Fiercely independent Jessica’s last night of freedom is far from what any of us could imagine.
This is the story behind Hen Night, a powerful new film that explores the reality of living with a disability in the UK during the pandemic. Written and directed by Vici Wreford-Sinnott (an Associate Artist with ARC), inspired by the book Crippled by award-winning journalist and author Frances Ryan and starring disabled actor and screenwriter Nicola Chegwin it is one of the first ever pieces of disabled-women-led British broadcasting to reach our screens.
When it first appeared on BBC iPlayer in September, it was heralded as ‘a landmark moment in broadcasting’ by the Guardian and a ‘fiercely urgent piece of television’ by Disability Arts Online.
Now, you can watch it for free on YouTube.
“This is such a brilliant opportunity to both celebrate the creative talents of disabled women and also highlight the inequalities which exist in society for disabled people,” says Vici. “Disabled women in particular have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but also significantly and historically excluded from the country’s cultural landscape. Our stories have been hidden for too long, which is why it is a joy to work with both Frances and Nicola who also champion the visibility of disabled people and our experiences.”
About Hen Night
It’s Friday 13 March 2020, and this solo piece features fiercely independent Jessica, a young disabled woman, who is training to be a teacher and dreaming of being a writer. The global pandemic is emerging and budget cuts are being made and the threat of a first lockdown looms.
We first meet Jessica as she returns home from a ‘rush job’ hen night under threat of an imminent lockdown. Her ‘last night of freedom’ is far from what she, or any of us could imagine, as she is told her care package is to be cut, turning the independent life she has worked so hard for upside down. As her story unfolds, we see the extraordinary mix of pride and vulnerability, and the fight that comes when you want to hold on to your independence and dignity.
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About the Hen Night Creative Team
Writer and director Vici Wreford-Sinnott has been a leading figure in the UK disability arts movement for many years. She is the founding Artistic Director of Little Cog, a disabled-led theatre company, and co-founder of disabled artist-led collective Disconsortia and co-founder of Cultural Shift at ARC Stockton – a strategic artistic platform for disabled artists – all based in her beloved North East of England. Her theatre work has toured nationally and internationally, and she is regularly a key note speaker on the subjects of disability, representation and performance.
Nicola Chegwin is a disabled actor and screenwriter, based in the North West of England. She has appeared in a number of film, television and theatre productions, starring on the Emmerdale ident for the past three years, along with her real-life family. She is soon to be seen as Livvie in the short film Ampudate. She will be playing the part of Helen in Laurence Clark’s new play Cured, when it debuts at Liverpool Royal Court Theatre, before a nationwide tour. After training for two years at drama school, she went on to complete an MA in Screenwriting for Film at University Salford, graduating with merit. She writes under her married name, Nicola Pennicott-Hall.
Frances Ryan is an award-winning journalist and author of the critically acclaimed book Crippled. Commended at the National Press Awards and shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, she is a Guardian columnist and reporter. Her writing has been an important influence on Hen Night which was created from an original idea by Ryan and Wreford-Sinnott.
Photo Credit: Hen Night, starring Nicola Chegwin. Photograph: Rhys Fagan
Photo Text: Actor Nicola Chegwin is pictured in a film still from Hen Night, playing the solo lead part of Jessica. Nicola is a young white woman with long blond hair. She is wearing a large oversized pale pink cardigan and pyjamas. She is seated at a desk which is out of shot, but we can see her crutch is leaning against it next to her. She is talking, and looking into the camera quizzically.