.
So, everyone has things within each play that we work on, they want to accomplish, so it could be something as simple as managing a co-ordinated movement. We have someone who has severe co-ordination problems who did a very simple stage fight and we worked on that step by step-by-step until they could do it. And it’s transferable skills, so it’s also about getting the guys to understand that everything they learn here can be transferred to other parts of their life, and that the achievements that they find here and that the sense of confidence that they gain is really important. And I suppose that alongside that is one of the main principles or, kind of ethos, of Friday club is ownership. At the moment, what we’ve been doing is improvising around the story, giving it our own kind of twist and making it as original as we can.
Improvisation: character traits of main characters in Wizard of Oz
“Scarecrow, step forward.”
“You believe yourself to have no brain. Let us see how smart you really are.”
“Answer this for entry. Tell him the question.”
“Answer me this riddle: what walks with four legs at dawn, two at meridian and three at dusk?”
“Is it a human?”
“Correct, for a man walks on all fours at dawn when he is an infant, at meridian he is in the prime of his life and stands tall and proud and at dusk is but a weak and feeble old man aided by a stick. You may pass.”
From that improving, essentially a devising process, I’ll script and then we’ll come in and rehearse the play and the wonderful Bex who runs our art therapy is in charge of… then at that point they’ll build the set and make the props. It’s very much about the whole process that belongs to them and they’re challenged every step of the way. But they work incredibly as a team, really; they are a company. It’s absolutely brilliant to see, the level of support for each other as well as from us is extraordinary.
The production that we’re working on at the moment is The Wizard of Oz. So we’re creating our own storyline and making it very ensemble in feel, so we have a whole field of scarecrows and lots of additional characters that don’t come into the text, for example Spellacus, which is the spell book that gives their spells, to the witches and we have a really lovely forgetful witch.
“I was totally lost, until I heard you laughing and talking.”
“Ancient Eta and I will get the spell to poison the poppies.”
“Give us the spell for sleep.”
“Now Pandora wants the deepest possible sleep, but I’ve forgotten which is the highest number 5 or 10. 5.”
“Here give that to me, I’ll run it across to the poppies”
“I am ever so grateful, Shadow. It will be a different story once I get my new hip”
Beth: She was getting on a little bit in age, and she’s getting most of her spells wrong by this point. So whatever production we’re doing, that’s a really key and important thing to make it as ensemble as we can. So, our last production was The Lion King, so one of the things that we did with that is as characters were killed because that happens during the story they came back on stage and became the ancestors; the stars that in the book and in the film are referred to but we don’t normally see them carry on and participate in the story.
So, in terms of The Wizard of Oz, as well as our wonderful Friday Club guys, we always link with two schools. That’s one of our strongest sort of partnership link. So, we work with Hillcroft School and Sunnydown School on every Friday Club production. This year the Hillcroft primaries are going to be the munchkins and the Sunnydown secondary lads at the special school are going to be the flying monkeys. So, we’ve been kind of thinking about how that storyline can be developed and how the flying monkeys came to be subservient to the witch so that they have a little bit more of a story rather than just transporting Dorothy from here to there.
Each of those characters would be explored within the context of our cast, so as an example, you know, we might have a wicked witch who wants as a person, wants to really think about what it is to empathise. We have quite a lot of guys with autism and asperger’s, and the whole empathy question is quite important for a lot of them, so we can do that sort of within the play.
One of the things that we encourage people to be and I guess train people to be is flexible and adaptable and actually that’s an incredibly key transferable skill because we have an awful lot of people here with autism, some quite high-level autism so coping with that kind of change is a really important part of the process and as you’re coming into performance, you know that has to carry on right until the last minute.
We’ve had instances where, you know, one of the fairly main characters was not well on one of the days of performance, so we had to kind of divide up the lines in the corridor which was an interesting experience. And being able to cover lines so we don’t work with a prompt; everyone is trained to be able to cover each-others lines and that’s, again a really important skill to learn so for the last time in ‘Lion King’ when we gave out the challenges our goals, for the first time we had two people with high level autism in a scene on their own, so they had to be able to get themselves out of trouble and cover each other’s lines and improvise out of it if there was a problem and they did absolutely brilliantly. So, it’s trusting both yourself and the others in the team.
