Manchester panto transforming lives through participation – It’s Behind You, The Edge Theatre’s Christmas show performed by a company of adults who are homeless
An Edge production in association with The Booth Centre
It’s Behind You
13- 15 December 2018.
As panto season gets into full swing across the country, The Edge Theatre – a unique award-winning arts space based in Chorlton, Manchester – is preparing to stage a pantomime with a difference.
IT’S BEHIND YOU is performed by a company of adults who are homeless. In addition to providing an entertaining night out, the theatre’s alternative Christmas panto offering is credited with transforming lives through the opportunity to participate in high quality art.
Created in association with The Booth Centre, the pantomime is directed by Janine Waters, co-founder and artistic director of The Edge, Manchester’s award-winning theatre for participation. IT’S BEHIND YOU is performed by a company of 15 individuals from varying backgrounds aged from 21 to 70s, who are all either currently homeless or at risk of homelessness. This is the third year that The Edge is staging its annual pantomime and many of the company are returning – these include Danny Marlow (21), who says:
“I found myself homeless two years ago while at university – I fell in with a bad crowd, and lost everything. I slept rough on doorsteps, in tents and under bridges. It felt awful, it was lonely – I had nobody and nothing. Eventually I knew I needed to make a change and I visited The Booth Centre for some help. From there, I became involved in the weekly drama sessions with Janine Waters. The sessions gave me the chance to forget my problems, concentrate on something I’m good at, and the chance to be someone else. My confidence has really improved. I’ve got a bounce back in my step and a smile on my face, it feels like I’ve found myself again. I’m in accommodation now, and working towards getting myself sorted.”
The opportunity to take part in IT’S BEHIND YOU makes a real impact in transforming lives, creating self-confidence and being an outlet for change – leading to positive experiences that can help counter negative behaviours and risks associated with being a vulnerable adult in a situation of homelessness.
Janine Waters, artistic director of The Edge says,
“It is such a privilege to be part of this unique theatre company, who work extremely hard to produce high quality, entertaining theatre despite the adversity that they face in other areas of their lives. We work hard, but we have so much fun – you wouldn’t believe the joy in the rehearsal room. People who may have slept rough the night before turn up ready to work, fully committed to each other, to the professional singers and creative team, and to achieving something that they can be proud of. The benefits are huge and life changing.
Many of our actors do not have contact with their families and tell us that the theatre company at The Edge has become their family. We work together, we support each other, we take individual and collective responsibility. Working in partnership with the Booth Centre means that together, we are able to provide a holistic approach to improving people’s situations. Of course housing, access to health care and employment are vital, but in order to address some of the issues that might have made people homeless in the first place, so too are the skills developed by being part of The Edge’s theatre company. The skills that will then help people stay in their new accommodation and employment.
People have learnt to read because they want to learn their lines and follow the script. Theatre helps people develop their emotional literacy and empathy, conflict resolution and anger management. People who have been the victims of abuse and exploitation (which many vulnerable people sleeping on our streets have) can carry anger with them throughout their lives. Our theatre company puts a great deal of emphasis on developing the communication skills that bring about a peaceful end to a situation of conflict. And theatre gives us access to stories and stories help us imagine a better life for ourselves; they help us to see alternative narratives to the ones we’ve found ourselves in and to re-write our stories if we don’t like them.
Achieving personal goals and being publicly rewarded for it can change the way you feel about yourself in quite a profound way. Raising self-esteem is an essential component in improving life chances. Taking part in these productions is an incredibly powerful tool to help people begin to see themselves in a new and positive light. You just have to sit in the audience and watch them perform and you’ll see what I mean.”
Homelessness in Manchester has risen 41% in the past two years. CEO of the Booth Centre, Amanda Croome MBE, says of the work, “Drama has a transforming effect….many members of the group have moved onto employment, to take up education and training courses, or have entered detox, as a direct result of the boost they have got from working with The Edge”
Tickets for It’s Behind You are now on sale. The recommended age is 16+. For more information please visit:http://www.edgetheatre.co.uk