A Derry-based theater group for adults with learning disabilities is set to reenact a famous movie that mocked dictator Adolf Hitler in a new production.
The production of Stage Beyond will combine the slapstick humor of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator with a subject close to the actors’ hearts – in shedding light on how people with disabilities or learning difficulties have been treated in the past.
The 1940 satirical film on which the play is based, with support from the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, asks whether how we treat the vulnerable is a measure of our humanity and what happens when society treats the vulnerable. disability as a crime.
The play will be performed at the Millennium Forum in the city on June 15th and takes place in Pandora, a country at war where people considered ‘different’ are disappearing.
Dictator Heidi (Frank Nelis) has a lookalike – Brian (Bryan Sutherland), a decorator. When Brian’s sister Hanna (Alison Smyth) goes missing, he discovers a terrible secret at his local hospital. In a bizarre case of mistaken identity, fate offers him the chance to change history.
Stage Beyond visiting director Kate Guelke said the group has a natural affinity for comedy. “This is a huge undertaking, but knowing the company’s track record in dealing with classics – most recently their award-winning ‘Hamlet’ – I knew ‘The Great Dictator’ would work. Many members of the company are very politically engaged, especially when it comes to activism for the rights of the disabled.
“This company is doing really important work, their commitment and interest in the subject and the courage to tackle it head on has been extraordinary,” she said.
Gilly Campbell, Head of Arts and Community Education at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said the organization is proud to support Stage Beyond. “They overcame the challenges faced during the COVID-19 restrictions to embark on this latest theatrical milestone for the company and I look forward to seeing the energy, commitment and creativity they will bring to the Millennium Forum once again in ‘The Great Dictator’ . . .”
Bernie Shiels, Chairman of the Board of Stage Beyond and one of the original members who is also starring in ‘The Great Dictator’, said he was immensely proud of the company in tackling its latest theatrical challenge. “It’s important for us not to run away from the reality of what happened to people like us in the past. It’s been quite an emotional process at times to work openly and inclusively as a team on the script itself and in rehearsals, but as with all Stage Beyond productions, there’s a good mix of comedy and the overall positive message that as people with learning disabilities, we are all part of society like everyone else.”
Tickets cost £11.50 (concessions available) can be booked at www.millenniumforum.co.uk