GRAEAE THEATRE COMPANY’S STATEMENT ON LORD FREUD’S COMMENTS ABOUT WAGES FOR DISABLED WORKERS

Much has been said about Lord Freud’s recent misplaced comments on the net worth of a disabled person to an employer and how the level of pay should reflect that.

Graeae’s position is that the value of the employee is not linked to disability and that it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that their employment is meaningful to both parties. There should NEVER be a situation in which someone’s value is lower than the minimum wage and this sentiment seems to have received cross-party support.

  • • Assigning disabled people’s NET worth to the direct financial impact they have on an organisation is reductive and at odds with the Government’s drive to support disabled people to re-join the workforce.
  • • We don’t think the government can claim to have removed barriers disabled people face in finding employment.
  • • Reforms to disability benefits have been detrimental to disabled people finding work rather than supporting them.
  • • Graeae is providing case studies and statistics to show the negative impact the changes are making to its employees and its charitable output.

Lord Freud’s, David Cameron’s and Esther McVey’s recent comments have all alluded to how in reality lives are changing in a positive way for disabled people. We are led to believe that the disability benefit reforms are ‘looking after disabled people’ and ‘supporting people with disabilities’ and ‘helping disabled people overcome the many barriers they face in finding employment’.

That may have been the intention but unfortunately it is not the reality.

A number of schemes have been affected by Government cuts and policy changes. The three that most directly affect Graeae and its employees are: Disability Living Allowance, Independent Living Fund and Access to Work (ATW). Delays in processing claims, rejected claims and lost paperwork have resulted in un-claimable genuine costs that are so substantial that they have meant individuals have been forced to move and Graeae has needed to cancel work.

Jenny Sealey MBE, CEO of Graeae, explains how Access to Work has enabled her to operate professionally:

‘Co-directing the London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony was the most extraordinary experience. It would not have been possible without ATW providing a dedicated team of highly qualified sign language interpreters and access workers supporting me as a Deaf woman and supporting my cast of Deaf and disabled professional artists. The artistic narrative of the London Paralympic Opening Ceremony incorporated The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and when 67,000 people in the stadium sang along to Spasticus Autisticus it felt like the future held great things for Deaf and disabled people worldwide.’

Despite the extraordinary success of the London Paralympics and its opening ceremony, Jenny has had her ATW support cut. Her ongoing interpreter support has been cut by 53% and claims for international projects have been cut by 100%. She responds:

‘Two years on from the Paralympics and I am seriously in fear for my career. The severe cuts in my ATW provisions mean I simply cannot fulfil my job description as CEO / Artistic Director of Graeae.’

Jenny is just one of the eighty Deaf and disabled employees Graeae contracts every year and her story is far from unique.

  • • Graeae’s employees are facing delays in the processing of ATW applications of up to eight months – and counting.
  • • The company is currently awaiting decisions on 10 ATW applications, some of which date back to February 2014. It is also disputing a further 4 decisions.
  • • The activity for 8 of the outstanding 10 ATW applications has now happened and Graeae has had to incur the cost in the hope that it could be reclaimed.
  • • Graeae has had 4 applications rejected, despite them, on the face of it, falling under Access to Work’s criteria for permitted reclaimable expenditure. Some of these are under review.

AtW table

 

Jenny highlights what this means for Graeae:

‘Graeae is the UK’s flagship professional disabled led theatre company and has a growing international reputation. The very real danger is soon we will no longer be able to commit to our mission placing Deaf and disabled people centre stage.’

‘Decisions made now will have a huge impact. If this is allowed to continue we will have to cover all the costs related to meeting people’s access needs. Therefore, we would have to reduce our artistic programme by that same amount. Cuts to arts funding across the board mean we can’t feasibly find this money from elsewhere.’

‘I will lose my job, as will other members of our core staff and the company will become non-disabled led and will become disconnected from our core charitable objectives.’

Our message to people wanting to work with Graeae is this:

‘Many people – interpreters, access workers and disabled people – are saying: “I’m really sorry that due to the changes to Access to Work it means that I’m a pain in the arse to employ”.

‘You are not. Graeae wouldn’t have achieved all that it has without the talent of its creative team or the access support team that surround them. You are not just a vital part of the company but core to why we do what we do.’

