The main attraction
The only theatre group of its kind in the country, its cast of 35 actors, including ten children, is fully integrated. For every five able-bodied actors, there is on average one person with learning difficulties or a physical disability. Those actors with cerebral palsy and Downs Syndrome work alongside the other actors in a spirit of equality, determination and enjoyment. This gives Chicken Shed's work an edge and a freshness that is profoundly moving.
Its current tour of The Attraction, a musical devised by the company and directed by Mary Ward, with music by Jo Collins, is set among a group of performing gypsies.
While the story itself is dodgy (gypsy king meets girl, they have baby together, she sleeps around and earns the reputation of whore, a jealous lover does her in), the performance is undeniably, irresistibly powerful thanks to the energy of performers singing and dancing like there's no tomorrow.
The cast is joined on each stage of the tour by local schoolchildren, who rehearse with an advance party of company members during the preceding week. Watching them, it is clear that they and the regular company are giving it everything they've got, revealing a real professionalism.
Touring to Basildon, Wakefield, Crewe and Swindon until mid-July. Details: 0181 449 7744.