First performance from Circle of Friends group

A theatre group made up of 11 young people, mainly teenagers, with a wide range of intellectual abilities launched its first show My! My! Mama Mia! in Silverdale last week.

The show, described as “an adventurous adaptation of the original”, was put on by the Circle of Friends; the performers include young people with Down’s Syndrome and Autism – some with high needs.

It took place on October 13 at The Connection, in East Coast Road, which is where the group began and is based.

For The Connection directors, Drs Lorene and Gary Dennis of Stillwater, whose daughter Molly, 16, has Down’s Syndrome, Circle of Friends is part of their holistic approach to health.

Lorene says that it is a huge challenge for families to help children with different abilities reach their intellectual, physical and emotional potential. “This is partly due to a very narrow, conservative approach when a baby presents with conditions that are classed as disabilities,” she says. “Typically, the focus shifts to the challenges and what the child cannot do rather than on potential and what they bring to society.

The success of Circle of Friends is that it demonstrates that everyone has the capacity to play a part and contribute – whether it’s in a play or in the wider community.

Lorene says that director Tera Only sees drama as a window through which society can get a glimpse of who the actors are. “She moulded the play around who the performers are as people, rather than having them fill a mould,” Lorene says.

The group started in the last school term and interest spread by word of mouth.

Lorene hopes that more locals will get involved in the initiative, which is run by volunteers including parents and family, and celebrates inclusivity. There are no fees to join, just a donation towards costumes.

Lorene says they would appreciate support from anyone in the performing arts, including music or tech-oriented people.

She says community funding would be needed for the group to grow much bigger.

Circle of Friends meets weekly and will begin work on next year’s production soon.
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