‘Whenever we offer employment to someone, it is because they are the right person for the job, regardless of their impairment, condition, disability or health. The Access to Work scheme should mean that support costs do not become a discriminating factor between disabled and non-disabled candidates. Our problem is that the changes to this scheme are actively removing employment opportunities for deaf and disabled people across the country.’

Jenny Sealey concludes:

‘At Graeae, we are in turmoil: There is more interest in the company locally and internationally than ever before. Our artistic and training programme remains ambitious but we face a real threat of such ambitions being unrealised because of ATW cuts of up to £125k. The impact of waiting to find out if costs are going to be covered means we are already having to cancel future plans. It makes it impossible to plan as you don’t know where you stand. We are seriously concerned about what the future holds.’

 

Contact the press team for more information or if you would like this information in alternative formats.

Graeae Press Office
Angie Klein
Tel: 0207 613 6900
Mb: 07939 158 696
Email: angie@graeae.org / press@graeae.org
Website: http://www.graeae.org

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October 17, 2014 · 10:49 am

2 years on, what legacy has the London Paralympic Games left us?

29 August 2014 marked 2 years since the Graeae team and 78,990 others attended the Paralympic Opening Ceremony in Stratford.

We could not have been more proud of the extraordinary achievements of our Artistic Director Jenny Sealey and her co director Bradley Hemmings, the performers and volunteers. We will never forget the buzz of walking into the Olympic Park, then in to the stadium and what followed was a beautiful, powerful, story told on a scale we had never seen before.

It was also reflective of the battles that had been foPara Image_homepageught and won and acknowledged the battles still left to fight. 2 billion people around the world saw the cast of Reasons to be Cheerful sing Ian Dury’s anthem Spasticus Autisticus. This was an incredible statement.

Two years on we can still look back on that day as a high watermark for celebration of the talent and skill of Deaf and disabled people. We believed it was the genesis of a new era. Surely now the world was more enlightened? We hoped Graeae could ride the wave to create more opportunities for Deaf and disabled people to be centre stage locally, nationally and internationally so we could continue to reach more people, build on our skills and experience.

This interview explores these themes with Jenny Sealey and John Kelly. Below the video is further detail on some of the issues Jenny and John touch upon, and details on how you can help secure a future for Graeae and the incredibly talented artists we work with.

Jenny is the face of the campaign Stop the Change to save Access to Work, but everyone at Graeae is united in fighting this next battle for the next generation of artists and theatre-makers.

Click here to watch the interview.

Access to Work

What is it?

The Department of Work and Pensions runs a scheme called Access to Work. It is a pot of money which covers employees’ access costs – it can pay for Sign Language Interpreters, Access Workers, adaptive equipment such as ergonomic chairs, screen-reading equipment and also transport costs if public transport is not an option.

How does it affect Graeae?

Graeae supports employees and freelancers to make Access to Work applications and in any one year up to 150 applications might be made. Between 8-15% of Graeae’s costs are reclaimed through Access to Work. It enables us to employ 80+ Deaf and disabled people every year. It is a great scheme, or it was, and it can be again.

Whats wrong?

Over recent months the management of the scheme seems to have ground to a halt: applications aren’t being followed up; the same information is being asked for repeatedly; we are finding out where applications have been accepted or rejected months after the event; staff members are facing up to 70% cuts, errors are being made and inappropriate questions are being asked.

What does it mean for the future?

Up to £150k of Graeae’s access costs are covered by Access to Work, without this money our mission could be in jeopardy. However, the knock on effect for recipients is even more significant: the system has become so unusable and is so demoralising that people are just going to stop applying.  This, at a time when their other benefits are also under threat means that some of the people we work with are becoming disenfranchised, victimised and disinclined to enter work.

What needs to happen?

Very little, actually. A trained, skilled, knowledgeable applicant response team and a commitment to protecting the pot of money set aside to run it will bring the project back on track. Additionally, it is vital the response team should no longer be given financial incentives to reject applications.

 

Independent Living Fund

What is it?

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) delivers financial support to disabled people so they can choose to live in their communities rather than in residential care. In June 2015 the government plans to close the fund, and redistribute the money amongst local authorities.

How does it affect Graeae?

