Actors with disabilities treat theatregoers to “a joyous event”

Published 05 January 2012

barbaraalburyThe Armidale-based playwright and theatre director Barbara Albury is helping to draw people with a disability into the artistic life of the community.

Ms Albury (pictured here), an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of New England, wrote and directed a theatrical production titled Rockin’ Robin and the Hoods that entertained audiences at Armidale’s Hoskins Theatre in the week before Christmas.

The show, a light-hearted updating to the rockin’ rollin’ 1950s of the Robin Hood legend, was presented by the Saturday Magic Theatre Troupe, a group of adults with disabilities and their friends.

It was the fourth year that Ms Albury had been involved in a drama program for people with disabilities. “Participating in drama has many benefits for people with disabilities – with or without a public performance,” she said. “But putting on a full-scale show in a real theatre in front of a substantial audience has the added advantage of being an exciting experience and a great boost to everyone’s self-esteem.

“Last year’s production, A Kind of … Cinderella, ran for one performance only and was so successful that the group decided to put on two performances of this year’s show.”

“There were full houses for both performances of Rockin’ Robin,” Ms Albury said, “and the total, unembarrassed spontaneity of many of the performers contributed to what was a very joyous event. The audiences loved seeing the performers having such a good time on stage, and the story, music and dancing set just the right festive tone for the lead-up to the holidays.”

Of the performers themselves she said: “They go way beyond what people think is possible for people with disabilities. And their punctuality in turning up for – and their stamina and enthusiasm during – rehearsals are better than I’ve come to expect from most regular theatre groups.”

One of the many facets of this drama program, she said, had been its contribution to the community outreach of the discipline of Theatre Studies at UNE. “Staff members from other parts of the University also generously volunteered their time to assist,” she added, “as did many others from the wider Armidale community.”

Institutions supporting the project included Northern Links NSW, The Ascent Group, the Armidale Drama and Musical Society, The Armidale School, New England Mutual, and Hutchinson and Harlow Real Estate.