Four-legged visitor for Othellos

above: Olly and the Burgess Hill Othellos class. SUS-151206-111545001
above: Olly and the Burgess Hill Othellos class. SUS-151206-111545001

Ariel Company Theatre’s Othellos, which is tailored for children with special educational needs, meets every Saturday at Oakmeeds Community College in Burgess Hill to learn and experience all aspects of performing arts.

Recently they had a very special four-legged visitor in the form of two year old chocolate Labradoodle, Olly. Olly’s visit was the brainchild of Othellos tutor Matt Godfrey, who felt that the students would really benefit from an Animal Therapy session.

Workshops such as these have been shown to be a great success for people with learning difficulties, providing an enjoyable sensory experience and an opportunity to explore through texture and sound. The students actively worked with Olly, a trained dog, giving him commands such as sit, stay, and roll-over and then rewarded him with treats. Matt said “the students really enjoyed the opportunity of giving the instructions to Olly and were delighted when he reacted to their wishes; it was beaming smiles all round!

They learnt a lot about interacting with animals and training them for the stage or at home, overall the animal therapy session was a huge success”. In the Othellos classes, students are supported by Ariel Academy ‘Buddies’. The Ariel Buddies are students of all ages who commit to helping and building close bonds with the Othellos who have a range of special educational needs from being wheelchair-bound to having conditions such as Downs Syndrome, Asperger’s and Autism. For children of all abilities, drama is a very inclusive activity requiring teamwork and developing a whole range of skills. For more information on Ariel’s Othellos classes which are run at the Burgess Hill, Crawley and East Grinstead academies call 01444 250407 or visit the Ariel website at

Report and pictures contributed by Ariel Company Theatre