Many of our performers, workshop leaders and creative team rely on the ILF alongside Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to live and work independently. It enables them to live where they are most able to find work, socialise, and have a good quality of life. It enables them to be theatre professionals.

Whats wrong?

The ILF is facing closure, with the funds due to be redistributed amongst local authorities. Authorities are already facing 28% cuts in the period 2013-15 so many Deaf and disabled people don’t hold out much hope for the money being ring-fenced or managed effectively.

Additionally, DLA is also facing closure, and is gradually being replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIP). Those that have been asked to apply to PIP have been met with delays in processing of up to one year. Some have been without any benefits while these delays have occurred.

What does it mean for the future?

Without this support, the people we work with would be much less able to have the freedom to enter work on their own terms. For those that lose their benefits there are institutions in which they can live, or they may be required to move back into the family home. The relative freedoms that ILF and DLA can bring have been hard fought over decades. The dismantling of the system can take months but it will once again take decades to return things to how they once were.

What needs to happen?

Following an initial overturning of the decision to close the ILF, the proposal has been passed a second time. Show your support for organisations such as Disabled People Against Cuts, Inclusion London and more who are campaigning, lobbying, and compiling case studies. You can also contact your member of parliament.

If PIP is truly the answer to DLA, the whole system of applying must change. Applications must be dealt with swiftly, intelligently and sensitively. For some people, applicants are only granted funding from the date approval is given, not backdated to when the application is made. Delays in processing are leaving applicants for weeks and months without support.

 

Supporting Graeaes work in the Future

Why Graeae?

Graeae Theatre is a disabled led theatre company breaking down barriers and promoting the inclusion of disabled artists now and for the future.

Since 2012, when Graeae’s Artistic Director Jenny Sealey co-directed the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, interest in the company has rocketed. We have been able to perform, educate, campaign and transform perceptions about Deaf and disabled people around the world. With standstill funding from Arts Council England until 2018 and now the struggle with Access to Work, Graeae has been left with a greater financial challenge than ever.

What will we do with your money?

Iron ManGraeae employs 80+ Deaf and disabled people a year in the creation of theatre and in training and learning programmes. We reach audiences of up to 47,000 every year we operate and our workshops reach over 4,000 participants a year.

We are currently fundraising for two major projects:

THE ENSEMBLE: A one-year practical training programme on the skills needed to embark on a career in the arts. The ensemble will offer experience and training with top theatre professionals in all aspects of the industry. This programme will reach 32 young Deaf and disabled adults over three years but we need your support. To make this happen we need to find £50k a year from our friends and supporters.

OUTDOOR PRODUCTIONS: Since 2009 Graeae has built a reputation for spectacular productions that are free to watch and accessible to all.  Prometheus Awakes, for example, reached 12,000 people over two performances. The Iron Man (pictured) has entranced families across the UK for the last four years and now we are introducing him to a global audience, working with local Deaf and disabled artists to kick-start investment in professional disability arts around the world.

How can I contribute?

TEXT Giving

textgiving_croppedYou can donate £5 to 70070 by typing GRAE03 and the amount. For every 50 people that donate £5, we are able to bring one more person onto our Young Ambassadors programme, which includes a phenomenal opportunity to perform in front of a full house at a national theatre.

Online

Alternatively you can donate online. There is no limit to how much or how little you can pledge in this way. You can set up a regular donation and choose how you’d like us to contact you about how your money is spent, and about future projects you might be interested in. A small affordable regular donation is a great way of supporting our work without breaking the bank.

Host a Campaign or Event

We would love your support in getting specific projects off the ground. We are a theatre company and the nature of our work is project based. The primary barrier to getting a project up and running is almost always money. If you are interested in building a campaign for a specific project or towards our core operations, you can either contact us at info@graeae.org for more details or set up a campaign through our JustGiving page.

Recent successes have included:

* Birthday Presents – Do you have a big birthday coming up? Have everything you need? We were delighted when a recent campaign raised over £400 for Graeae.

* Cycling from London to Paris – This extraordinary campaign raised £5,880 towards our work.

Legacy Giving

Thinking about where your money and property goes after you die is an incredibly important thing to do. Once friends and family have been provided for, many people choose to leave a gift to charity. If this is something you are considering, even a small percentage of your estate can make a huge difference to a company like Graeae.

