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ACVO News May 2024

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Dec 11, 2023

Join us on a trip down ‘The Purple Brick Road’, Inspire’s 2023 pantomime where inclusivity takes centre stage

Friday 24th and Saturday 25th November saw the return of one Inspire’s Annual highlights in the form of their pantomime, ‘The Purple Brick Road’, starring those supported by the organisation, members of the Inspire team and volunteers. ACVO caught up with the team at one of their rehearsals earlier this month to find out more...

Behind the Curtain: Unveiling the ‘Purple Brick Road’

Step into the magical world of the Inspire pantomime, where laughter echoes, friendships flourish, and inclusivity takes centre stage. We met with the team behind the production while they were gearing up for opening night to unravel the enchanting tapestry that weaves together the captivating performance. Cast members Chris, Vicki, Gregor and Ronan shared their thoughts about the pantomime and why they are keen once again to take part and reprise familiar roles for 2023.

Gregor, steps into the shoes of ‘Buttons’. With infectious energy, Gregor recounts his initial attraction to the production, which is rooted in a love for the sheer fun and camaraderie the experience promises, and seems unphased by the idea of the curtain rising in a few weeks’ time.

“I just kind of roll with it. I’ve memorised the lines, I wait for my cue and learn as I go along! Acting alongside everyone else gives me a boost and I’m looking forward to hitting the stage again this year” says Gregor.

Gregor who plays ‘Buttons’ in the panto
Chris, Development Team Leader at Inspire

Ronan, who plays ‘Tiny the Tin Man’, has starred opposite Gregor in former years as the other half of the pantomime’s comedy double act.

“I really enjoy the acting and coming along every Wednesday for rehearsals. I’m so glad that the pantomime is back again this year”.

The production of the Purple Brick Road reflects the ethos of Inspire as as an organisation and their commitment to inclusivity, where everyone has a voice and is encouraged to take part and let their skills shine.

“I think people don’t realise some of the challenges involved in putting on a pantomime with adults with learning disabilities” says Chris, Development Team Leader at Inspire.

“It’s not as simple as getting a script and having everyone learn their parts. We have to take into consideration all the actors’ ability levels and have to make sure that parts are tailored to them to ensure no one misses out.

“For instance, this year we have a character in it that can’t speak but uses Makaton and has a support worker on stage with them. Through the process of the pantomime, the character learns how to communicate.”

Ronan who plays ‘Tiny the Tin Man’
Vicki – a former Inspire employee who volunteers with the panto

“We always like to challenge perceptions with the work we do and thought, well why couldn’t a main character have a support worker?” adds Vicki, who returns to support the production of the pantomime this year despite no longer being part of the Inspire staff team (she notes the love she has for the process the reason behind her volunteering).

“People have support workers in every day life so I think it’s important to show this in the production. It doesn’t need to be hidden. We’ve got wheelchair users on stage, taking full part in all the dance routines. We’ve got people on walkers, we’ve got people that are nonverbal, everyone is involved and have full parts to play – we find the people who want to take part and adapt the story to fit them.”

“The character I mentioned that uses Makaton” says Chris, “in the story, they go to look for their voice, but it turns out they’ve had it all along. Inspire works throughout the year to give people a voice so it’s nice that we were able to include that message in the pantomime.”

“Taking part can be a transformative experience for participants, and we are really grateful for the support we receive in order to fund the production of the pantomime. This year we received extra support from the Aberdeen Student Show, it’s fantastic to see the community come together and get behind what we do”.

The curtain rises: Showtime for The Purple Brick Road

Friday 24th November saw the first performance of The Purple Brick Road’s two night run at Aberdeen Arts Centre. The cast performed to a packed audience who were treated to an evening of fun, laughter and entertainment.

Andrew Reid, Development Manager at Inspire said: “Once again this year’s pantomime was an absolute triumph, with both performances being enjoyed by packed audiences who deservedly gave standing ovations at the end to the cast and crew.

“The sense of achievement for the people we support who participate in the pantomime is always clear to see and their commitment to attending rehearsals, learning lines and dance routines etc. never ceases to amaze me. Everyone involved in the Purple Brick Road should all be incredibly proud of how well they did. Taking everything in their stride and delivering the performances that they did on both nights was absolutely remarkable.”

He continued: “The pantomime is a shining example of the work that we do at Inspire to help people achieve their outcomes and fulfil their ambitions, and the confidence and self-belief that participating in the event gives to the people we support is a joy to behold. Straight after Saturday’s performance had finished there were already whispers of who wanted to be involved in next year’s panto – so watch this space!”

Inspire are an Aberdeen based organisation that believe that the people they support should be at the heart of all that they do. This influences the way that they approach their work, both with individuals and how they operate as an organisation.

Find out more at inspireptl.org.uk


This article originally appeared in the December edition of ACVO News. The current and past editions of ACVO News, as well as a link to sign up and have it sent for free direct to your inbox each month, can be found at acvo.org.uk/acvo-news

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