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The inspiration behind the Paralympics
THE origins of the Paralympics will be portrayed on the stage of villages around Buckinghamshire during Theatre in the Villages, which aims to bring top class theatre to your doorstep.
The story of the revolutionary Dr Guttmann is expected to wow the communities of Dorney, Akeley and Stoke Mandeville.
Sir Ludwig "Poppa" Guttmann was a German neurologist who migrated to the UK during Nazi Germany.
As the founder of the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, he believed that sport was a method of therapy, by building physical strength and self-respect.
In 1948, he ran the first ‘Stoke Mandeville Games’ for the disabled involving 16 paralysed men and women and it all rapidly grew from there. This year, more than 1,000 athletes are taking part in the Paralympics.
The Incredible Dr. Guttmann should had been touring the UK last year, but funding cuts put the project on hold for a year, until lottery funding was made available in April this year.
Producer Karen Simpson said: "In a way, it was a blessing for the project because, with the Paralympics this year, people will be much more interested."
Karen, 55, saw in Dr Guttmann’s life story the inspiration she needed to solidify her first independent project. "He is just such an epic character, it’s a marvellous story, absolutely worthy to be put on the stage", she said.
The play will be focusing mainly on the 1940s, when Dr Guttmann started his project. Karen added: "The public will be able to see how far he came in every way, and in terms of what is expected from people with disabilities."
The relationship between the doctor and two young paraplegic patients will be the central plot of the play. Henry, who had only six weeks to live, and Florence, who had lost all hope.
Besides its national tour starting in Aylesbury Waterside Theatre in October 20, the play will also be in three villages of Buckinghamshire, as part of the Theatre in The Villages project. Amongst them, in South Bucks, Dorney Village Hall will be hosting the show on October 24.
For Karen, rural touring is hard work, but rewarding. "Any production continues to grow and the intimate relation with small crowds enables you to do that", she said. "It is a very special and honest audience", she added.
Karen said sometimes the crowd may be only 100 people, but the whole village might be as big as 250. "It’s a big impact and people can go home and talk to the neighbours about the play", she said.
The script of this specific production is by Nicholas McInerny. Among the cast of five, the international wheelchair basketball player, Andy Dear will take part.
Karen revealed her ultimate drive is "to bring really good quality theatre to audiences wherever they might be." She added the support of Buckinghamshire and Aylesbury councils helped make this possible.
The Incredible Dr Guttman will be at Dorney Village Hall on October 24 at 8pm from 01628 784515, at Stoke Mandeville Methodist Church on October 26 at 8pm from 01296 613458 and Akeley Village Hall on October 27 at 7.30pm from 01280860012. Tickets are £10 and £8 for concessions. It will be at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre's Second Space on October 20 and 21 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10 from 0844 8717607 or go to www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury
For more leisure stories go to the Freetime section of the website: www.bucksfreepress.co.uk/leisure for I Love My Local, food reviews and interviews with actors and musicians.
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