With two weeks of research and development for new production Playful Tiger now complete, Dance Artist Vince Virr reflects back on his time at Isobel Mair School.
So far, on this huge learning curve, Ellie Griffith has shared with us her experience and knowledge of working with young people with profound autism over the course of two training days. Following this we’ve spent three days trying most of the show out performatively with pupils from Isobel Mair School.
What kept ringing in my mind throughout these days of research was that these children and young people are one of the many audience groups that need access to theatre, and that we as a company are learning what the specific things they like and enjoy. It’s just the same as any of our other shows; know your audience and make it relevant to them. This I find utterly exciting. We, as a company, through our performance experiences with Tiger, Tiger Tale and Poggle and our community engagement work are extremely sensitive to interacting with audiences and participants. What we need, to maximise these sensitivities, specifically for these children and young people, is more experience and a toolkit.
I have found it really difficult to have interactions with one or two of the young people whilst also staying aware of the audience group as a whole. This is extremely frustrating for me as I want to give every audience member a positive, unique dance-theatre experience. I know this will get better through experience; I am impatient for that experience now.
Tiger and Tiger Tale have many aspects that already work for this audience (smells, patterns, materials of the set, colours, dance and music). We just need to work with these to figure out the levels of, and our abilities to control, audience stimulation so the audience gets a real theatrical experience as well as individual interactions.
The research and development has given me a fascinating glimpse into not only how children and young people with profound autism experience the world but also how I do. The assumptions I make when absorbing the world, which leads me to gloss over details and stimulus. I would like to take the time to allow myself to focus on the more sensory aspects of my daily life for a more full experience.
I am sad to be leaving the process early, as I currently feel overwhelmed. This is how I would feel at this stage in any creative process before clarity prevails. I will have to wait until September for that clarity to happen, till then I am so excited for this project and for work to be created for these children and young people.