Paula’s story: my life with Cerebral Palsy told on stage

When Paula Rees was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy back in the 1970s, doctors told her parents there was little hope of her ever learning or understanding anything. Convinced the experts were wrong, Paula’s parents fought for her to experience the same opportunities as everyone else.

Paula Rees poet with cerebral palsyAgainst all odds, it emerged that Paula could not only understand what went on around her, but was able to express her own thoughts through poetry.

Now the writer in residence at Chickenshed, an inclusive theatre company in north London, Paula has been working with Chickenshed’s founders Mary Ward and Jo Collins on a musical dramatisation of her life.

Paula’s Story tells of an incredible journey of love, courage and commitment to the belief that every human being has the right to be nurtured. It tells of the magical breakthrough moment when Paula communicated with her mother for the first time, and the discovery of Paula’s talent as a poet, writer and lyricist.

“Watching my story performed by very committed people who believe in it, is the most moving experience and one which I feel privileged to have,” says Paula. “I know that professionals have been judging me from the day I was born – with my family being judged even more. My life and humanity for them ended on their first judgement, but I am still here.

“My family have brought me through everything – hurdle by hurdle, barrier by barrier, sadness by sadness – I owe them this story. It is far more a tribute to them, than me.”

A musical scene from Paula's Story
A scene from Paula’s Story

Paula’s Story is a powerful dramatic production which explores the basic human right for all individuals to be acknowledged for what they can do. Paula says she feels society looks at her in a very different way to the way she views herself.

“Here is society’s view about some of the important things that I can’t do:

  • I can’t move and so I can’t think.
  • I can’t talk and so I can’t communicate.
  • I can’t feed myself or dress myself. (People always say this. They always say it as if it’s important. I have never understood it, the importance of it I mean).

“Now here is my view about the important things I would like people to say about me:

  • I can move enough to write lyrics which are put to music and become what some people say are beautiful.
  • I can express myself in words I spell out so clearly – letter by letter – step by step – so I can communicate, if people are open to it.
  • Talk is not communication. Communication is communication.”

    Paula Rees in performance
    Paula in performance

Paula’s Story opens at the Chickenshed Theatre on 30 April and runs until 17 May. As a special offer to Scope followers, all tickets for 30 April, 2 and 3 May will be just £5. After that the concession rate of £8 will be charged. To book tickets go to the Chickenshed website or telephone 020 8292 9222. (18001 020 8292 9222 Typetalk) Please quote ‘Scope ticket offer’.