Wonderful performers

6th May 2005 at 01:00
Robyn Hunt. Treloar College, Hampshire

Actress and playwright Robyn Hunt is the first artist in residence at Treloar college in Hampshire, where she was once a pupil. Hunt, 24, was invited back to the school by creative arts manager Janice Hopwood, who previously taught her, to run a term-long series of drama workshops, culminating in a performance at the college's annual arts week.

Many of the workshops have focused on disability: Treloar school (for pupils aged 5 to 16) and the college (16-plus) serve pupils with physical disabilities; Robyn has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, which, she says, could easily have held back her career.

"There's still a lot of negativity in the theatre towards disabled people.

There isn't access for disabled people wanting to apply to drama school.

"I was lucky in that when I left university I was offered an apprenticeship with Theatre Workshop in Edinburgh. It wanted to promote inclusion in theatre and put disabled performers on stage alongside able-bodied ones.

But there's still hostility and tension among critics about how to treat us on stage."

Hunt says that during her work with the Treloar students she has seen them grow in emotional and expressive confidence.

"We've done work on love and hate, and playing with phrases and the delivery of them. We explored some of the feelings involved when you are disabled: the assumptions people make, what that feels like and the sorts of things people say.

"It's a big thing to ask these students to imagine themselves beyond their own given situation and character. It's also been exciting living alongside them, as well as strange coming back here. I can see that there are people coming up behind me who will face many challenges, but also that they are not fainthearted. They have set their hearts on achieving things, and they are resolved to do them."

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