This summer, with support from the Without Walls Blueprint commission, we undertook further R&D on technical and artistic adjustments needed to adapt the work to an outdoor setting.
We started in June with our original team and dived deeper into the relationship between the two characters looking at how the focus of an outdoor audience can be kept for the more delicate parts of the storyline. We took a visual approach to representing the characters’ journey through metaphors and movement whilst exploring other visual ways and elements of the design in order to frame the story within an outdoor setting.
We began by taking our initial narrative and splitting it into scenes, giving each a title and then exploring the narrative, characters, power balance and emotional journey in abstract ways. Each performer (Maiya Leeke and Rosy Roberts) then created a series of short video clips that expressed their own characters journey. This visual and metaphorical approach to dramaturgy highlighted several issues within the narrative, such as reputation and how the Disabled character was being portrayed. This has really helped shape our future thinking and approach the the show.
During this phase we also worked with composer, Gareth Cutter, to explore music/soundtrack sketches to accompany each scene to highlight the dynamics of the characters relationship.
Here are the abstract results, along with a movement piece created over zoom (as we all do these days!)
Within this creative research we also worked with Designer, Jon Van Beek, to focus and explore how the show can include the audience throughout with audience interactions and engagements but also through how the final work will be framed within an outdoor context, such as location, where the audience are placed and what we need to do to ensure they feel part of the intimate world of the show.
The audience experience, both creatively and accessibility, has become a key factor in the overall design of the piece, to ensure the audience feel a part of this intimate production. Therefore we’re planning to create a bespoke and inclusive audience seating area, that builds a relationship between watching the show and what is happening on stage. Also ensuring that disabled audience members do not have to sit and watch from a segregated ‘viewing area’ but can sit any where they wish.
This commission also allowed us to provide the training needed for the performers and creative team (Disabled or not), to further our understanding in how to make acrobatics and acrobalance training more inclusive in the long term.
We knew that the biggest barrier we faced was a lack of training/skills for Disabled artists within circus/acrobatics. Therefore we provided a 3 day intensive training course, led collaboratively by Rick Rodgers and Lina Johansson. Our focus was how being a wheelchair-user can be an advantage within Acrobalance, up-skilling acrobatic performance skills and the creation of new Disabled-led dynamic adaptations to acrobalance/circus skills.
A great result of this training resulted in the exploring how Disabled performers are perceived not to be taking a ‘passive’ role in the process.
“You probably haven’t seen many wheelchair users make these shapes, and I enjoy that! Yes I do still need my wheelchair very much but this week I’ve learnt new ways to make sure I’m the one in control” Kate Stanford
Throughout the training residency new ideas and approaches we discovered have already began to influence the shape of the future production.
The next step on our journey is to have the show ready and available for touring from spring 2022!
Photo’s by Emily Nicholl