So we returned from Bologna 4 weeks ago and I have taken this time to reflect on what we did out there, how it all went and how it was received by those who saw the show.
Firstly what did we do?
We arrived on the Tuesday and spent our time submerging ourselves within the Visioni 2016 festival. The programme was packed full of international work of early years theatre. This was a day to get used to our new surrounding and meet up with friends before the real work began.
Then for the next two days we locked ourselves in a rehearsal room (apart from dinner, a few shows and a social drink of an evening) to continue developing and rehearsing the show that we had started to create a few weeks earlier in London. You can read about that phase HERE
The one thing that became very apparent from watching other shows in the festival was that A Square World was going to be a very different style of show to those programmed. This was at times terrifying and at time liberating. Was our show so far off track or was it new and refreshing?… I was never quite sure.
On the Thursday evening we presented our 1st show to a room full of around 80 international theatre professionals. There were no children in the audience just a sea of critical faces staring at me.
When I started this Research and Development I wanted to achieve a better understanding of the creative potential between Disabled performers and early years audiences by exploring:
- an under 5’s perception
- Integrated access using sound and metaphor/visual/non-verbal techniques
- The wider scope for disability theme shows within early years touring
Yet is was the last point I was most interested in. Is there a need for theatre that addresses issues of disability within early years? does it matter?
This first presentation to the early years theatre makers answered this question instantly. To our surprise the show was received better than I had hoped or expected. Discussions began about the need for this type of story to be told, the importance of this sort of representation on stage. It seems that A Square World had tapped into a gap that needed filling. We were discussing disability in the show without even saying a word.
The following morning we presented the show to a schools audience in the theatre (and a lot of the same International delegates from the previous night, who came to see it again with children in the audience). Now this may seem like an obvious point, but it wasn’t until I started that I realised the audience were Italian. I am very used to presenting work to young audiences and part of the joy is listening to their reactions to what they are watching. You can tell if there engaged, bored or confused, but suddenly I didn’t understand what they were talking about. I wasn’t sure if they were bored, engaged or confused. It wasn’t until afterwards that I found out they were engaged and offering lots of advice on what I should do to make the world better for the main character.
In the afternoon we took the show out of the theatre and into a Kindergarten, now this was no ordinary Kindergarten but a private one that was mind-blowing high tech and beautifully designed within an inch of it’s life. Luckily their shapes of choice were squares and circles! This was a great opportunity to test how the show would work in non-theatre settings (and finally an audience full of only children). Again this was invaluable, as not only did it allow me to continue to refine the story and the performance but also highlighted a few design areas that we will change if the show is to be versatile enough to be presented anywhere.
Finally on the Saturday we presented our final show back at the theatre and this time for a family audience. What this allowed us was to explore what to do at the end of the show, up until then the children had just come up on stage at the end because they wanted to play with the characters and the design and I had been a little unsure of how to manage this. So with this performance I decided to take charge and invite them to come and join me play. this established the rules and meant I was able to manage children and parents alike.
The one thing they all wanted to know was what the ‘magic’ foam was and also if they could take some home.
Our time in Bologna with La Barraca has really helped the development of the show, after just a week there the show has taken on a new life and direction. We now have to finish the show ready for a final presentation in Birmingham in July 2016.
And as you have read this far down… here is a little taster of the R&D presentation from Bologna
I’ll keep you updated with how it continues to develop…..