If you’d like to receive a pack about how to leave money in your will, e-mail info@graeae.org or call 020 7613 6900 and we’ll send one over.

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August 28, 2014 · 4:02 pm

Reasons to be Cheerful by numbers…

…and it’s not just 1, 2, 3!The cast of Reasons to be Cheerful finish the show at the Hackney Empire, looking out onto a standing ovation from the crows.

Reasons to be Cheerful – The Concert will be performed at Southbank Centre as part of Unlimited this September. As the cast and band prepare to bring the house down at the Clore Ballroom (Sunday 7 September 7.30pm), we wanted to look back at this incredible show in numbers. After finishing the epic 2012 national tour, the show took on a life of its own with the gang performing the Ian Dury & The Blockheads tunes up and down the country and abroad!

So we worked out that more than  22,500 people have seen the show in 17 different locations including Rio  de Janeiro and Germany. There are also been 18 different cast members as people have joined the show for one off gigs over the years.

A packet of original twiglets

We reckon Vinnie and Colin must have got through at least 30 tubs of hair gel between them to keep those punk styles in place and that more than 100 packets of twiglets have been consumed…Stephen Collins and Stephen Lloyd in Reasons to be Cheerful. Dressed in put gear the lean into the camera.

 

Now get ready for this…the cast and band have travelled over 16,000 miles, spreading reasons to be cheerful around the globe.

And finally, how many times have we heard the rallying cry Oi! Oi!?
Well, we couldn’t even start to count that!

 

The cast of Reasons to be Cheerful, on stage at Hackney Empire , dressed in casual clothes

 

For more information on the free performance at Southbank Centre this September, visit the Unlimited website

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Write to Play so far…

Back in November 2013, we introduced you to the five writers who were selected for the first year of Write to Play. Since then they have taken part in Playwriting 101, two rounds of miniatures and masterclasses (firstly at the National Theatre Studios and most recently at the Royal Court) and been partnered with mentors.  The writers contribute to their own blog, taking it in turns to document the Write to Play process and so far Tom Wentworth and Amy Bethan Evans have been at the helm, with Rosaleen McDonagh up next.

You can see all of the blogs over at: http://writetoplayblog.wordpress.com/ but today we wanted to highlight a couple of our favourite quotes so far.

9 January 2014
‘So, as I approach the task of working out what my full length play will be for this exciting opportunity that Graeae has given us, I will be keeping in mind the lessons that I’ve learnt previously. I’m thrilled to be embarking – finally – on the challenge ahead; working with more characters, a longer timeframe and letting my imagination run wild to hopefully delight and surprise. I’m sure the other writers will be doing the same.’ Just about Right by Tom Wentworth

Tom Wentworth

Tom Wentworth Image by Patrick Baldwin

12 March 2014
‘This sense of collaboration is one of the best things about being one of the playwrights involved in Write to Play; the sense that we are each free to share our ideas, writing and entire imaginary worlds with the other participants and our mentors.’ Solitude and Solidarity by Tom Wentworth

3 April 2014
‘I didn’t leave the sharing wanting to cry and give up writing, nor did I leave elated by my own ability and in love with everyone in the room (sorry guys!). I thought they were all great obviously, but I felt that I’d engaged with the actual purpose of the workshop, learning and knowing that I wanted to write more and which direction to go in. I felt that for the first time, I was thinking like a working writer.’ Miniature 1: On sharing and saying ‘I don’t know’ by Amy Bethan Evans 

Amy Bethan Evans

Amy Bethan Evans Image Patrick Baldwin

5 June 2014
‘I must never forget how privileged I am to be able to read and write and to form my own opinions (within a limited context). Literacy is not only socially but personally liberating. Putting my own opinions into words confidently is what affirms me as an adult. I now need to shelve that in my cognitive spice rack and sprinkle in only the bits that are necessary.’ Articulation: The Writers’ Gift and Nemesis by Amy Bethan Evans

Make sure you head over to the Write to Play blog to keep up to date with our writers as the programme progresses.

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Ever wanted to give aerial training a go?

Applications for the next Paralympic Aerial Legacy Intensive (PALI) training are now open. Here, three artists who have been through the training discuss their experiences. If you were thinking about attending, you’ll definitely want to now!

