Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation
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New disabled artists' street theatre company

29 April 2013

Participation Co-ordinator for the Naturals and Director of Natural Diversions Mark Bishop said:
'We wanted to develop a new company with the same attention to detail and high performance standard as the Naturals with disabled performers. We wanted to create a vehicle to challenge the public's perception of disability and that these ideas would be lead by disabled performers.'

Working with Graeae in London, Mark ran a workshop and audition session for the new company. 23 disabled performers took part in the workshop and six were chosen to work alongside the Natural Theatre Company for a week to develop some new pieces for the Bath Comedy Festival. The group also worked with assistant director for the project Phoebe Kemp and a 3rd year Performing Arts student from Bath Spa University, both wheelchair users.

The Natural Diversions team included 4 wheelchair users, a blind performer, a performer with cerebral palsy and 2 performers with learning disabilities. Throughout the week the group immersed themselves in the Natural's style and devised 5 new pieces to perform at the Comedy Festival. There are also numerous other ideas to be developed in the future.

Some great ideas emerged, and on the Sunday the team invaded the streets around Bath with a selection of somewhat bizarre, highly amusing characters. A genuinely blind pirate with two eye patches was guided not by the conventional golden retriever but by a guide parrot in a wheelchair, sporting a fine beak and an unfeasible amount of featherage.

Elsewhere, traffic wardens on mobility scooters were giving out daffodils to motorists who had parked thoughtfully and not in the disabled bays, and two fully equipped mountaineers in electric wheelchairs were seen attempting to scale the dizzy heights of Union Street where even some of the bigger stores which should know better still sport awkward steps.

A mad archaeologist or two and a whole group of film noir characters challenging the media's obsession with body image completed the set of daft incursions into the public realm, all of which, as well as causing amusement, had something to say about our attitudes towards disability.

The Natural Diversions are performing at the Bath Fringe Festival on 2 June, the Unity Festival in Cardiff on 15 & 16 June and the Devizes Street Festival on 26 August 2013.

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