Parkinson’s inspires theatre tour for novice actors

Living with illness play to include Birmingham date.

An East Midlands theatre group made up of people who are living with and supporting others with Parkinson’s will start their first tour in April, including a date in Birmingham and culminating in a performance at the Edinburgh Fringe festival.

Parky Players will perform in Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham before heading to Edinburgh at the end of August. The theatre group was formed by Janet Barnes from Beeston Rylands, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s three years ago at the age of 47, friend Sheila North and a small group of others who got together on Zoom during lockdown and wrote and recorded an online pantomime. Developed with Community Vibe, National Lottery funding from Arts Council England and support from Derby Museums, they recreated the piece for the stage.

The new play Shake It Up is a fiercely funning, no-holds barred comedy about modern life living with Parkinson’s – about the ups and downs of being a PWP (Person With Parkinson’s). The story follows a community group turning up for their weekly meeting, they are surprised to find themselves in the fantasy world of Snow White and the Seven Symptoms.

Janet Barnes, member of Parky Players, said: “Being given the opportunity by Arts Council England to form Parky Players and create‘Shake It Up has developed opportunities well beyond those envisaged at the beginning of this project. As a group of complete novice actors we have gained new skills, self-esteem, and pride in ourselves and our outcomes.

“We have created an original and exciting piece of theatre that helps raise awareness, of Parkinson’s through the use of comedy and taking Shake It Up on the road, will be entertaining and enlightening to a wider audience.”

Director Rachel Green from Community Vibe continued: “This is a a fun and meaningful piece of theatre and you must watch it – now!”

Parky Players’ producer and agent is Susanna Clark, who has produced work for theatres and festivals across the UK including the Edinburgh Fringe and moved to Nottingham four years ago – attracted by the city’s vibrant arts scene – to set up her own agency Ingenious Fools.

She added: “Having worked with a wide range of disabled and neurodiverse artists to develop shows and produce UK-wide tours, I am delighted to be representing the Parky Players.

“This is an amazing production which breaks down the taboos of talking about Parkinson’s. The feedback from audiences so far has been that it has already done so much to raise awareness of the experiences of people living with Parkinson’s and is a comedic triumph.

The tour arrives at Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham on 20th July. Tickets.