Karina Jones most recently worked on Extraorindary Bodies show Weighting.

Why did you originally sign up to take part in the PALI training:
I really liked the idea that it was an intensive amount of time – a crash course and a good starting point both for fitness and for fun. The teachers are also top quality (the amount they charge doesn’t represent the quality of the teachers!) and I didn’t feel any of the stress that you usually feel about access in a new situation.

Has PALI led to you gain any other training or aerial experience:
It gave me the confidence to do other courses that aren’t accessible as it taught me how to make circus accessible for myself. It also led to further employment as mentioned above.

Karina Jones works with a trainer on aerial silks. Behind her can be seen other artists training in silks as well.

Karina Jones taking part in the PALI training.
Image: Mark Morris

Sum up your experience of PALI in three words:
Exhilarating, fabulous, fun.

What would you say to someone considering taking part in this year’s training:
Even if you’ve never considered that you could do aerial, challenge yourself. Just try it because the feeling and the fun that you have, and the empowerment, is fantastic.

Mel Stevens is currently working with NoFit State circus Open House. She has performed for Spin City and KL Polefitness, and has been invited to perform in France 2014 Les Recontres de Danse Aérienne.

What did you most get from the PALI training:
Better health, strength, education, confidence, self esteem, ambition and surprisingly a new vocation. I came to life, instead of existing

Has PALI led to you gain any other training or aerial experience:

Mel Stevens performs the Eiffel Tower aerial move. Wrapped in two blue silks she is suspended in the air, silhouetted in front of a bright light.

Mel Stevens
Image: Dan Curr

Since participating I have started my own business, I have achieved my NECCA teaching qualification and completed rigging for aerial performance, first aid and I am currently completing my hoop intermediate teaching qualification. I train five days a week aerially and seven days when I attend special workshops outside of my training schedule.

Sum up your experience of PALI in three words:
Inspirational, life (for me) love (with my new friends and circus family)

What would you say to someone considering taking part in this year’s training:
You’ll wish you did it sooner

Tiiu Mortley most recently performed in Graeae’s Belonging at the Roundhouse and Sao Paulo.

Why did you originally sign up to take part in the PALI training:
I have found that locating accessible training in the field of circus arts is incredibly difficult and this training opportunity was both on my doorstep and affordable. It also had the added bonus of using teachers I trusted within an institution with access to lots of equipment with great connections to other artists.

What did you most get from the PALI training:
For me it was to reconnect with circus arts, which I have found very difficult to access. I developed a new performance vocabulary also which enhances my work as a performer and theatre maker. It was also wonderful to reconnect with artists as well as make new acquaintances.

Sum up your experience of PALI in three words:
Not long enough

Tiiu performs on an aerial hoop. Wearing a short party style dress she is balanced on top of the hoop, one leg rests inside.

Tiiu Mortley
Image: Patrick Baldwin

For more information on how to book your place on the PALI training visit Gravity & Levity’s website: http://www.gravity-levity.net/events/paralympic-aerial-legacy-intensive-pali-2014-july-28th-aug-1st/

 

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Spotlight on: Charlotte McCabe

Charlotte is currently in the role of Training & Learning Assistant Intern at Graeae. She’s been blogging about her time at Graeae so far:

Hi, my name is Charlotte and I’m the new Training & Learning Assistant Intern here at Graeae. Working in theatre is quite new to me but I’ve always had a keen interest in what goes on behind the scenes so I’m hoping my time here will broaden my knowledge. I’m here for four months so I’m looking forward to learning all the things that go on at Graeae!

I’ve been here for just over two months now and I can’t believe how quick it’s gone. Everyone’s been very welcoming and I’ve settled in well. I’m always offered my usual hot chocolate in the morning when I arrive, which is lovely!  I feel like I’m really getting stuck in with all the work that’s going on. Jodi, the Training & Learning Manager, has had me busy helping her with all the workshops coming up in the future with various schools around London. I’ve been emailing artists, putting together spreadsheets and sorting out contracts-  well these are just some of the things I’ve been doing. It’s been really interesting observing and working alongside Jodi seeing all the work that goes into putting a workshop together.

