Today we journeyed to Sudbury in East Anglia to watch a sensory storytelling session with pmld kids at the Hillside Special School at the invitation of Lucy Garland (Seeing Beyond). www.seeing-beyond.co.uk
Lucy was a colleague of Amber’s who is now based in Norwich.
Under the Sea was a new show that Lucy developed and performed with another colleague Kimberly Moore. The school had “bought” the show for the day and Lucy and Kim set up and performed 3 shows in the space of a day. Lucy and Kim were given lists of names but little other information about the children who were attending. In this case there had not been pre-show preparation.
It was fantastic to see the show and observe the children’s reactions – who obviously loved the show. The show was based around a simple narrative of a young girl, trapped in a hot and smoky city who longs to see the sea – she follows the seagulls who take her to the seaside where she dives in and then is helped by a jellfish who advises her to go inside a bubble and journey deeper under the water.
Observations – Lucy began the show with a simple song that enabled each child to be named and greeted. Pretty much each line of the narrative was accompanied by a-hands on sensory experience. The 2 hander enabled also some visual storytelling to continue while objects and experiences were handled by each child so that there was an alternative focus for children who were not involved in the hands-on experience at the time. Music was also key within the show – with original songs being sung to highlight each point of the narrative. These songs tended to continue while the children were experiencing different elements of the show. After each sensory experience the story point was repeated before moving the story forward. Eg: Tamara jumped into the water with a splash – then all the children had the opportunity to experience the water mister on their face and hands – after the circle had been completed – the story point was repeated by the performers – Tamara jumped into the water with a splash.
Lucy had experimented with a shadow screen which was a great device for changing scenery and bringing objects out of from behind the screen to the children. She had assembled some wonderful objects and effects – including a section under black light with a glowing fluro coral reef. The children then got to experience the coral reef through the device of a hoop which had tied on fluro material strips that were illuminated by a small black light torch. This was a magical effect. There was also a bowl of glowing sea anemone type balls which each child got to handle. The jellyfish was created using a clear umbrella fringed by long threads which was big enough for each child and a carer to sit within. There was a lovely scene behind the shadow screen which utilised a laser pen and a battery operated fibre optic lamp.
Shadow sillehoutes were used to create a city scape, seagulls flying and various kinds of fishes. These worked really well. I particularly enjoyed the effect of the fishes swimming further and closer with the use of a specific torch behind them. The screen itself had been created by making a small stand up frame with an insertable pull down blind and a overhead projector behind it. Again this was interesting as we had talked about utilising shadow puppetry and screen in our work.
The school itself seemed to be an interesting place and a shame we didn’t get to finish our tour with the deputy Gail. I was particularly struck by their use of a “ Reference Object” outside each door – eg: a wooden cooking spoon on the Kitchen room. Apparently the thinking behind this – is that for some children having a object with a particular smell, feel and look conveys more powerfully the purpose of the room – than a drawn object - which for some kids always looks, feels and smells like paper (or laminated paper). The child then has a matching object in a special bag that hangs on the back of their chair and matches their object with the door object when they go to enter a particular room.
In walking and talking with the deputy I was also struck by how progressive their approach was in general and this would support the students to experience new things. In the case of Lucy’s sensory storytelling – it was her third visit to the school – and none of the children seemed overly disturbed by the turning off the lights to experience the uV scenes or other events that I might of expected some children to have adverse reactions to.