By Abigail Clay
Last month we read about ShakeItUp in Pentonville Prison, and one of the positives which came out of our course there was to allow us to get to know a group of people who by definition are removed from society. Stereotypes were challenged and understanding grew.
Another outreach project of ShakeItUp’s is called Shakespeare 21, which is a drama group for adults with Down’s Syndrome based in Tonbridge, Kent. My younger sister, Claire, is one of the participants, and along with her there are several actors who I have known throughout their lives, and some who have known me throughout mine! Thanks to my unique position, I know how false many assumptions about people with a learning disability such as Down’s Syndrome can be. One of the aims of this group is to perform locally, presenting the opportunity for audiences to realise we all have more in common than some may imagine.
In Shakespeare 21 we cover many of the same topics as ShakeItUp - we teach the components required to improvise a Shakespearean-style play. The three genres - tragedy, comedy, history - creating relationships between characters, building a world - Battlefield? Forest? Castle? - and studying Shakespeare’s language to inspire us to make up our own, on the spot. Everyone has different abilities, some happy to fluently reel of Shakespeare’s monologues, others creative in their movement, prowling around as witches or strutting proudly as queens. Even within a group of people who all have a common condition, every personality is unique and necessary to form the whole.
We are lucky to be supported in Shakespeare 21 by several volunteers, but of course there are necessary costs. We are very grateful to those who have supported us so far, including the Tonbridge Lions group who bought us our beautiful new shirts (see below).
We have been busy fundraising, including carol singing and hosting a stall at a local fair. If you are interested in donating to the group to allow us to continue with our work, please contact Elaine on firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you know an adult with Down’s Syndrome near Tonbridge who may like to be involved, please point them in our direction!
Shakespeare 21 are very excited to be performing at ShakeItUp’s fundraiser on Friday March 27th for Scotts Project Trust, a local charity. Scotts provides residential care, supported living services and a day centre for people with learning disabilities, helping the service-users to socialise, and develop life skills, independence, and confidence. More details about the event can be found at the end of this post. Several of the members of Shakespeare 21 also attend Scotts Project, so it’s brilliant that they will be able to support the charity by performing at the fundraiser. Luckily, we have a couple more performances out in the community before it comes around, we’ll be glad of the practice! But will it be a comedy, a tragedy, or a history… We won’t know until the night!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our wonderful group Shakespeare 21. We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments, and you can follow the group on Twitter @shakespeare21I to keep up-to-date with all their latest news.
Now, before you go, get your tickets booked for our fundraiser!
When? Friday March 27th @ 7.30pm
Where? Delarue Hall, Scotts Project, Tonbridge, TN11 9NN
What? A fundraiser for Scotts Project Trust, featuring performances from Shakespeare 21 and ShakeItUp. The ticket price includes these, your supper and a glass of bubbly on arrival!
How much? £35. Remember to bring cash for the raffle, bar, and maybe some Shakespearean themed games…
Sounds amazing! How do I book? Email Elaine (good old Elaine) on email@example.com, and let her know any dietary requirements.
With contributions from members of the ShakeItUp company, this regular blog will cover behind the scenes peaks into the rehearsal room, news about our latest projects, and insights into what goes into creating our Bard-based Bedlam!