According to Greek legend, the three Graeae sisters shared an eye and a single tooth. When Perseus stole them, the sisters revealed how to kill the Medusa, but he broke his oath and threw away their life source. The Graeae ethos is grounded in working together and sharing resources.
Graeae was founded in 1980 by Nabil Shaban and Richard Tomlinson. Having met at college in Coventry, creating productions involving disabled people, their shared vision was to dispel images of defencelessness, together with prejudices and popular myths, around disabled people… through theatre, workshops and training.
By May 1980, a company of disabled performers was established to perform the first ever Graeae play Sideshow.
Writing in Disability, Theatre and Education in 1982, Richard Tomlinson said ‘The story (of the Graeae) appealed to both of us. We were happy to concoct morals on the subject of disabled people supporting each other.’
Since 1980, Graeae has achieved an international reputation as a pioneer of accessibility in world-class theatre, with the original impetus of its founders still at its very core.
Nabil Shaban remains a patron of the company.
Jenny Sealey joined Graeae as Artistic Director in 1997; she directs all productions and has also designed a select number – including Kaite O’Reilly’s ‘peeling’ and Sarah Kane’s Blasted.
Jenny is fuelled by her passion to find a new theatrical voice across the ‘aesthetics of access’ (sign language and audio description, diverse physicality and differing voices etc), from the very beginning of the artistic process.
Co-productions include Flower Girls by Richard Cameron with New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, Static by Dan Rebellato with Suspect Culture, and new street arts venture Against the Tideand The Garden with Strange Fruit, an Australian sway pole company. Recent productions include Signs of a Diva by Nona Shepphard and a new musical Reasons to be Cheerful (inspired by Ian Dury songs) by Paul Sirett, both with Theatre Royal Stratford East. Jenny has an MBE for services to disability arts.