Attended Tuesday 11 May by Kati Murphy
I arrived at Change early, and as I waited outside, I got a sneak preview of some of the music. Audience members had arrived, support workers were milling about, and performers were running from the room to greet people before the big show. I loved turning up to all the chaos, and if one did not already know, it definitely makes you realise how much work is required to produce even a thirty-minute community show.
Soon, I noticed there was no longer any music and this cue took the role of usher, as those of us outside entered. A beautiful piano piece took hold, and ever so slowly, the performers entered the room two by two, almost like soldiers. As the whole group emerged and they moved as one it was powerful. Their steps were slow and certain, but the journey long and meaningful, as they travelled all the way from one end of the hall to the other.
A member of the group came forward to introduce the show, and with this formality over, the others stormed the stage, dancing to an array of upbeat songs including Smash Mouth’s I’m a Believer. Feeling the rhythm enter my body through the floorboards and the sunshine streaming through the windows, I knew I was right where I needed to be on this very morning.
This vibe produced a beautiful succession of acts from the whole ensemble, including a number of precious solo moments. Early on, a man emerged on his own in the first breaths of quiet, to deliver some kind of… expression. As the rest of the ensemble broke away, I realized it was a spoken word piece, and an amazing one at that. It gave me goosebumps. I think of myself as an artist, but I am still scared of doing anything that gutsy in public.
As each soloist joined the rest of the group again another would find themselves centerstage, and those of the cast who had been doing a great job of anonymously circling the last performer, now quietly worked behind their new star.
We were treated to a moving classical piece that sounded like Satie. Transfixed by one man slowly raising his arms, I noticed more arms coming up behind him, and more again as he turned to face the audience. it was magical. We also saw another member get up to sing, and he was compelling. The whole cast did a great job of supporting him through his initial nerves until the true performer in him took over. He brought such a smile to my face.
The final solo highlight I want to talk about is one man’s brilliant contemporary dance piece to an Evanescence song called Bring Me To Life. It was passionate, punchy, and so personal. As I watched I could feel every one of his movements in my body, but it was like a turmoil, as one of the song lines kept going around in my head, “Save me from the nothing I’ve become”.
I don’t often write about it, but I have been on the disability pension for over twenty years, and I could really relate to this performance. My experience of disability has definitely been a full-time quest to save myself from becoming nothing… or at least others assuming I am nothing. I know this performer and I are not alone in this feeling, and it was at this moment that I realised how important it is that we all see shows like this.
With that realization came the finale. Part of this was a very contemporary piece driven by percussion, and I couldn’t help but do the drums on my lap with my hands along with them. One of the last songs I remember is, I Want to Break Free. I remember wishing more people could have seen this anthem for anyone with a disability, or even someone stuck in a place they don’t want to be.
These last group numbers were so enjoyable as a series of impromptu stars stole the last pieces of limelight. As I looked around to take in the smiles on everyone’s faces, one of the participants came forward to greet me. Others were leaving the stage at random intervals to see others too. The fun was infectious and to my delight, just as I was feeling my feet itch, the audience were invited up to dance with the stars for the final number. Did I get up? You bet I did!
I love this organisation and the work they have been doing for 38 long years, and this show did not disappoint. It was a joyous celebration of ability and inclusion. Bravo to the Access Arts Theatre and Dance Ensemble, and their Director/Creative Facilitator, Eleanora Ginardi.