Started February 2014
Aim: To create a playback theatre company for people with disabilities, uniting support agencies and to do performances for the public.
We did it! Four years later in 2017 and we are thriving and loving our public performances.
What is playback?
Playback Theatre is a social and interactive form of theatre that enables audience members to share real life moments and stories and see them transformed into live improvised theatre, reflected back to you with a combination of integrity, pathos and humour.
This work is for actors, musicians and for ANYONE who wants to explore creative and playful performance.
Playback in its nature is the most inclusive of art forms. Based in improvisation it uses the tools of spontaneity, eye contact, confidence and communication while providing a structured form to present this work.
It is developed as a form of communication for those who don’t have the ability to form words successfully. Playback is definitive in its expression of sound and movement.
It also has a value system where protecting the group is sacrosanct. Well being and safety at the forefront of how I as leader holds the energy of the group, the group holds each other protecting the dynamic and development of storytelling and performance skills.
It is a very fun form full of laughter and creative expression. And significantly changes view point and ability to state our true feelings. Playback is a very honest form which makes it very relevant.
So what makes it so good?
Playback theatre is theatre of stories - the audience tells moments and stories from their lives, chooses actors to play different roles and then watches as the actors and musician play it back instantly, with value added. There is never any obligation to tell a story and never enough time to tell them all. Part of the magic is that each story inspires another so we never know where we will end up.
It is funny, poignant, touching, empowering and brings communities together.
It offers many other opportunities to scaffold:
- Skill building
- Learning more about theatrical process
- Gaining a deeper insight into self and the choices I make
- Being more open to others life experiences
- Deepening of relationships (Relationship building)
- Respect, holding and waiting to contribute, measuring our own urgency to communicate with a sense of participation/patience/space with the group as a whole
- Self-management skills
- Working as a company to create a body of work and experiences
For the disabilities community at Aro Valley Community Centre: June
What friends are for, performed with Wellington Playback Theatre Company: November
Village at the Park: 30th October
Argo Trust, Wellington Aftercare: November 30th
Dementia Unit: Village at The Park 29th April
Rita Angus 20th May
Mana College, Mahinawa Specialty School: 24th June
Salvation Army: 29th July
Rita Angus: 11th November
Disability Awareness week 2nd December
Te Hopai, Newtown. Words of Wisdom: 16th June
Kaibosh Food Rescue Stories: 4th August
Maupuia Ultimate Care: Travel Stories 11th August
St John of God: Acceptance and Resistance 8th September
Thistle Hall: What a Year 1st, 8th December
Extra cool stuff
2016: Video Ukraine Playback Art Festival
Submitted video has part of representing the world of playback theatre.
This is who we are.
Currently our shop is under construction, when its online we will have digital copies available, all funds go towards scholarship spaces for students.
2017 Video made by George Robinson
Testimonials: Feedback from Performances
I felt heartened by what we are capable of as performers.
Entertaining, hilarious, moving, the time went really fast because it was so enjoyable.
Everyone got involved, can't wait until the next performance.
Jill and Ben, Thumbs Up
It was great being part of this venture & coming to rehearsals along the way really helped me feel part of the group & build a strong sense of connexion, & added to my delight on the day as I watched the verve & enthusiasm of the disabilities group. Much of the time I found myself grinning from ear to ear with delight – at the times when I wasn't performing myself. The sense of love & camaraderie was very strong. I just love the way playback theatre creates a sense of community.
Ralph, Performer, Wellington Playback Theatre Company
This was an extraordinary event for both audience and actors. I have been going to theatre for over thirty years and rarely has the mood been so electric with positive excitement. I must confess that I had my reservations about the capabilities of those presenting to us and yet, over and over again I saw people with a whole range of physical and intellectual challenges stepping out and making sense of people's stories with insight and aplomb. The cooperation between performers was heart warming and the report that was built between all present truly memorable. Both this particular theatre form (Playback) and the team who realised this project deserve future investment for the good of our collective communities. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and came away feeling uplifted by the power of the arts to uplift and transform. It was a potent afternoon of positive alchemy.
Nancy, audience member and member of Wellington Playback Theatre Company
We have been the support workers supporting the "Alpha Omega Playback" drama group for some 10 months. Within this time I have seen service users be challenged through this course.
On particular participant who is rather insular and chooses to be (for the most part) non-verbal, particularly came out of his shell, and this was a moving thing to see.
Playback is an interesting style of theatre and one we feel works really well with the unique needs of this group. Not only does it enhance imagination, creativity and performing skills, but it also reinforces empathy and social skills.
Whilst some actors originally struggled with the concept of having to come up with their own interpretations of scenes - rather than act from a pre-prepared script, they rose to the challenge and were able to take so much ownership over the whole production and their part in it - as it was all them! We feel this has more validity than a standard play format.
It was particularly positive to link in with other groups and form natural networks and friendships - our team from Alpha Art Studio, along side participants from Thumbs Up and Ace House. This has been valuable and brought the disability community closer together.
The final show was a huge success with everyone feeling very proud of what we had achieved together, and the feedback from friends in the audience was positive.
We would love to do this again in the future - and our service users are already asking when we can!
Eryn and Aoife, Alpha Art Studio
A huge achievement. And lots of good fun.
An afternoon of warm fuzzies to use an old-fashioned phrase.
The performers were all at ease with one another and excited to finally be on stage after their months of preparation. Better than that, was their strong rapport with Claire. All the other helpers fitted in unobtrusively.
The format suited the performers and our audience: short skits to demonstrate a word, phrase, feeling, interaction, reaction. Frequent applause. We soon learned how our performers revelled in that and applauded all the more.
I really did not know anything like this was going on in any community. We all need to find ways of building positive feelings towards one another. Maybe this example of theatre work with people with disabilities will be the springboard for much more community engagement.
I hope the Alpha Omega Playback group continues for the Newtown community, and inspires support at all levels of society.
Meeting some of the cast afterwards, over afternoon tea, it was nice to see how proud they were of themselves.
For me, a humbling insight into a section of society that is still neglected.
Thank you for inviting me to attend, and to comment.
Elspeth Preddey , Audience Member
It was a pleasure to support Claire Hewitt’s wonderful work with the Alpha Omega Drama group.
I felt it was awesome to be involved in the alpha omega & wellington playback theatre playback event. It is such an honour to be on stage with all these incredible people. The energy on stage was amazing and the stories we were a true gift to us all.
I felt really proud to see and hear Brian on stage. It has really extended his performance abilities as well as being involved with a group of new people. To be part of a new community can be a bit intimidating at first, but Brian seemed to connect really well. He offered a lot on stage and was very committed to the form. Thank you so much for giving him this opportunity to grow.
Laura, manager Thumbs Up and Wellington Playback Theatre Company.
Such a lovely atmosphere, full of fun and good humour. You could see that the performers felt very safe in the space and had been well prepped for the event.
They had such a great time on stage as did the audience watching.
Nicola Pauling, Voice Arts Trust