I was lucky enough recently, to be allowed to observe a day during, “Creating with the Cart 2019”, the annual six day summer school run by Oily Cart Theatre and supported by Rose Bruford College, for all those interested in making sensory performance work, for and with young people with complex needs.
Those taking part come from all over the world and included artists, practitioners, facilitators, educators, performers, art and drama therapists, parents and carers. During the course, the participants gain a broad understanding of the company’s interactive and sensory approach and put theory into practise with a group of young people at Linden Lodge, a specialist sensory and physical college in London. This is a unique and lovely place set in an old house with sunny gardens and many brilliant facilities. It educates visually impaired children aged between two and nineteen, including those who are multi-disabled visually impaired.
The course lasts for a week, during which those taking part develop a piece of sensory performance work, culminating in a final performance.
There is a fee to attend the course, and there is also the offer of four bursaries for D/deaf and disabled artists and practitioners to attend.
Over the years, this brilliant course has led to inspiring international collaborations, and embedded sensory practise in the creation of much new work all round the world.
On my visit, the day started with a creative and inspiring movement class led by dance teacher, Debbie Bandara AD of Forest Tribe Theatre, then the participants in their four groups, went to different rehearsal places to work on the performance pieces they had been developing.
I observed the three tutors, – Oily Cart’s Artistic Director, Ellie Griffiths, – Jeremy Harrison, Postgraduate Director of Rose Bruford College, – and Debbie Bandara of Forest Tribe Dance Theatre, move in and out of the groups, offering suggestions and ideas, asking questions and raising the artistic bar. I was completely inspired by their skill in encouraging the groups to challenge their artistry and grow their thinking. They helped create a wonderful atmosphere of trust where ideas could be created and examined and where story-telling underlined everything.
Each of the four groups had been given a theme, so we there was water, music, a piece of poetry, and an area , -a wooden sun house in the gardens. As their stories developed, the Designer on the project found appropriate items of costume, musical instruments, differently textured objects, paper and cardboard etc. to help build the theatricality and the sensorary dimension. Truth was important to ensure the dramas had integrity. The rhythm of each piece was considered in order to address pace and shape. Characters were explored and refined and empathy developed as individuals grew in trust and generosity towards each other.
After lunch, the children were brought in their wheel chairs by their faithful and loving carers, to three groups of performers, and the actors tried out their pieces. The fourth group stayed in situ to perform to children in day beds.
The actors were able to discover how the children’s responses influenced the action; they were able to try out ideas; make mistakes; hatch ideas for improvement, whilst all the time building their confidence in performing for young people with mixed complex needs.
Attached to each group was a student from the wonderful TYA MA course at Rose Bruford, who filmed their performances and the end of the afternoon there was a coming together and a showing of each piece, so everyone had a chance to see each other’s work, with reflections from the tutors and from each other.
The whole day was beautifully thought-through and organised, with clarity, gentleness, rigour and a great sense of fun.
I’m sure the children had very good experiences and it was wonderful to watch their individual engagement.
Well done to all involved.
***** Highly recommended as a course for those of you who would like to include this awareness in your work but are not sure how to.
To find out more, please contact:
Theatre for Young Audiences MA/MFA: Jeremy Harrison, MA Programme Director email@example.com
Debbie Bandara firstname.lastname@example.org
Linden Lodge School: www.lindenlodge.wandsworth.sch.uk