The Polish Cultural Institute's write~up about the "Ball at Hawking's" by Teatr Arka at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival... (now in Barking ~ see below) said that the play is merely a pretext for a broader discussion about the cultural and social status of people with disabilities (and that includes mental health issues in its broadest sense).
Talking yesterday to Teatr Arka’s Director, Renata Jasińska, it is clear that the inspiration for the theatre’s work runs through the veins of this amazing woman, who is passionate and committed to the cause.
Wish I could speak even a little Polish, beyond saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, so we could have a no holds barred conversation about a topic that is close to my heart. The needs of my own physical health have forced me to formally stop working in the mental health sector; but perhaps the various events that have unfolded in my life over the last year are indicating I am being brought back into it all, but from another angle. The thing is I don’t really get it yet, and will simply have to wait on life to be clearer about what it wants from me.
Writing my book, an interpretation of the Greek Myth of Eros and Psyche (Love and the Soul) I sort of get that “madness” is a prerequisite for being human; that hate is close to a personality disorder, and that the opposite of love is fear. I get that Renata is fearless and is prepared to go where angels fear to tread, as she works to integrate differently abled people into theatre and into wider society, and to create the conditions whereby they can participate actively in social and professional life.
What is it that differently abled people have to teach the rest of us? The truth is humanity in its entirety is differently abled but the vast majority of us can hide, disguise and/or manage our ‘difference’, so that we ‘fit in’.
When my 12~year old grandson, who is on the Asperger’s end of the autistic spectrum is away from home – with friends, even on holiday – within what sometimes seem like minutes he says 'I want to go home’. These were almost the first words he uttered as a toddler, even when at home! Josh reinforces my appreciation that ‘to go home’ is synonymous to the need to reside in what St Teresa of Avila called The Interior Castle – the soul’s sanctuary – and the freedom to just ‘be’ who you are.
I believe that Renata provides that sense of ‘home’ for her charges and I look forward to speaking to her more about all that in due time…perhaps even in Poland.
Teatr Arka’s The Ball at Stephen Hawking’s, today and tomorrow at The Performance Studio, Icehouse Quarter, Arc Theatre, 1st Floor, the Malthouse, 62~
76 Abbey Road, Barking IG11 7BT. Performance at 7.30 p.m; price £13.50. At this stage ring 020 8594 1095 for availability, or take your chance and turn up at the door.