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A Co-production with The Grove DIY

May-September 2022

In the summer of 2022, Response Ability Theatre teamed up with The Grove DIY skate park to reimagine a much-loved classic with a little-known community of 16-30 year old grassroots artists.

Located on the cusp between Dulwich and Peckham, these young people who took over an unused pub car park, built some ramps with their bare hands and made their mark with graffiti and random items of discarded furniture, were not universally met with approval. So we helped them hone their skills on and off their skateboards to create a dynamic, virtuosic and charming piece of theatre for the whole family, and show everyone around them the true community spirit and artistry that lives in this space that can otherwise be mistaken as aggressive, intimidating or rowdy.

As the audience was led through the two skate spaces and the calming volunteer-kept garden and vegetable patch (that many locals didn't realise existed), they heard Shakespearean verse delivered expertly, music performed skilfully and delicately, and - of course - mad skate tricks pulled off with unreal DIY style.

A number of our cast had barely seen any theatre before, let alone Shakespeare, and a great many had not done any acting since primary school. Many of them - as in most skateboarding communities - felt excluded from mainstream arts and vilified by society around them: we were honoured to be visited by the Ben Raemers Foundation for two workshops on mental health and wellbeing, to help them through their doubts, insecurities and other emotional barriers along the way. We were so proud to see them find confidence in their skills and creativity, clarity in how to put them to use in public-facing ways, and determination to pursue their talents within and beyond their turf.

DIY skate spaces are transient, and we have no idea how long this one will be here - but the community that has come to feel like a family around it is galvanising support and making incredible strides in their efforts to save it. Whatever happens, the space, the people and the show will be an ongoing memory of what can be achieved when passionate but excluded artists are trusted, and trust each other, to show just how vast the contribution they can make to the cultural landscape around them is.

Words From The Cast And Crew

"I really loved the mix of silliness and seriousness, the room to play and explore and mess around. I loved the excercises to get us into our bodies/voices/roles. I enjoyed doing something for a group, for the collective feeling even if I wasn't feeling it myself. I really enjoyed being in a group of people who I didnt know and all we had was that we each wanted to be doing this thing. I just want to make more stuff with people, to find unexpected things together and invite people to share in it. To celebrate the wonderful people and their talents who are at the Grove and who came together in such incredible ways for this project."

"I really enjoyed working together with everyone and the process felt so generative and co-creative and non-hierarchical, which I loved."

"I feel more confident in my own abilities as an artist. I know I can step out of my comfort zone and do well and enjoy myself meanwhile."

"I feel like this project has showed me different types of ways of making theatre - particularly theatre that is community and people focused. I’ve also met a lot of people with different skills and learn about possibilities of creating your own work."

"The weekend of the performances I remember feeling more genuinely happy in a way that I hadn’t felt for years."

Photography by Alastair Gleeson

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Words From The Audiences

"Shakespeare is smiling. We attended the performance on Sunday evening - it was joyous! Wonderfully inventive interpretation, superb performances and a unique and special location. May there be many more events like it!"

"It was fantastic. Well done to everyone involved."

"Awesome use of this great space!"

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