Julie Andrews cracks the boards at ‘Misfits’ in Bristol, the unique theatre company and social group for people with learning difficulties.
From Able Magazine #110 (March/April 2014)
When you find yourself, launched into a workshop of a well established theatre company it can be a daunting experience for a newbie. However, working alongside Misfits actors, you are put instantly at ease and it is impossible to be a stranger for long.
We were in the hands of students from Bath University who were running a creative drama session. Setting us off with a selection of ice breakers, a few minutes of hilarious animation was undertaken and very soon we were warmed up and ready to start performing.
Splitting us up into two groups, one side was given the task of taking five keywords associated with winter and turning them into a play. The other group had to create actions to go with the keywords and perform these every time one was spoken. Much boisterous activity ensued as the words snowman, skiing, hot chocolate snow and flu were used to build a story. The play that grew out of our collective imaginations was so funny that acting was hard to do without laughing.
I was fine, until one of the actors hilariously acted a snowman coming to life on ski’s and rescuing a lady in distress on an imaginary mountain. It was brilliantly executed, fantastically comical and I lost it, along with everyone else. In the meantime the group on the other side of the room were beautifully acting out the appropriate actions to our words. The whole thing was chaos, hilarious and fun to be a part of. I would never have believed I could so dramatically put my ‘whole self’ into a role as a wind blasted snow storm, but believe me, by the end, I really did.
Next was the topic of summer and it was our team’s turn to create the actions for sun cream, cocktails, sunbathing football and holiday. Enthused by our previous rendition of the snow man cometh to life, we were on top form. Imaginary sun cream was applied with the gusto only normally reserved for the recently sunburnt and pretend cocktails drunk with glee. Sunbathing and footy was played out with dramatic abandon, but the real showstopper happened the moment the word ‘holiday’ was spoken.
Singing Our Hearts Out
As rehearsed, everyone in our troop boomed out ‘Summer Holiday’, the song made famous by Cliff Richard. With fully theatrical outstretched arms, we really put our all into it; we were only supposed to sing a couple of lines until the next keyword came, but fully immersed into the ‘fun and laughter’ of the tune, every time the other group tried to get a line of their play in, off we would fly again into another verse, until finally all fifteen lines had been accomplished. It was completely spontaneous and thunderous applause was received from the other group. Although I suspect, this was probably to make certain we didn’t go again.
Finally, when the lively summer play was brought to its natural conclusion, we all collapsed in a heap of laughter and congratulatory companionship. The students were rightly delighted with the results of their mornings work and hugged everyone with the excitement and euphoria of a job well done.
The director, Tony was equally pleased with the morning and congratulated students and actors for their work. It was good for Tony to get a chance to step back and watch everything unfold without his influence. It seems to me that given any opportunity to express themselves artfully, this company could create stunning performances out of any genre thrown at them.
What It’s All About
As well as being a theatre company for fun, Misfits are self funded and actors have a serious job to do, providing educational shows and DVDs to private businesses and the public sector. Through drama, Misfits actors talk about what is important to them, thus giving themselves and others a voice, helping audiences everywhere to understand what life with a learning difficulty is like. The aim of the company is to enable people with learning difficulties to be creative, have fun and reach their potential through participation, performance, volunteering and employment. The core mission is to improve the life opportunities and aspirations of people with learning disabilities and to challenge discrimination in society so that members are valued and respected on an equal basis.
Misfits actors come from a variety of backgrounds, some from acting families and show people, but the majority have no theatrical background whatsoever. Enthusiasm needs no qualification and every actor in this company has the greatest passion for what they do and strives hard to teach others about living every second of life, bountifully.
All too soon the end of the session was in sight, but in an environment where animated thinking and great entertainment is inspired, it doesn’t take long for the end of one creative moment to morph seamlessly into another.
On went the rock ’n’ roll music and off danced the actors. Everyone joined in, including the university students (they were given very little choice). No one was going to be allowed to leave until the very last second of entertainment had been squeezed out of the morning. We all had a riot.
If you know someone who would benefit from Misfits acting sessions, or you’d like a little help reaching your full potential, two groups meet every week to dance, do art and of course, act. Socialising, making friends and talking are vital to everyone. Why not contact Misfits?
For more information contact:
Tel: 07910 962 329 or: 0117 908 5294