Published: Tuesday, 18th October 2022
Pyjama Drama was set up as a drama group with a difference. Funded by the Arts Council and Arnold Clarke, Pyjama Drama has worked with over 20 people with a learning disability and Autistic people over the last year to create plays about things that do not work well in people's lives. In May 2022 we showcased our play, Welcome to Sunny Smiles which was a funny but sad play about group living. In the play we looked at how people had little choice and control over their lives in care homes with staff shortages and oppressive attitudes.
The second play 'Waiting Room Anon' is to be shown on 18th Nov to a similar audience but this time including clinical leads, commissioners and psychiatrists from Sheffield Health and Social Care. This play is based on research done by Sheffield Voices into the problems people are facing accessing healthcare. This play is slightly shorter with three main scenes and improvisation around them. This play includes some members having monologues/longer speeches while other members of the group use mime to communicate what they’re saying. This looks at the disproportionate discrimination in the medical field of people with a learning disability. It looks at the over medicating of people by psychiatry and the lack of accessible information.
We started working out of Theatre Deli for the first 3 months and then they announced they had to move venues. This meant Pyjama Drama had to find a new space to work from. We have moved venues twice more since then trying to find a suitable space to work from. This has not been ideal. Finding suitable accessible spaces to block book is a real problem in Sheffield. We have also had issues with navigating changing Covid-19 rules, and when members of the group experience staff shortages and can’t attend sessions.
We have produced three digital versions of the plays and some parts have been shown at the Restraint Reduction Network conference to over 2000. The short play on restraints has been shared internationally attracting comments from healthcare professionals who are trying to teach staff about the use of force and how building better relationships can have a positive impact on people and lead to less restraints in group living.
We have learned so much doing this project. We've learned that actors have different skill sets and we can adapt how we do things to ensure everyone has a role and is heard. We've spent some time visiting other projects and seeing performances by other learning disability theater companies who used varied techniques to include less physically able and nonverbal actors in performances.
We have learned that the use of drama is a fantastic way to engage people in conversation about their lives and what matters to them. It helps to give people a voice when they might not be able to do that through traditional communication or sitting in a boring meeting.
The project has really helped us to think about how we can engage other people in the self-advocacy movement in creative ways and helped to really put us on the map nationally as a self-advocacy group that is challenging assumptions and practices in a really creative way. This really has been the start of us developing a suite of self-advocacy projects we've designed to support people to have a voice about their lives and what may not be working well for them and what they want to see changed.
We intend to keep our drama group running and will be looking for new members to join from November 2022.
If you want to join our drama group please contact us on 01142536750
Here is a power point with all the pictures from our year together: PJ20drama20year20one (1)
You can watch Welcome to Sunny Smiles here: https://www.sheffieldvoices.org.uk/video/dmpD3kxs6L8&t=2041s
Published by : Andrew Smith