Local companies Blue Chevy and Streetwise Community Circus are busy rehearsing brand new shows in time for Bounce! Arts Festival Weekender – Belfast’s third disability and deaf arts festival.
Blue Chevy, which was developed out of the Kids in Control professional theatre company, was one of the hits of last year’s Bounce! festival and has developed a new show – Shadow Dancing with My Spirit – based on the life of principal performer Linda Fearon, who has cerebral palsy.
Streetwise Community Circus provides workshops for people with learning disabilities and their show Cirque De Ghoules – their first at Bounce! – is an everyday story of ghosts, ghouls and greed, with comedy, clowns and conmen.
David Calvert, who is directing the Blue Chevy production at the Lyric Theatre on Thursday, August 28 at 7.30pm, said it was an abstract show dealing with adult themes.
“It is a physical theatre show with elements with dance dealing with a real life story in a dynamic, stylised way, including abstract video imagery and sound. Linda Fearon’s life has been extraordinary and we have created the show around it.”
Linda from Armagh always wanted to be a performer and after a difficult life dealing with other people’s preconceptions of disability, she is realising her dream to be starring on stage at the Lyric Theatre.
She is delighted to be the ‘poster girl’ of this year’s Bounce! on billboards, brochures and programmes.
“Bounce! is getting bigger and bigger every year and really professional companies are coming to perform here. I’m so privileged to be part of it. It is amazing seeing my image everywhere. I think how did that happen?
“I can’t believe there is an actual show about me at the Lyric Theatre. I am nothing special, I haven’t climbed a mountain or carried out brain surgery, I have just lived a life. I am so excited about being in the Lyric.”
The Cirque De Ghoules show, which takes place at on Saturday, August 30 at 1pm in the Lyric Theatre, has been devised during a two week community circus school at Belvoir Players’ Theatre. It is the first time they have performed an external show.
The show’s London-based Director Jamie Beddard said: “It’s a ghost story set in a hotel, they are all trapped and can’t leave. When new people come to the hotel, it all goes bonkers. We are developing the concept and change things as we go along. Streetwise is doing really unique, amazing work. There is nothing exactly like this on these islands. The performers come back every year so they must like it.”
Streetwise tutor Nick McCaffrey said the show was a culmination of all of the organisation’s workshops that take place throughout Northern Ireland. Streetwise works in partnership with groups such as the Northern Trust, Mencap and the National Autistic Society. They then invite participants to take part in their flagship summer project.
“We all get together on Monday and ten days later we have got a show! We have a professional director who brings the skills that we don’t have – the drama, the physical theatre and the music. It is a real opportunity for us as tutors to learn as well.
“Outside the artistic benefits, the performers get a lot out of it in terms of socialising, physical health, resilience and emotional help with the process of getting together as a group and doing something creative in a supportive environment.”
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the core funder for Kids in Control, Streetwise Community Circus and also the Arts and Disability Forum, which organises the Bounce! Arts Festival.
Noirin McKinney, its Director of Arts Development, said: “Bounce! is a wonderful arts festival which celebrates the quality work by artists from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the UK, who are deaf or disabled. Now in its third year, there are many ways to get involved with music events, visual arts, comedy and many free workshops all on offer and I would encourage everyone to join in.”