Full Circle have made their latest performance piece with a quickly changing world in mind and the fact that it’s easy to forget to respect people who are different, to leave them behind in the rush to move forward, and to forget to ask them about things that impact on their lives. Disabled people generally are concerned about the great societal uncertainties that impact on our everyday lives.
Full Circle members believe passionately that disabled people must be listened to about their experiences. They were inspired by a book which was created by a group of people who had left long term institutional hospitalisation. The book was created so that the stories of learning disabled people are neither lost nor forgotten.
Kenny, one of the actors told us, “Learning disabled people had no respect in the hospital. No-one listened to them and they had no choices.”
The days of institutionalisation are remembered with fear and dread for disabled people, and the lack of life choices and basic rights that go along with that. People were sent away from their families with no real diagnosis, and often, for no other valid reason than a person could not be understood.
The Keepers is set on a remote island and follows the stories of a group of people who have been sent to live there against their wishes. In spite of attempts to remove their dignity, the group forge a role for themselves, and become the keepers of hidden promises, of invisible truths, and of stories untold. The piece speaks to the responsibility we all have to reveal unfairness and inequality in our local communities.
The Keepers collect the messages in bottles washed up on the shore of the island, and all the released balloons with messages of love are safely recorded so that no-one’s hopes and dreams is forgotten. One character tries to keep a promise it was almost impossible to keep, where every possible obstacle that could appear, did appear.
Alyson, who helped to create the piece said, “In the hospital, the people had no identities –all their personal items were removed. They had to wear a uniform, and followed a rigid daily routine – couldn’t eat when they wanted, and couldn’t even have a cuppa with friends. They were treated as if they had no brain and no feelings – work, work, work – and then go to bed early. We must never go back.”
Andrea, another actor, said, “We wanted to show that we are people with interesting things to say. We have a right to make choices about our lives, and we deserve to have the chance to share our ideas in a theatre with others. It’s our way of telling our own stories, and of trying to keep the promise that we will not forget what people have been through.”
The new piece of work premieres at ARC Stockton as part of a project called Cultural Shift, which aims to put disabled people centre-stage in a disabled-led way, ensuring that the ideas are all those of disabled people.
Vici Wreford-Sinnott is the Creative Lead on the project, and is used to creating pioneering work with disabled people. “I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Full Circle for the last five years. They are a remarkable group of people, of theatre makers who have developed a unique signature style – physical, visual work with a brilliant sound track and themes of comedy even in the most powerful of work. It’s really surprising and entertaining.”
She continued, “The group usually play to packed houses, and we hope to fill ARC again this time for a particularly significant performance at this time in the company’s development, in a social climate which presents significant challenges for disabled people”.
The Keepers will be performed on 9 November at both 1.30pm and 7.00pm. Tickets are on a Pay What You Decide basis but should be booked in advance please. Box office is 01642 525199 / www.arconline.co.uk
About Cultural Shift
Cultural Shift is an extraordinary three year programme of artistic activity, led by disabled people at ARC Stockton, ensuring that the extraordinary voices of disabled people are heard and that the incredibly diverse art created by disabled people is valued as equal in our cultural landscape. We are challenging perceptions, creating new opportunities and introducing new people to the work of disabled artists.
Little Cog is a dynamic disabled-led theatre company presenting ground-breaking new work in the North East of England. It was founded by Artistic Director, Vici Wreford-Sinnott, in 2011.
The company has been involved in a number of pioneering disability arts projects and is currently working in partnership with ARC Stockton, a multi-artorm venue, delivering a three year programme of activity called Cultural Shift, which aims to challenge perceptions of disabled people in the arts and to create increased opportunities for both professional and community based disability art.
About Full Circle
Full Circle is a theatre company of learning disabled actors based at ARC. It was set up in 2008 by two of the groups’ members with the support of Stockton Borough Council Adult Services. The group is committed to promoting and valuing learning disabled people, their creativity and their voices. The group creates new and original work, with scripting and devising being carried out by group members. The group work as an ensemble, where everyone has equal input, and are supported by two members of staff. They have created work in collaboration with Vici Wreford-Sinnott from Little Cog for the last five years.