Project with ROC Creative Mardi Da Theatre Co. – 2106

  • 5 weeks with ROC Creative’s Tuesday Drama Group
  • Eleven Adults with Learning Disabilities
  • Three dedicated Staff
  • A group of mixed abilities

Mardi Da Theatre Co is a group of 12 adult actors with mild to moderate Learning Disabilities. They have been attending their weekly drama sessions for several years and have performed to the public in various venues. Playback Theatre was chosen to develop the individuals’ personal and artistic expression in order to explore the possibilities of sharing audiences’ stories who identify with a similar experience of being marginalised in society.

Mardi Da’ actors’ benefits and outcomes


The trainers explicitly modelled giving permission to participants to feel their emotions in the ‘here and now’. Being emotional was given legitimacy and normalised. There are many positive benefits to the development of emotional literacy for the people we support, like, naming feelings, working through feelings creatively, being listened to and promoting compassion towards/acceptance of self.

The actors’ development of empathic responses stood out especially as an outcome because of the atmosphere of permissive emotional expression. Talking about feelings combatted a sense of individuals feeling isolated and elicited group support, uniting individuals from a position of “no-one understands me” to “we’re in the same boat”.

Playback’s approach validates playfulness which encouraged actors to participate, explore deeper imaginative responses, musicality, their sense of humour and comedic emotional tones as well as encouraging them to use their physicality more keenly.


It is clearly understood by the group that Playback is about them and their life stories. They love the opportunity to share and receive incidental feedback from the other group members’ post-playback improvisations.

Relationships between group members have been strengthened from creativity and role playing scenarios in which they rehearse saying/being/feeling things that perhaps they don’t feel confident in expressing out loud in real life but wish too.


Spontaneity and ‘thinking and feeling on their feet’ has improved hugely.
Physicality, facial expressions and voice work have improved, along with confidence to give things a go especially with instruments.

The actors have retained the ‘tool kit’ for them to draw on in improvisations.
The actors sense of timings, intuition & awareness of each other have developed giving scenarios a more polished finish.

Telling a story, with features like a beginning, middle and end, tension/surprise using words/metaphor/music. Also learning to break with convention and over-laying events in a different sequence than they actually occurred – collaging.

Testimonials from Mardi Da! Theatre Company actors

“Playback theatre is about stories, memories and thinking back to when you were young and little”…
“I loved sharing my stories with everyone. It felt good and it was quite moving. I like talking about my feelings and sharing helps me to feel better.”

“Improvising a story has a positive effect because it is funny, inspiring and it’s good to show how the other person felt”…
Telling your story has a positive effect of making other people emotional. It helped to cheer me up even if it’s a sad story and brings back memories. I was being listened to”

“Playback Theatre gave me lots of confidence. It’s good for opening people up, as I tend to keep myself to myself. It’s interesting to find out about other people growing up”.

“Playback Theatre makes me feel kind. The conductor helps me remember a story”

“I liked watching my story being acted out. When I improvised I feel free and I learn things about friends and how I could help them”…
Playback Theatre has got music – we did the music ourselves. The music helps the actors get it out, tell the story.

“The game ‘Yes Lets’…is my favourite game because it’s funny, it opened my heart.”…

“Playing games and being silly helped us actors. It helped us to come out of our shells”…

“I loved “How are you feeling?” and I loved acting the feelings, I felt perfect and proud of myself. When people feel upset I give them a hug to make them happy again. Please come back, we want to tell more stories”…

Drawing pictures and making Playback Theatre help my brain. It helps me understand. At first I didn’t know anything about Playback, the second time I began to learn it. I learnt about myself and other people.

I think Playback Theatre is cool, everyone enjoyed themselves”…

“Alison and Amanda are like new friends for me”…