I’ve had the chance to sit down with a few people and it’s been great getting to know the ins and outs of what they all do. During one busy week, I worked four days a week helping in Training & Learning. Working for four days has allowed me to fully get involved with the running of the office and department and see what goes on during a normal week. I can tell you now, it’s always busy from what I’ve seen. I helped with the preparation for one of Graeae’s productions called Belonging, a circus production which was held at the Roundhouse as part of CircusFest which I was invited to see and very much looked forward to watching! As well as the show, I spent a lot of the week researching schools and building up a spreadsheet of contacts of all the possible schools we can take The Iron Man workshops to.

Two men sit on static trapeze. The man on the left wears jeans and a blue hoody. The man in the left wears jeans cut off at the knee and a red hoody.

Marcos Silva and Stephen Bunce in Belonging

On the night of Belonging, I was very intrigued to watch one of Graeae’s shows. As I had heard so much about it in the office with everyone preparing for it and helping out myself, it was nice to have the chance to actually see it. The show was captivating and something different to what I had previously seen in a theatre before. The show was performed in a small tent at the Roundhouse, which was quite intimate, but you felt really connected with the cast and the emotions they were trying to put across to the audience. After the show, I had the pleasure of having a few drinks with some of the cast to talk about their role and other shows they have been involved in. Meeting some of the cast was a great way to learn more about the show and also their interpretation of it, which you may not have picked up yourself. Learning about all the work that went into it from their point of view and having the opportunity to ask any questions, which normally can’t be answered, really made you appreciate the performance and see it in a different light. If only you could do this with every show you see. Overall, it turned out to be a great night!

To continue that week, I was helping Jodi get ready for a workshop, which was being held at Bethnal Green Academy. This workshop was a disability awareness workshop for secondary school students, run by Jodi. At the beginning of my internship, I was able to take part in this workshop. It was an eye opener to many and allowed everyone who attended the workshop to have a new way of thinking about disability. We took part in several tasks for example, placing in order short extracts of history, involving the laws and significant events. This was a simple yet effective task. It demonstrated how far perceptions have changed from the extremes to how it is now. However it made me realise that although so much has improved, we still have a long way to go with improving disability awareness. We continued the workshop by talking about various situations, buildings or events that may or may not be accessible and how we need to become more aware of our surroundings. This workshop had such an impact on me and I think it is a great opportunity for young adults to be aware of this and take part. To change attitudes and perceptions at an early age could be extremely beneficial.

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Tash’s Threepenny Blog # 12

‘Fun While It Lasted, But Now It Has Ended….’ (Polly’s Song)

So, the final week of The Threepenny Opera tour crept up on us as we found ourselves staring at ‘that moon over Soho’ for the very last time.  Subconsciously I think that we really, as a company, felt the brunt of our ‘3p’ message, particularly in the pre-show where there was an even stronger urgency to get those Save The ILF petitions signed and pinpoint our very poignant and political themes within the show.  We did this with gusto and, of course, enjoyed much hilarity along the way as we drew the production to a close.

There was much time for reflection this week as Thursday evening saw us holding our End of Tour party at the Lounge Bar and Grill in Leeds.  They put on a lovely spread for us and sported a vast array of cocktails for us to sample…dangerous!  The evening also saw us holding the ‘Threepenny Opera Awards Ceremony’ (sponsored by Leopard Print and Argos Ironing Boards) hosted by myself (Lucy) and the lovely Will (Tiger Brown) with the help of the amazing Martin on Sound.  We touched on all of the ridiculous tomfoolery that we had encountered over the four months…and hilariously, everyone managed to get nominated for something! (My personal favourite being Milton (Macheath) winning the ‘Brecht Estate Award’ for Amendments to the Script.)  The night, for some, did not end there however, as the hardcore of the group found themselves in the casino until the early hours…how do they always end up there…and you will be pleased to learn that Joey (MD) and Max (Filch) celebrated great success with their £10 and £6.50 winnings respectively.  It was a fab evening and we were even greeted by Pete and Sarah (Team New Wolsey) sporting the most impressive suntans I have ever seen  following a well deserved holiday!

