Broken Silence

04 October 2017

Tracey Viechweg from Face Front Inclusive Theatre, in Enfield, Greater London, explains how drama and music can be powerful tools to engage people and challenge misconceptions.

“Broken Silence has been established as Face Front’s adult theatre group since 2002. The drama group is made up of 30+ adults with sensory and mobility impairments, mental health issues and learning difficulties and is led by professional disabled and non-disabled artists. 

Using the transformational power of theatre in order to focus on relevant issues and raise awareness, Broken Silence devises work that is inspired by issues personally important to the group members. Most of our members experience challenges in life, so often their plays will involve social themes, but the main aim is to produce an excellent piece of theatre of which they themselves feel proud of, and to give them a creative platform for their voices to be heard.

The work can be radical, challenging, uplifting and moving. The group has continued to grow in confidence, experience and ability to entertain audiences with their exciting combination of storytelling, music, movement, drama, movement and song. 

The most recent production performed by Broken Silence was 'Sandwich Man – The Musical' which began life as a series of workshops, aimed at exploring issues the group wanted to highlight and then produce a piece of theatre. It was decided to create a play featuring super heroes because, ultimately, super heroes are fun and everyone can understand the secret longing to have a ‘super power’. For the audience, the 'super power' is surely to see a group of disabled people as super heroes, not a traditional role for our actors. 

The other story that the group wanted to explore came from one of the group members who had been homeless. Hunger was a huge part of his experience and when asked what super hero he would like to be, he said 'Sandwich Man'. This inspired the main storyline for the show.

The Broken Silence sessions provide a warm, supportive and safe environment. This helps our participants to feel confident, explore and unlock their artistic potential and make friends. The workshops help members to relax, develop confidence, team working, social and performance skills. Within the group, seven core members are our 'Senior Volunteers' - always there to help and serve as role-models for new members of the group.

We also provide experienced disabled and non-disabled ‘Artistic Support Workers’ who can help people to access the sessions, whether its guiding or describing to a blind member, supporting a member to move who has a mobility impairment, or reassuring a member with a mental health issue.

As the sessions evolve, the members are forming a support network themselves, helping each other, being genuinely interested in each other and, of course, having fun! Using their imaginations and developing their artistic expression is a wonderful release as well as creating amazing theatre.

Drama and music are very powerful tools to engage audiences! Broken Silence supports people who would not usually be given an opportunity, to perform and be seen on stage. ‘Sandwich Man – The Musical’ drew audiences because it was entertaining and also challenged pre-conceptions purely by the diverse nature of the group. Audiences feel both sorrow and joy with the characters and this, in turn, generates discussion on issues whether they are underlying or prominent.” 

An audience member commented: “Excellent acting and singing, incredibly high quality production, and the joy expressed by the inclusive performers on stage was an absolute delight to experience.”

Angie Wallis, Broken Silence Project Manager, added: “Sandwich Man – The musical is a heart-warming show that is both moving and uplifting and hopefully will empower and inspire the audience to do something themselves.”

The Broken Silence project is funded by People’s Health Trust, using money raised by HealthPromote through The Health Lottery.

Tracey Viechweg


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