Suffolk: Theatre group for disabled adults is having a Fabba time
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the latest show from Fabba, the theatre company for adults with disabilities. Entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE talks to co-ordinator Carolyn Baker.
Carolyn’s being sawn in half when I arrive to talk about the group’s new show, Spandex.
Written and directed by Will Isgrove, it sees criminals take over when Fabbaville’s resident superhero Captain Fabba mysteriously disappears. From the chaos, a small determined band of wannabe heroes emerge to battle the shady criminal mastermind pulling the strings and rescue their missing icon.
I get chatting to Andrew McBean, from Lowestoft, while I wait. He’s been a member of the group a while now. Playing one of the new heros keeping the streets safe he says it’s good fun: “I’d miss coming here.”
“Andrew was in our first show at the Seagull [Fabba Mia] and it took him months to learn the lines,” says Carolyn, who makes up the Fabba team with fellow support worker Jacky Beevor, volunteer Jo Cornish and director-writer Will.
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“This man has now been playing Lady Macbeth, all kinds of parts, has full sets of lines and is doing really well. He’s one of the ones whose confidence and skills have really built up since we started here it’s amazing.”
The group began under the umbrella of Suffolk County Council at the Lowestoft Centre. So many people wanted to do drama a new home was needed. Switching to the Seagull Theatre three years ago also meant members could showcase their talents to a wider audience. It’s now run by social enterprise Leading Lives.
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There are currently 26 members on its books, aged 18 up. Every range of ability and disability is catered for, from sensory impairments and wheelchair users to those with mental health issues. It’s so popular they’re looking to start a sister project in Yarmouth.
Kelly Wilson, from Lowestoft, says the group has turned her world upside down, in a good way: “It’s a fun place to be with all the lovely tutors around you what more could ask for?”
It’s all about confidence building, intergration and awareness.
“I wanted to see people reach their full potential because I know what these guys are capable of. People’s horizons have broadened so much since they’ve been coming here, it’s one day a week and they love it,” says Carolyn, who came up with the idea with Jacky.
William Self comes all the way from Beccles to take part. He’s been a member since 2010, playing a ghost in Ghostbusters.
“I think I’m a born actor,” he laughs, taking a break from rehearsing for his role as a mad scientist in Spandex. “It’s a nice, friendly atmosphere, which I like. [The group] has made me feel more meaningful, bought me out of my shell really. This [Spandex] will be very good fun and hopefully people will enjoy it.”
Previous productions - including their own versions of Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones, Indy Fabba Jones; Treasure Island, Dracula, Macbeth and more recently the Tempest - have gone down well with paying audiences.
“When our shows are on we’ve got people coming to see us who have nothing to do with any of the guys. They’re coming because they’ve heard it’s good,” says Carolyn.
Members are regularly involved with the development of plays via workshops.
“The ideas they’re coming up with for shows are brilliant,” says Will, whose first show with the company was The Wizard of Oz.
“It’s very different to what we do now; I was on stage a lot of the time as the narrator, keeping it all together whereas now they’re doing this pretty much all on their own without any sort of help or prompting.”
He treats like them any other actor, knowing who enjoys what and who’s up for a challenge.
“For however long the shows are they’re the centre of the universe, everybody’s looking at them, they’re getting the laughs; it’s so powerful. We underestimate the benefits drama has for people who aren’t used to doing it; it’s absolutely profound the difference it makes.
“I’ve seen some of these guys change out of all recognition, the confidence they’ve got, they’re now saying I think we should do this. They’re an absolute dream. As a director you can’t wish for more.”
Spandex runs at Lowestoft’s Seagull Theatre from tonight to November 9. Anybody interested in joining the company, which meets at the Seagull every Monday, can call Carolyn on 01502 405432 or e-mail email@example.com