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Be there at the start: Pete Edwards talks about making work on sexual abuse / 4 September 2014

Article By Colin Hambrook

Pete Edwards has set himself some interesting challenges for his Unlimited research and development project.

Pete’s award is to explore the difficult and taboo subject of rape and sexual abuse. He wrote a play about his life story after doing a Graeae Missing Pieces training course. However, when it came to the proposal for Unlimited he put the script to one side, making the decision that he wanted to devise a piece with actors, who like himself, have different speech patterns.

He toured his one-man show FAT - a multi-media exploration of a gay disabled man’s desire, sexuality and urge to communicate through 2009-10 and took it to Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, produced by ArtsAdmin. After FAT, he decided he wanted to concentrate on directing, specifically working out a way of including actors with different speech, without the constraint of having the speech interpreted for the audience.

He said that “A year ago we did a whole range of drama exercises looking at how actors could work on stage without text or without someone speaking on their behalf and that’s why I wanted to direct, so I can look at that for other people.”

Sexual abuse is an issue that gets hidden and needs addressing. Working on such a sensitive subject has meant putting his actors through some upsetting scenarios. He wanted to highlight the oft-forgotten fact that disabled people can be also be the abusers! So through the dividing process they have a code word ‘banana’, which basically means ‘I’m uncomfortable with what I’m doing. Can we stop and talk about what’s happening.”

Sexual abuse is not a comfortable subject for mainstream theatres to programme. Ruth Gould from DaDaFest raised the fear that issue-based shows are often pushed into an educational context, instead of being made for larger theatre spaces for a wider audience. 

As the piece is developing so it’s turning into a story that contains a mix of realism with more abstract scenes that weave in and out of each other. 

Abuse is something that often gets pushed to one side. But with the rise in hate crime against disabled people, it strikes me as a more and more important area to make art about.



Are you interested in drama and performance?

Are you someone with speech impairments or someone who uses assistive technology to communicate?

If you are, this workshop might be for you.


The drama-based workshop offers a new way of exploring and devising creative communication for people with physical disabilities.

This workshop provides the opportunity to work with professional disabled artists who demonstrate that it is possible for people with different ways of communication to work within the creative world, by finding new ways of exploring the body, the voice, sound, space and text to create dynamic performances in ways that are accessible to all.


This is the first of its kind and is being supported by the British Arts Council and also developed as part of the Pit Lab artist development strand at the Barbican.


What do the workshops do?

This workshop is a way of exploring our own creative processes with our own ability in a relaxed and calm atmosphere.

The participants will have the time, space and if required access support to be able to generate their work in the best way that is suitable for each individual.
The workshops will also provide people with the confidence they need to be heard in everyday situations, and so realise their own potential, by giving them artistic tools to explore their creative ideas in a workshop setting. Participants can have a go at acting, writing and improvisation, and potentially work towards creating their own drama piece.


What skills might I gain from taking part? 

Drama Skills: Improvisation, text work, devising, writing, sound and vocalisation

Confidence and Self Esteem

Working as a Team

Working Alone


Biographies of the workshop facilitators

Pete Edwards – workshop leader: Pete is an actor, writer and performance artist. He has Cerebral Palsy, which includes a differing speech pattern. Acting and performance experience includes: Fat (dir. Michael Achtman), George Dandin (Graeae Theatre Company, dir. Jenny Sealey) and the short film Welcome Break (dir. Michael Achtman). Writing credits include The Wheels and Willies Experience in 2006, Fat (on national tour 2010, Edinburgh and Colchester 2012). Both were recipients of Arts Council grants. In 2010 Pete was awarded DaDaFest’s Best Emerging Artist. He has extensive experience of creating and leading workshops for artists with different abilities, non-disabled artists and young people.




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