This Autumn, Taking Flight Theatre Company will tour a specially commissioned play, Real Human Being, to secondary schools across Wales, to educate young people about the impact of Disability Hate Crime (DHC) on the lives of disabled people. The project is funded by the Welsh Government under the Equality and Inclusion grant.
Written by Matthew Bulgo and directed by Taking Flight Artistic Director Elise Davison, Real Human Being follows Alys, a young disabled girl. The production’s cast is comprised of professional disabled and non-disabled actors, with Alys being played by Nicola Miles-Wildin, who starred as The Tempest’s Miranda in the 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony.
Aimed at 13/14 years olds (Year 9), the young people will see the piece of theatre broken up over the course of the day and in between each segment, will have the opportunity to interact with the characters. The play has been specifically structured to allow for the use of Forum Theatre techniques, which allows audience and cast members to stop the action, rewind, and replace the protagonist to see they can alter the outcome. Project Manager Beth House, explains more:
“The idea of Real Human Being is that, in a safe environment, young people will get to explore why someone might behave in a negative way and the impact those actions have on a person and others around them. The style of theatre we use gives audiences the chance to experiment with techniques to deal with negative behaviours. The project seeks to tackle the root causes of discrimination against disability with young people in a school setting, before habits are formed and belief systems solidified.”
A previous tour of Real Human Being in 2013 was fully booked, with each performance filled to capacity. Head of PSE and Careers at Bryntirion Comprehensive School, Tamse Preece, commented:
“In my experience, there is no medium to rival live theatre to truly bring home the gravity of these issues. This also is the feedback from our students who tell me that they cried, felt physically sick and deeply empathised with all of the characters as a result of their ability to personally engage with the characters and actors.”
The project has been awarded £251809 across three years by the Welsh Government under the Equality and Inclusion grant and will reach approximately 3000 pupils across Wales per year. As part of the project, teachers will be able to access free Disability Equality Training and Mental Health First Aid Training (delivered by Disability Arts Cymru) and some of the young people will also be given the additional option of after-school peer mentor training. The project has also had input from Bridgend Community Safety Partnership, the Youth Service, South Wales Police, the All Wales Schools Liaison Core Programme and Welsh Government.
In 2013, Taking Flight Theatre Company won a Community Organisation Award for Disability at the National Diversity Awards. Organisers of the awards commented:
“Taking Flight Theatre Company is the only proven organisation in the world that runs inclusive, outdoor, promenade theatre. An amazing array of nominations is a testament to the investment this small community organisation is putting into existing and nascent disabled artists. Taking Flight work tirelessly and selflessly to promote total inclusiveness in their professional productions, inspiring and encouraging new and would-be actors.
Very active in Wales, the group has toured with productions as varied as Twelfth Night to new drama depicting the effects of disability related hate crime. All performances are staged in accessible venues and are fully described for those with sensory impairments. Feedback on Taking Flight’s work is stunning and just about sums up what is a perfect example of a small community organisation making a real difference for disabled people.”