Saturday, October 15, 2022

Thaw – inclusive theatre for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities (Replay Theatre)

Thaw sees a group of six intrepid adventurers join an expedition to repair a piece of advanced machinery that might slow the melting of the glaciers and begin to reverse the climate crisis. But under the surface there be another more personal quest that is driving Professor Julia Anjo’s journey.

Her team of interdisciplinary scientists and documentarians steer cushioned wooden sleds through the icy landscape as the young theatregoers watch the northern lights in the sky above them, meet some of the animals, and hear the stories of the place and the people that accompany them. Watch out for snowballs, feathery fowl and indigenous cultures that may know better than the western explorers.

Replay Theatre’s Thaw creates a very personal, at times one-on-one, theatrical experience for the participants and their interns (teachers, assistants or parents). Gliding around in the cocoon-like sleds, propelled back and forth so smoothly it’s exciting but never fearful, wrapped in soft blankets, with sensory lights, calming music and lots of time and space to adapt the performance to help the audience to enjoy the show.

Thaw has been developed for the enjoyment of children with profound and multiple learning disabilities. With a spare space in a sled on the show I attended at The MAC, from my laid-back vantage point I could watch with admiration as the cast tailored the environment and their performances for their audience. The intentional inclusivity along with the patience and tender approach was awe-inspiring.

For some in the audience, the motion and the auditory and visual stimulation may make the strongest memory. Others may recall the scientists who face up to fears or learn to listen. Some of us will remember the soft snowball hitting us and the sense that something rather wonderful was happening in the lives of young people for whom theatre is rarely a welcoming place.

Thaw is performed by Adam Dougal, Christopher Grant, Brona Jackson, Michael Johnston, Rosie McClelland and Mary McGurk. Written by Fionnuala Kennedy and directed by Andrew Stanford. Having trekked through Omagh, Derry and Belfast, this season’s tour of Thaw finishes next week in Armagh’s Market Place Theatre. Contact the team at Replay in you want to check to see if there are still free places that your school or your child could take up.

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