Birmingham Hippodrome has today announced details of a major new performance partnership with long-term collaborators Open Theatre Company – one of the region’s leading practitioners of Learning Disabled arts.
This latest partnership between Birmingham Hippodrome and Open Theatre Company will see ten members of the venue’s resident learning disabled arts company, BecauseWeCanCanCan, work closely with the award-winning Metro-Boulot-Dodo to create their first, ever professional theatre show, A Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel.
Premiering at the Hippodrome’s Patrick Centre, the show will enter production and rehearsal in January next year before touring to three other Midlands venues in April 2018.
The show will be supported by a full workshop programme, delivered by BecauseWeCanCanCan members involving children at local Birmingham Primary schools.
Produced by Birmingham Hippodrome in partnership with Artistic Directors Metro-Boulot-Dodo, A Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel will bring together live music, physical theatre and innovative design to recreate the classic fairy-tale for a new generation of fans. The production features soundtrack by Steven Gibbs and Design by Kate Unwin.
Richard Hayhow, Director of Open Theatre Company said: “This is an amazing opportunity for us to embed our long-standing partnership with Birmingham Hippodrome even further and to explore new creative paths with award-winning company Metro-Boulot-Dodo. Above all though it will enable us all to support and develop the career pathways for the skilled and talented performers from BWCCC and to showcase their work within some of best respected Midlands theatre venues as part of their established programmes.
As a new NPO within the Arts Council’s portfolio, alongside MBD, we are also looking for this production to be the first of many that we create over the coming years within this strong and vibrant partnership. Our ambition is to mount a biennual national tour for these productions and in this way celebrate the artistry of performers with learning disabilities and the contribution that can make to the existing arts scene in this country.”
Graeme Callister, Head of Creative Programming at Birmingham Hippodrome said: ‘This is truly fantastic news both for the theatre and for the sector as a whole. By building on our existing work with BecauseWeCanCanCan, we hope to challenge prejudices around the skills and capabilities of young people with learning disabilities, and the nature of audiences who can engage with their creative work.
We’ve been working with Open Theatre Company for over a decade to provide opportunities for young people with learning disabilities in the arts. Now we have the chance to expand that work even further and make a real difference to a new generation of emerging artists living and working in the UK.’
BecauseWeCanCanCan was formed in November 2015 as a partnership between Open Theatre Company and Birmingham Hippodrome to develop the learning, professional skills and career aspirations of artists with learning disabilities based in Birmingham and beyond. The company comprises of young people aged 18-25 and is mentored by Richard Hayhow, a life-long advocate for the talents and abilities of young people with learning disabilities with over thirty years’ experience within the Learning Disabled Arts sector.
The news follows the launch of an expanded season of Relaxed Performances at Birmingham Hippodrome in 2017, which began with a specially adapted performance of The National Theatre’s internationally acclaimed production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time which took place on Mon 3 July. Other Relaxed Performances taking place across the Hippodrome’s Main Stage and Patrick Centre in 2017/18 include The Snow Dragon and festive favourite, Cinderella in January.
Building on the success of previous Relaxed Performances and the venue’s ongoing work within the Learning Disabled Theatre sector, July 2017 also saw the venue host On The Verge – a one-day conference bringing together over 80 venues, independent companies and artists working in the field of Learning Disability arts across the UK and beyond.
The event featured keynote speeches from Associate Editor of The Stage (and long-time Guardian columnist) Lyn Gardner and Deputy Artistic Director of the RSC, Erica Whyman.
Guest panellists from the UK performance industry included Sarah Gordy, an actress with Down Syndrome best known for her portrayal of Lady Pamela Holland in the 2010 BBC TV series of Upstairs Downstairs, stand-up, film maker, and impressionist Richard Newnham (Hijinx Theatre) and disabled actor Cian Binchy (Access All Areas Theatre).
Closing the days’ programme was celebrated writer and performance poet, Henry Normal with his comic and touching work; ‘Photos of my Son’ inspired by his personal experience as a father of a profoundly autistic child.
A Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel will visit The Patrick Centre from 4th to 8th April.
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