by guest critic Liam Rees
Birds of Paradise Theatre Company’s The Tin Soldier is a charming and inclusive alternative to the traditional pantomime. As a company specialising in making work with disabled people, it makes sense for the company to have chosen to adapt Hans Christian Andersen’s story as it’s one of the few children’s stories to feature a disabled protagonist.
By a guest reviewer who wishes to remain anonymous:
This adaptation of The Tempest by Kelly Hunter was a one-off performance as part of the Bloomsbury Festival at the Bloomsbury Studio Theatre. Hunter specifically designed this piece to enable children on the autism spectrum to participate in the show with the actors. These children’s parents/carers are invited to sit and watch.
I think this was the most unique Shakespeare productions I’ve seen. Hunter and her excellent cast of six set themselves the challenge of using The Tempest as a means of interacting and helping several young people on the autism spectrum to improve their self expression and communication with each other. Initially, I was uncertain how this would work as, personally, I’ve always found the Tempest a tricky play to follow. As the story progressed I saw that The Tempest actually lends itself perfectly to this kind of devised, interactive theatre. The play of course deals in magic; there’s also a clear physicality to many of the characters and a certain playfulness which allows the actors to introduce the young participants to the world of the play. This was not a full production of the Tempest and nor did it need to be. Considering its aims, the production was undoubtedly a huge success. All of the participants seemed to benefit hugely from playing simplified versions of various scenes from the play with these very experienced stage actors. More importantly they, along with the parents and carers watching, seemed to really enjoy themselves. When the play ended there was a lovely, warm feeling in the room. Everyone seemed enlivened by the experience, adults and children alike.
I sincerely hope that Flute Theatre will continue its success producing this kind of work in the future. It is extremely important and valuable to non-traditional theatregoers.
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