In House with Nottingham Playhouse
The Nottingham Playhouse played host to a life-enhancing production this week, as 15 vulnerable people channelled years of challenge and experience into a unique performance.
The volunteers, who had first-hand experience of homelessness, mental health difficulties, and other social issues, showcased the results of a 12 week project with the Playhouse, which saw them work hand-in-hand with theatre staff to write, direct and perform an original piece of work.
Creation, a biblically inspired tale of wold creation, was premiered to a select audience of family, friends and invited guests on Monday.
“The In House project is about giving a creative platform to a group of people who, for various reasons, have suffered difficult life experiences, and allowing them to have their voices heard. In House has also enabled people who may suffer from social isolation to create new friendships with other participants and with Playhouse staff. We’ve been really excited about the enthusiasm of the group and their willingness to engage, right from the start. It’s a fantastic example of community theatre-making.” - Nick Lawford, Fundraising and Development Manager at the Nottingham Playhouse
The Playhouse worked hand in hand with SEA (Services for Empowerment and Advocacy) an independent organisation that provide advocacy and involvement opportunities to Framework and other services to engage service users in the project. The goal, as discussed with Fiona Buffini, Associate Director at Nottingham Playhouse who led the In House project along with Manya Benenson, was to work with people who were not only socially isolated but who had never had experience of theatre before - giving the chance to really benefit from a new experience.
“It was so great working with SEA. They know who people are and who will benefit. We worked collaboratively from the start and grown in confidence together but it has always been about the work and the theatre. We always focussed on how we might demonstrate an idea or feeling on stage, how to tell the story. Theatre deals with human experience so we inevitably discussed all sorts of issues – the ideas of loneliness, of paradise, of loss, they’re all part of the story we told. But it was always in the context of the play and overtime everyone has become more confident about expressing them. It’s been so interesting but also a lot of fun – there has been a lot of laughter!” – Fiona Buffini
Not only was the work well received, but the difference it made to service users who got involved has been marked. Sam James, who is supported by Framework’s Hughendon Lodge service which works with people with serious mental health problems, had been involved right from the start:
“I was a bit shy at the beginning so took it slow to start with but I built confidence as I got into it. I wasn’t sure about performing when we first started but before the performance this afternoon I was just feeling excited and happy – it’s fun to have an audience!
It’s been the same group all the way through and that’s been good, meeting new people and being part of it. I’d definitely like to do more stuff like this in the future and would definitely suggest that other people get involved. It built confidence and it’s dead expressive. I have schizophrenia and this really helped to make the voices go away, it really improved by having my mind focused on something else” - Sam James
The hope for In House now is that this pilot, funded initially by the J Paul Getty Jr Family Trust and an individual donor will find the means to continue to devise and perform new work.
“We are really keen to do more of this kind of work – it echoes the very first ambitions of Nottingham Playhouse to be a theatre ‘of the people’. We are working hard with SEA to evaluate the project, to demonstrate the positive benefits and to find a way forward. We are committed to In House and, having really enjoyed yesterday’s performance, I will certainly be championing it!” - Nick Lawford