An unusual theatre hazard!

Anyone who has ever worked in theatre, whether amateur or professional, knows that there can be a lot of hazards involved. Backstage you’ll find many things that might come down on your head, or that you might trip over.

But members of The Arcadians, based in Birmingham, also have something slightly more unusual to think about, in their forthcoming production of Sweeney Todd – something furry and canine, in the form of guide dog Benny.

Benny is there to keep a watchful eye on Helen Rourke, who is one of the performing members of the society. She joined The Arcadians in 1988 when she still had sight but had been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition for which there is no cure.  Helen explained: “I was registered blind when I was 19, but I was determined not to give up my passion, which is performing on stage. The members have come to know how to help me and are always there to lend a hand when needed – although most of the time it is my mother Stella who makes sure that I get on stage safely”.  She adds: “I believe that I am the only blind person appearing in amateur musicals in the Midlands, if not the whole country”

Show director James Garrington said: “We’re very happy to include Helen in our productions. Her determination has meant that she has been able to appear in over 50 musicals and concerts – and you can be sure of at least one person who will have learnt their words!”

He added: “It is marvellous how well Helen copes: she is able to do almost everything we ask of her, and she has even been able to take some principal roles. I doubt if anyone in the audience even notices. Of course, Benny is no trouble either. He just lies quietly on his blanket in the corner and doesn’t bother anyone – though he’d better keep out of Sweeney Todd’s barber shop if he wants to keep his whiskers!”

Sweeney Todd’s Barber Shop will be open for business at the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham from 3 – 7 May. If you would like more information about the show or you would like to book tickets you can contact the Crescent box office on 0121 643 5858 or online at You can find The Arcadians online at, and The ArcadiansMTC on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information contact show director James Garrington on 07715 686116 or email

Helen and Benny
Helen with Guide Dog Benny


Waiting for Helen
Benny Waiting for Helen


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