Creative access is a way to make your work accessible to as many people as possible while still maintaining creative integrity. For me this means that access is one of the first things I think about, often it steers the creative vision of a piece. Access opens up a world of possibilities for me in the creative journey of a show, it’s so strange to think of working without it. I’ve not invented this concept, companies like Graeae have been using creative access and exploring the aesthetics of access for years. At Taking Flight we are still the relatively new kids on the block ( we’ve just had our 10th Birthday), but what really excites me is that now it seems like a lot more people are interested in making accessible theatre and are coming to us for advice. Last week I was privileged for work in Folkestone with LAStheatre, director Barra Collins and the creatives involved in the R&D process for ‘Lovewright’. What a team, such talented individuals. Musicians, actors, aerialists, circus performers, puppeteers, vocalists to name a few of the skills I witnessed during the few days I was there.
The piece is largely non verbal and in this respect accessible for D/deaf audiences however Barra wanted to explore how using stylised gesture, mime and some basic (iconic) signs might enhance the experience for all. Let’s be clear on this – I’m not a BSL interpreter. I am a theatre director who can run a bilingual rehearsal space and I have worked with a lot of Deaf performers and the shows I make for Taking Flight integrate BSL, VV, captions and audio description. As a company we have done a lot of research among deaf audiences about different forms of access.
During this particular process we were exploring different ways to approach access in order to work out what suited this production and these performers best. The next stage is to work with D/deaf audiences to get feedback about any gaps in provision, anything that was confusing and anything that worked so it can be integrated into the next stage.
With ‘Lovewright’ the focus is on the visual, the characters are highly visual and the aerial elements are breath taking, the music is already taking shape and sounding great and the puppet cat will melt some hearts. I just picked up on places where access could be improved, suitable of the target audience and suggested some creative ways to do this. The performers were so receptive and after 2 days were already starting to notice the gaps in access for themselves and suggesting solutions…and that is the really exciting moment for me. The more people engage there ‘access heads’ when making work in the early stages the closer we are to moving away from the culture of access as an ‘add on’.
For this R and D we focused on access for D/deaf audiences, but as a highly visual piece there needs to be considerations for blind and partially sighted audiences as well and I know Barra is keen to explore creative ways to work with this as well.
I’m really looking forward to the next stage of development.
This project is supported by: