For some years in the late 70s and early 80s, I had been running drama sessions at the action group with people with learning disabilities. I had also occasionally been helping build stage sets at theatre workshop.
Some of the people from the drama group wanted to go further and act on stage so I tried to discuss the idea with a few theatre professionals. With one exception, they all said it couldn't be done because it had never been done before. I'd done work with Pete Clerk and he said it was crazy but he'd give it a go.
We started with the drama sessions and Pete developed them and we began to liberally adapt the medieval Chinese play 'Monkey, Journey to the West’ by Wu Cheng'en for the first show. This was shown in April 1985 after six months of rehearsals and was a huge success. Our second show, The Odyssey, was performed in 1986 and was filmed by STV and Channel4.
In addition to creating fantastic productions, it also gives members the opportunity to explore their own abilities. Its members have gained in self-esteem and confidence as a result and take these out into their lives outside the company. There are also many professionals who have gained experience from working at Lung Ha's, either as dedicated staff or independent freelancers, many of whom have gone on to enjoy highly successful careers.
Always listen to the experts, they'll tell you what you can't do, and why.
Then do it.
By Richard Vallis
Co Founder and Honorary President of Lung Ha Theatre Company