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Finishing touches for Tabernacle show that aims to transform attitudes – and lives

PUBLISHED: 13:26 15 March 2013 | UPDATED: 13:26 15 March 2013

PIP cast members in rehearsal for The Mystery of the Red Hat, including from left Lauren, Ryonne, Danny, Paris, Valmie and Gemma. Picture: Polly Hancock

PIP cast members in rehearsal for The Mystery of the Red Hat, including from left Lauren, Ryonne, Danny, Paris, Valmie and Gemma. Picture: Polly Hancock

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A charity which helps young adults with learning disabilities to achieve their potential is gearing up for its biggest theatrical show ever this month.

PIP cast members in rehearsal for The Mystery of the Red Hat with drama facilitator Joely Brindle, centre. Picture: Polly HancockPIP cast members in rehearsal for The Mystery of the Red Hat with drama facilitator Joely Brindle, centre. Picture: Polly Hancock

The students at Pursuing Independent Paths (PIP) will be taking over the prestigious Tabernacle Theatre in Notting Hill to showcase their original, ambitious drama project, The Mystery Of The Red Hat.

The show, entirely conceived by the 20-strong class of students, is the group’s fifth annual production, but the first to be staged in a “real” theatre – so the pressure is on.

The Wood&Vale dropped in to a rehearsal at Paddington Arts last week to see how the play was progressing.

Bill Feeney, director of the charity, which is based in Shirland Mews, Queen’s Park, said: “We really want the audience to see what students can achieve, as they express themselves in creative and dynamic ways.

Bill Feeney, director of PIP. Picture: Polly HancockBill Feeney, director of PIP. Picture: Polly Hancock

“The Paralympics surprised and inspired the world by demonstrating how people with disabilities are far more determined and motivated than they usually get credit for. We’ve known this for a long time and aim to emulate that inspiration in our own community.”

The students, some of whom took part in the Cultural Olympiad last year, have spent six months turning their ideas into theatrical, magical reality, helped by drama therapists. Most will act on stage but some will be working behind the scenes and all of them have been involved in the script-writing and stage production.

They have learning disabilities of all kinds, from Down’s Syndrome, Asperger’s and autism to rare chromosome disorders like Fragile X and Trisonomy 14 mosaicism. But the drama therapy sessions are just one aspect of the charity’s work. PIP also offers classes in healthy eating, technology skills, money management and travelling independently on public transport.

But this will be “our showcase event,” said Mr Feeney. “We want as many people who don’t know about us to come down. Our students have a lot to say creatively and we want more awareness and exposure of that. We are really going for it.”

Danny, 31, practising his street dance at PIP's rehearsals. Picture: Polly HancockDanny, 31, practising his street dance at PIP's rehearsals. Picture: Polly Hancock

Danny, a student at PIP, said: “Drama has really helped my confidence and I love performing with my friends.”

-The Mystery of the Red Hat takes place at 7pm on March 22 at The Tabernacle Theatre, Powis Square, Notting Hill. For more information and tickets visit www.tabernaclew11.com, call the box office on 020 8960 4004 or email katherineg@piponline.org.uk

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