We had one lad from one of the schools last year who got as far as the backstage bit and then never actually made it on the stage and another one who came on in the wrong scene so we had to make him into a different character at that point so flexibility, being able to adapt is a really key part of the process. You know we always say that a company is a group that accepts each-others, otherness and is prepared to work as a collective and let the individual and all of their worries and anxieties move to the side and that in itself is a really positive experience.
So, the whole group are very much part of the devising process. So, we first look thematically about what the play needs to mean to us and to the audience that will come to see it. So, looking at the moment at The Wizard of Oz and our most important theme, everyone collectively decided is that we have the power within us and it’s what we do with our lives is so important both in helping us finding it for ourselves and finding it for other people.
Friday club members
James: My name is James
Most exciting moment in The Wizard of Oz?
James: Going down the yellow brick road and meeting all the characters
Three words to describe Friday Club?
James: Good, magical, and intriguing
What do you like about Friday club?
Anna: I like being with Beth, working with the acting, mostly working in groups, coming together and working like with friendship.
Three words to describe Friday Club?
Anna: Happy, joyful and jolly
I find that acting, as a whole, for people on the autism spectrum such as myself, really helps them with learning about body language.
Well, both the Friday Club and the Monday night adult’s drama are inclusive drama groups, although Friday Club is more aimed towards people with serious physical and mental disabilities, so some of the things that we do with the Monday night group would actually be physically impossible to do in Friday Club.
But the Monday night group we’re the ones that are the far more outgoing; we’re the ones that do the more outlandish stories. And we’re also the ones that don’t just focus on doing stories for children; we also do stories strictly for adults and at the moment we are working on a play called COMA, which is an adults-only play and it’s all about a woman who in her 60s meets her long lost daughter and suffers a heart attack, and through the heart attack she faints and knocks herself out
“Are you Alisa Johnson?”
“I’ve been looking for you.”
“You see the thing is. I think you might be my mother.”
“I am so sorry.”
“No, I didn’t mean to. Do you want to sit down?”
“She’s having one of her fainting attacks.”
“I am calling an ambulance.”
Michael: And then when she wakes up in hospital she finds, well, she thinks that she’s 16 years old and thinks its all the way back to the 1970s.
[clip from play]
“Mum, I can’t tell you how good it is to see you awake, to see you sitting up.”
“Don’t touch me, don’t touch me.”
“Sometimes it takes a while for memories to come back.”
“When someone’s been in a coma. It’s me your daughter Brooke.”
“I haven’t..leave me..nurse, nurse!”
Michael: We start in 1973 and finish up, in well, 2019. And I play the role of Eden and I violate the main character.
[Clip from play]
“I don’t remember getting home. I was in shock. Which roads did I take? None. Which paths? Marie. I was sick in the garden. She was asleep on the sofa when I went in. I didn’t tell her anything, I didn’t know how”
Michael: I am the man who is basically the cause of the events of the story. Because the long-lost daughter is my child as well; I am the father.
[Tina and Dan discussing dance]
Ours is like an interpretive dance on an attack which the two characters, Alisa and Eden, are part of, and what we are doing is we are mimicking and shadowing. We’re doing it in a more positive way. So, everything that’s negative in their dance we’re doing in a more positive and sensual way. It gives the audience to believe that while something bad is happening in one place, in another place its happening, its happening good and its happening between two hospital beds.
[Dance piece with sound of silence continues till 20.45 when narrative about the piece starts up.]
The flashback to the party. Its right at the end of the play. Where Eden meets Alisa and Alisa meets Eden and asks her to dance and it goes smoothly and it goes really wrong. It goes not the way Alisa expects it to go and Eden takes advantage of it all.
Monday evening drama is inclusive for adults, Its 50% people with disabilities and 50% not. We look at the needs of each and every person and think about how we can encourage and support. So, obviously, it’s also about achieving the best that we can in terms of the artistic pursuits, when we went to Edinburgh with ‘Red and the wolf’ we got 4/5 stars
In February we lost our longest-standing-member, 13-years and so everyone wanted to dedicate this show to Howard.
Howard, he would cry a lot just because he was so overwhelmed with joy and so grateful for everything in his life and I just think we have an awful lot to learn from Howard. You know, most of us have probably never been as happy as Howard was pretty nearly all the time. So that’s how we ought to remember Howard just smiling. Thank you.