South Australian arts ensemble True Ability will shine a spotlight on what it is really like to be a person with a disability for the world premiere of UnSeen in Adelaide Festival Centre’s Space Theatre on Wednesday, December 1, and Thursday, December 2.
Inspired by the recent events of the royal commission into disability rights, and as a prelude to International Day of People with a Disability (December 3), this insightful contemporary theatre work – presented by Adelaide Festival Centre and AJZ Productions – will focus on the often unseen and unheard experiences of people experiencing disability.
Poetic, funny, and moving, UnSeen challenges dominant narratives about disability and illness, leaving audiences laughing, wiping away tears and, hopefully, reflecting on how they can make the world a more inclusive place. The ensemble cast of local performers with a lived experience of disability includes Kym Mackenzie and Lucy Lopez Rivera along with Jamila Main, Ad’m Martin, Wren Dow, Jye Parry, Dion Allen, Justine van Eyssen, Rachel High and Sergei Jakube. They are also credited as co-creators, with some of their own personal stories being shared in the work.
UnSeen Director and True Ability Artistic Director Alirio Zavarce said the show combined storytelling, dance, documentary film and music – including original songs and soundscapes by Tahlia Weaver and Tyson Olson – to take audiences on a meaningful journey into what may be unexplored territory for many audience members.
We wanted to do a show about visibility, representation and disability. For whatever reason, society sometimes ignores people – they are not seen or heard. It is a human right to be part of the community and to use our voices. Theatre is a mirror to our society, and a society is only as good as it treats its more vulnerable citizens.
True Ability Creative Director Kelly Vincent, who performs in the show, said the stories being shared would be far richer and more interesting than what audiences would have been exposed to through mainstream media.
"Either we are sad, sick, and sorry, sitting at home staring wistfully out of a rain-streaked window, or we are these inspirational, superhero mega-humans who have to be ‘overcoming’ our disabilities by doing extreme sports or something. But most of us don’t fit those stereotypes, so we want to give disabled people the opportunity to tell their stories and be seen for who they really are."
“It was also important to us that we addressed in the show this idea that, sometimes being disabled is hard. Sometimes it really sucks. But a lot of the time, that’s not because we are disabled. It’s because of the way society treats us – patronising us, not making services accessible to us, not giving us equal opportunity to education and work… the list goes on. I think there is real power and beauty in a group of people who are so different and yet have that shared experience of exclusion, coming together to share those stories and in so doing asking the world, through the audience, to do better."
UnSeen was held at the Adelaide Festival Centre from December 1 to December 2, 2021.