Photography by Cathy Pyle

"Dancers Isolte Avila and David Bower added beauty and emotional resonance to Hotspur and Pierrot Lunaire respectively, in minimalist, intense settings directed and designed by Sara Brodie... formidAbility has already unearthed something of great promise for opera’s future. It has also created new problems of stagecraft to solve. But musical and visual quality are already there, along with a remarkable ensemble feel. Exciting."

Charlotte Valori, MY THEATRE MATES


"And that is at the heart of why these two, seemingly so different pieces, work so well together: both challenge what the forms of opera and dance can do together, and show that Grimeborn is one of the most exciting theatre festivals of the summer."

Scott Matthewman, THE REVIEWS HUB


"But magic there often was in Roughton-Arnold’s vocalising, ranging from the most delicate sliding between pitches and most hushed of consonants – jewels of musical noise in themselves – to grim violence."

Edward Bhesania, THE STAGE

Extraordinary things happen when we see the human talent and skill, not the disability.


Our first production merged opera with Signdance and the Rationale Method of audio description for the first time, opening this extraordinary art form to a whole new audience.


Heartfelt thankss to all our supporters who helped us take our ground-breaking double-bill of Hotspur and Pierrot Lunaire to the 2019 Grimeborn Festival.

A newcomer to the British opera scene, formidAbility is breaking new ground in accessibility and inclusion for those with disabilities, both onstage and off. Co-founder Joanne Roughton-Arnold, who also sings in both operas, is already known to London audiences from her work with Opera Holland Park, and her one-woman commission for Grimeborn in 2016, Iris Dreaming. Originally from NZ and with a background as a professional violinist, to label Roughton-Arnold as exciting is an understatement. She single-handedly commissions, produces, fundraises and sings projects of astonishing emotion and vision. With a mass of wild copper curls and an arresting belly laugh, her energy is positively atomic.


Her own visual impairment has never curbed her own ambitions and vision as an opera singer and producer, and formidAbility formalises her work into an incorporated non-profit company which puts accessibility at the heart of the creative process, rather than adding it as an afterthought, and collaborates with the world’s foremost artists working for or with disability.


For Hotspur / Pierrot Lunaire, Roughton-Arnold shares the stage with Signdance Collective International artists Isolte Avila and David Bower (perhaps best known for his role in Four Weddings and a Funeral), and also incorporates imaginative live audio description from leading practitioners Rationale Method, pre-concert touch tours and braille translations for the audience. Sara Brodie, one of New Zealand’s leading directors and choreographers, joins forces with London-based Australian conductor, Scott Wilson, to create this ground-breaking new production.


Creating opera that is


Joanne Roughton-Arnold rehearsing with David Bower as Pierrot

In collaboration with

We gratefully acknowledge support from

Friends of formidAbility

Paul Arnold

Mary Ensor

Patricia Goodson

Jennifer Moates

Rachel Robinson

The Webb Family Charitable Trust

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