Taking Flight is an integrated youth theatre project based in Cardiff. Written by Matthew Bulgo, 'Real Human Being’ uses forum theatre to deal with the issue of disability hate crime. Tom Wentworth saw a performance at Corpus Christi High School on 22 March.
I was delighted to be asked to review Taking Flight Theatre Company’s new production, ‘Real Human Being’. What I didn’t realise was that the performance was at 9am and I was wondering whether I would be able to engage fully with the piece at that time of morning. However, some pieces are definitely worth getting up for. And this was one of them.
The play, written by Welsh playwright Matthew Bulgo and directed by Elise Davison, is about the effects and events, which can lead to disability hate crime (which is currently on the rise in Wales.) The central character Rhys (Simon Morgan Thomas) is faced with a tough choice when new girl Alys, who has cerebral palsy, (Cara Readle) joins his school and he must learn some hard lessons when his ‘best friend’ Catrin (Amy Griggs) begins a fairly low level bullying campaign – taking Alys’ bag, verbal insults and trying to isolate her from the other kids.
However, this quickly escalates to more serious attacks on social networking sites and culminates in a vicious incident in a club, when Rhys is out with Alys and her outspoken and ‘ballsy’ disabled friend Tom, (Dan Edge) and seems to stand for everything that Catrin can’t understand and is frightened of. Bulgo’s writing doesn’t seek to make judgements or draw conclusions and this is certainly one of the piece’s strengths; acting as a vehicle for the audience to make up their own minds about the situation.
However, this is more than simply a dramatic performance, Taking Flight run a workshop alongside the theatrical event to help the young audience members to unpack some of the issues that surround the piece. Although targeted at young people, there is much to be gained by adults as well. The audience are able to stop the action and by a series of prompts and exercises facilitated by Beth House, help to change the characters’ behaviour, hopefully helping to prevent the incident occurring within the drama (and in real life.) This seems to symbolise the sense of ‘empowerment’ that Taking Flight Theatre Company are seeking to create for audiences.
The company have proved themselves to be adept at taking a difficult subject and making it both accessible and – with regard to the play’s final scene – genuinely shocking. The gasps from the gripped audience spoke volumes and even those who had been at first reluctant to engage were unconsciously hooked by the powerful narrative and performances.
Regretfully this was the last performance of the current tour. There are possible plans for more and I hope this will be the case. New audiences definitely need to be exposed to this unique and educational piece.
Taking flight are a professional theatre company producing work with an integrated cast of disabled and non-disabled performers. All shows are supported with BSL/SSE
For more information go to http://takingflighttheatre.co.uk