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Centre for Social Justice and Community Action

Full Circle Theatre Group

The Full Circle Theatre Group is busy rehearsing its first production at ARC, Stockton.  'Toto is Dead' is based loosely on the story of The Wizard of Oz and has been devised and scripted by the actors all of whom have learning difficulties.  In bringing their talents to the public they are supported by development workers Caroline Rankin and Alan Pearson, who are committed to making a reality of the government's policy of Valuing People with learning difficulties.  Jenni Owen, Community Arts Development Officer at ARC has worked alongside the group to plan a programme of theatre work for two years and successfully gained funding from Northern Rock to enable the group to be based at ARC two days a week.  The members' scripting, acting and production skills are being brought alive with the support of a performing arts practitioner,  Lindsey Porteous. 

When Durham University was asked to undertake an evaluation of the work of the Full Circle Theatre Group, members of the group embraced the idea of undertaking their own evaluation using cameras (still and movie) and voice recorders.  They filmed each other in rehearsal, took still photographs and developed questions for individual interviews so that each person could have the opportunity to 'have their say' in private. The experience of filming and photographing helped the group to develop skills they need to produce a DVD of 'Toto is Dead'. 

Interviews were also carried out with project workers.  What is clear is that members of the group have gained in confidence, making decisions and choices about their own lives. The following quote sums up the value of Full Theatre Circle Group:  'having the chance to perform, getting funding for the work that we've done and being recognized for that'.  As well as developing acting and production skills, members enjoy spending time in the ARC café bar, a lively public space for Stockton residents.

The evaluation of The Full Circle Theatre Group was:

  • Undertaken by members of Full Circle Theatre Group;
  • Funded by the Wolfson Research Institute, Queen's Campus, Stockton;
  • Facilitated by Helen Charnley and Se Kwang Hwang, School of Applied Social Sciences with advice from Mike White, Centre for Arts and Humanities in Health and Medicine
  • Supported by ARC, Stockton and Stockton Borough Council.