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Intellectually Impaired Actors Tackle Shakespeare

Media Release 30 September 2008

Intellectually Impaired Actors Tackle Shakespeare

Shakespeare is a challenge for any actor but in a first for this country a bunch of enthusiastic intellectually impaired and disabled actors will take on the work of one of the world’s most challenging playwrights.

Auckland’s The Ranfurly Players theatre company will stage their version of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra – but with a difference. The actors will have no script or lines to learn and the play will be entirely improvised in front of a live audience.

“Because these actors have difficulty remembering lines we tell them what the play is about and then they make it up themselves with regards to the theme of each scene,” explains Ranfurly Players creative director Brett Ihaka. “Because they improvise the script this means anything can happen and often does.”

Ihaka says The Ranfurly Players is the only theatre repertory of its kind in New Zealand showcasing the acting skills of those with intellectual impairments and disabilities. The play will be set in a modern day lawyer’s firm with Antony and Cleopatra cast as two competing lawyers who have an affair eventually betraying both each other and their friends.

But it is not all about acting. While the actors rehearse, learn dialogue, stage movement and bring to the stage their own unique skills and talents, The Ranfurly Players also fosters a great spirit of independence.

“Some of the actors have never been on stage or done a play before. During the process they learn confidence and afterwards they have to go and meet and greet the audience, which also teaches valuable social skills. Our goal is to provide an artistic and creative endeavour for all of those who may not have the opportunity.”

Ihaka is better known as a screenwriter and film maker. His short film The Hill, was selected for the Berlin and Sundance Film Festivals and his short film The Platform, won the Silver Spike at the Valladolid Film Festival in Spain. I

haka initiated The Ranfurly Player in 2005 at the Ranfurly Care Society. Ihaka says he refused to compromise on the types of plays the actors tackled simply because of their disabilities. The Ranfurly Players have now successfully performed their distinctive versions of Macbeth, The Hounds of the Baskervilles and The Three Musketeers. Ihaka says audience numbers grow each year with last year’s play selling out.

The Ranfurly Players will perform Antony and Cleopatra on the 16th and 17th October, 7.30pm. Cost is $5 and will be used as fundraising for The Ranfurly Care Society.


Ranfurly Care Society

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