IT PROMISES to be one of the most powerful and disturbing theatre pieces seen at the Lawrence Batley Theatre this season.
Next month the theatre hosts a production by Benchtours in association with Sirius Pictures.
The piece is called The First To Go and the two dates that it will play in Huddersfield are the only ones planned in any English theatre.
What makes this event remarkable and potentially all the more emotional is that it has been more than 10 years in the making and concerns an issue which its author, Nabil Shaban, suggests has been buried for decades.
The First To Go unravels the secret history of the Nazi persecution of people with physical and mental disabilities. The story behind the play began when Nabil first started to learn about the extent of the Nazi extermination of disabled people during Germany’s Third Reich era
He said: “As a disabled actor and writer I wanted to see this criminally ignored story presented as a drama – either as a piece of theatre or a feature film – with genuinely disabled actors playing the leading roles.
“I didn’t want any of this ‘cripping up’ by well-known, non-disabled Hollywood actors. This is our story of the Holocaust and we have to be the ones to tell it, with no holds barred.
“No-one had dramatised this account of the disabled Holocaust, so I decided to set in motion a development process for the creation of such a drama.
“At first I was prepared to collaborate with a non-disabled writer. But after discovering that it would be a slow process working with someone who was not disabled and therefore not fired up with the same political urgency I decided to go it alone and write the play myself.”
As a performer Nabil is probably best known for roles as diverse as Hamm in Endgame at Theatre Workshop and Sil in Dr Who.
He was one of the founders of Graeae Theatre Company, one of the first disabled-led theatre companies in the UK.
He has numerous television, feature film and radio acting credits; he has also written plays and directed and produced films.
Nabil’s talents as a graphic artist have been seen in a number of exhibitions of his work. Ten years ago he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Surrey University for his revolutionary work within the performing arts and changing public perceptions of disabled people.
For this production Nabil has worked with his own film company, Sirius Pictures, and with a cast of eight from Edinburgh-based company Benchtours..
Benchtours was founded in the early Nineties by a group of six performers who had met in Paris while studying with physical theatre specialist Philippe Gaulier.
They focus on experimental and visual theatre and appear to be the perfect pairing for a subject which will address an issue which has long been neglected.
This is a piece which promises to address today’s attitudes towards disability as well as those of the past. You might find yourself thinking that today’s society still has a way to go.
See this challenging theatre piece on June 11 and 12. Performances are in the theatre’s main house and begin at 7.30pm. Box office is on 01484 430528.