Monday, 9 January 2012

Winter Sparkle

Today I had the privilege of coming to a family session of Bamboozle's Winter Sparkle. It was the installation we had helped prepare back in December when we were working at Bamboozle's Burnmoor St Studios.

Five families attended the session. As seems to be the custom, an opening circle was created next to the igloo installation and a welcoming name song was sung to everyone in the circle, including the artists, carers, pmld participants and their siblings. We were then invited into the igloo, and after an introductory song the siblings were invited to explore the different areas before going to another room to make a special gift for their brother/sister. The parents and pmld children remained in the igloo space where there were distinct inviting spaces each having a particular character to explore. There was a "spa tent" where participants could lush on furs and have hand and foot massages, an icicle igloo with icy lights, silver shiny things and a cold breeze, a bear's tummy cave, which was warm and red and cosy, a larg tong drum on which participants could lay, while musician scats played rythmically (this was a big hit!!!). Additionally participants were individually serenaded with live violin. A number of large bean bags and cushions were placed within the space which enable some participants to come out of their chairs and be moved around the space quite easily. Bamboozle also has it's own wheel chair hoist. For those who were not able to leave their chairs that day - there were icicle and bear's tummy hanging leaf installation that they could sit under with similar effect to being inside one of the caves.

A wonderful appearance by the ice maiden character gave the installation another theatrical dimension, as she visited each participant in turn -her performance was very embodied and expressive although there was no text.

The siblings re-entered the space and presented their gift each in turn and the show closed with a spectacular snow fall. ( I had previously spent two days cutting up all manner of things to create this snow....)

It was a gorgeous experience, relaxed, chatty, beautiful, sensual, aural, ritualistic. I had a lovely time chatting with some of the

Note to Sensorium - get a wheel chair hoist and large beanbags and cushions. Think about effects that can be enjoyed at chair height. Explore the "family" dimension and possibilities of this work back in Australia.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Bamboozle Theatre, Leicester, UK - Francis

Much fun and deep and subtle learning had during our time with Bamboozle Theatre Company in Leicester - in December participating in specialised training with other outside artists from the region, witnessing an access collaboration undertaken with the city's main theatre company, joining the company on a special needs schools tour of their "Jilly & the Jellyfish" show, working on the development of their interactive installation show "Winter Sparkle" for special needs kids and their families, and then returning after the christmas break a couple of days ago to help them mount it and present it to very receptive audiences. An immensely rewarding time for us...

 Co-artistic Director, Christopher Davies, with one of the company's "Wild Things"

Co-artistic director, Sue Pyecroft, with one of her creations

Francis tries out Sue's "snow leopard" at Bamboozle's training day

Michelle and Francis test their "Winter Sparkle" snow-dropping prototype

working on the "campfire" for "Winter Sparkle"

Looking into part of the finished installation of "Winter Sparkle" - a snowy setting, shown here lit by the glow of the campfire in the middle. In the background are the shiny ice-cave igloo and the polar bear's warm red tummy - two of the several sensory "stations" for kids to hang out in. Furs, fleeces and sheepskins lay on top of large cushions and bean-bags and act as a meeting place for audience and neutral zone in between sensory experiences

an audience member delights in the sparkly sensations of the ice-cave as a cool fan blows crunchy "ice floes" across her body

an audience member is visited by the ice maiden as she lies atop a large tong drum that is being played by a musician, sending the vibrations of the polar bear's tummy all through her body

everybody snuggles under rugs in the snow around the campfire

Much food for thought - about the happy absence of intense narratives in this sort of theatre, the quality of sensory experiences we'd like to provide in the future (see michelle's more detailed blog description of "Winter Sparkle"), the incredibly valuable place of live music, the element of the "unknowable" that is part of working with these kinds of audiences, and the hard-to-describe intensely rewarding nature of creating this sort of work. (Not to mention a whole raft of practical considerations, like some of the equipment we'd eventually like to aquire). Chris' training really got me thinking about being cautious with value-judgements - of the kids' reactions, of our own artistic intentions, of uneccessarily creating hierarchies of the various senses... Difficult to articulate right now, but I think my time with these theatre companies has me contemplating whether the "mystery" surrounding our absolute understanding of profoundly disabled kids' experience of their environment is kind of similar to the impossible-to-define nature of "creativity" - it's "felt" rather than spoken - and you definitely know when it feels "right"...  I am leaving Leicester inspired - and excited about Sensorium's future. It's a wonderful feeling as an artist when you can see so many potential avenues for your creativity stretching out into the future!