The British Council has filmed the theatre “A Different Romeo and Juliet” performed by people with special needs and is screening the theater in six divisional districts of Bangladesh. This was the first ever theatre performed by the Bangladeshi casting with people with special needs, which was the outcome of a three-year project by the British Council in partnership with GRAEAE Theatre UK and Dhaka Theatre in Bangladesh to mark the 400 death anniversary of William Shakespeare. This cultural approach has an effective way to highlight the importance of empowering diverse groups to participate in cross-cultural dialogue and capacity building which is connected towards “Leave no one behind” agenda of United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal.The filmed version of the “A Different Romeo and Juliet” has been taken to Chittagong and Rajshahi on 28 March 2018.
The show was highly acclaimed by the audiences in both cites for its bold presentation to challenge the common stereotype that existed in the Bangladeshi society. People from all walks of life appreciated a different approach to bring positive change in this sector by showcasing it. The show was followed by a discussion and question answer session where one of the casting member Afsaruddin Riad said “I’ll be very happy if the local government in all the districts can host programs that involves people living with special needs.”
As United Kingdom’s leading cultural organisation, the British Council has been actively using arts as a tool to develop understanding between different cultural contexts. “A Different Romeo and Juliet” is an unique theatre production that showcases how arts can be used as both an enabler and driver of sustainable development by engaging underprivileged and diverse communities effectively in shaping their own outcomes and supporting open, transparent and stable societies. This ambitious project had to go through a screening of more than 170 people with special needs to finalise the casting of 16 artists representing different social backgrounds in Bangladesh. The participants came from Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP-Bangladesh), Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), and Bangladesh Reform Initiatives for Development, Governance and Empowerment (BRIDGE) and Gram Theatre. The theatre piece was directed by Jenny Sealey who was the artistic director of London Paralympic 2012 opening ceremony and produced by prominent stage and film Director Nasiruddin Yousuff Bachchu from Dhaka Theatre.
Around the world, people with special needs face physical, social, economic and attitudinal barriers that exclude them from participating fully and effectively as equal members of society. National Public Library has partnered with the British Council by offering their spaces in Khulna, Sylhet, Barisal and cox’s Bazar to host these screenings. There are around 1100+ people visited at the two screening. People with disability have also participated in the event which is an inspiration for the casting members. There was an interactive discussion after each event which helped the audience to be aware of the challenges. Through out April and May the film will be further screened in the rest four districts.