The full cast and crew on the set for a final photograph

All the Threepenny Opera gang

The next afternoon we were introduced to Michele Taylor, a member of the Institute of Equality and Diversity Practitioners where, due to her research needs, we were given the opportunity, as a company, to reflect on the show as a piece…a gem that we rarely get the chance to voice!  Well, what a glorious afternoon it was to hear that your colleagues and now friends, share your love and pride  for the piece that you have collectively strived to make incredibly special.  Oh, and a few of the company just couldn’t help themselves and piled back into Akbar’s Indian Restaurant  on Friday night for one final company curry hurrah!

So, onto the silly stuff, which of course there was plenty of…beginning with CiCi (Polly) who managed to fall backwards over the ‘wedding breakfast’ basket in the gang scene while Ben (Jake) found himself slightly unstable as he tried to balance on top of the harpsichord!  He then managed to get himself in another pickle in the wings causing Amelia (Jenny) to fall over him in a quite a spectacular fashion…karma!  In other news, I managed to leave my own jacket on the ‘Peachum Platform’ during warm up…and there it remained until the interval…silly.  Meanwhile, Jude (sign interpreter) was busy getting her high heels stuck together during the Socrates Song making the art of walking tricky, Sophie (Dolly) stacked it spectacularly after the Epitaph thinking nobody had seen…I did…and Pickles (Matt) tried to exit the prison scene backwards only to smack himself into the wall…lovely!  I suppose I should mention the this week’s ‘Breaking Music’ Award goes to Amelia for her tuneful build up to Liebeslied and Barbara (Betty) busted her pillow swelling mechanism again due to over enthusiastic inflation.

Saturday, our last day, was one of sincere sadness and ultimate celebration of a triumph of a show!  This was highlighted by Ben wearing his lime green mankini underneath his costume for the whole of the last matinee and a glorious screening of TJ’s (Smith) ‘The Smith Show’ snippets over the tour beautifully edited by the wonderful Stacey (Nellie).  This could only be equalled by Dani (Team Wardrobe) compiling a montage of Stephen’s (Ned) terrified/ing scream on the entrance of Rev Kimball…that should go viral!  Oh, and not to name and shame but Martin (Team Sound) added Boyzone to his iTunes library…Macheath, get him next!!

So, for me the journey didn’t end on Saturday night as I had the pleasure of chauffeuring Max, Joey and Milton home to London (after finding TJ’s lovely gift of 3 pennies on the driveway) via my mum’s house where they were suitably fed and watered and Milton took the opportunity to have an unashamed flirt, yes, with my mother – show’s over dude, you’re not Macheath anymore! This could have been a backlash to me saying to him “Do you want to call shotgun” Milton: “What, to shoot Max?”  Me: “No, to sit in the front seat!”…AWKWARD!  Thankfully, after 7 hours, we were home…ouch.

Somehow though, I know this is not the end for us as a bunch.  Milton and Jude are off to Brazil to continue the Belonging journey, Stacey shall be joining the Graeae clan to do the German performance of a concert version of Reasons to be Cheerful alongside the likes of John (Narrator), Garry (Mr Peachum), Stephen, Pickles, Jude and Roshni. Myself, John, Joey, TJ, Teya (Joey’s better half), Pickles, Stephen and Victoria all reunited on the Monday after the show finished in Westminster to protest against the ILF closure and on Tuesday the gang were back together for a trip to Jersey Boys to see Sophie’s husband Stuart King play Bob Gaudiou at The Piccadilly Theatre…we just can’t stay away.

Five of the Threepenny Opera cast pose alongside the Parliment  Square street sign on the way to the ILF protest.

At Westminster for the ILF protest

It’s really difficult for me to round this up as it is my last blog…but I have to say the hugest thank you to the wonderful ‘Threepenny Opera’ clan for allowing me to blog about all of our madness and mayhem…and for being such a fantastically fabulous bunch of people.  It’s been a scream, a romp, a riot and I, with a slight tear in my eye, say goodbye to The Threepenny Opera and am immensely proud that we all did a damn fine job!

Thank you for reading and supporting and please remember…the show is over but the message is still true…I care and I hope you do too… ‘What keeps a man alive?’…good question.

Big hug, kiss and farewell from…

Natasha Lewis…aka…Lucy Brown.

#3popera  #SaveTheILF  #BecauseWeAreWorthIt

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Filed under 2014, The Threepenny Opera