Combining Kazzumâ€™s ability to create high quality inclusive playful theatre and Slung Lowâ€™s technological â€˜know-howâ€™ to make adventures for audiences outside of conventional theatre spaces, the Unlimited research and development commission Whereâ€™s My Nana? showcased at DaDaFest. Review by Liz Porter.
It was great to catch Nickie Wildin’s ‘Where’s my Nana?’ at DaDaFest this year. The plot is simple; a young girl has lost her Nana and she calls upon the audience to become ‘Nana Seekers’ to help her find her and on the way she meets lots of different characters (played by Deaf and disabled actors) who tell her things about her Nana that she didn’t know.
This gentle multi-sensory young family show is a promenade performance with real potential. It incorporates pre-recorded music live performance over headphones and live performance from actors. The company uses a mixture of BSL and spoken narrative to tell the story and use the spaces of the buildings and the locations as an integral part of the experience.
At DaDaFest we were at the Bluecoat and part of the trail took in bits of the ‘Art of Lived Experiment’ exhibition. We stopped under Tony Heaton’s splendid Gold Lamé and the ‘young girl’ encourages the audience to discuss the sculpture: an invacar sprayed gold and suspended in the air. As we carried on the interactive discovery trail we were asked to take part in a series of activities for all the family to engage with.
Family audiences will gain a lot about access by moving around with the disabled performers and experiencing a bilingual show. However, it did feel as if the script was still in development. I'm not sure how I feel about the portrayal of the blind flower seller, it felt a bit stereotyped and outdated, but I do get the need for diverse representation in the company. I guess it's about finding balance. There is a happy ending, the 'young girl' finds out where Nana is, I wasn't sure if an actual 'real Nana' appeared (couldn't see one). I hope so as this maybe important to young audience members.
There is scope to play with the locations more and perhaps this is where tensions around access could be explored? The routes do need to be wheelchair accessible, but perhaps the ‘Nana Seekers’ could encounter a few barriers along the way stop and think about solutions.
The company did their best to access me as a visually-impaired person, but it was a bit of a struggle to make a flower whilst wearing headphones (sound quality very good, but blocked out some of the outside sounds that I needed to navigate the space), carrying a white cane and a bag on one arm. I’ve enough sight to follow, but a bit more orientation around the space would have helped especially as lighting and underfoot changes occur as frequently as they do at the Bluecoat.
I enjoy immersive theatre and how it can engage with buildings and their history. There is imaginative scope for the company to adapt the show to each site they work in and an opportunity to expand the use of creative access with a little more emphasis on creative description and touch, too.
I’d like to see Unlimited commissioning more family experiences. The recent Unlimited festival at the Southbank Centre lacked this aspect. As we were talking a lot at DaDaFest about how to engage with younger people there is need to find interesting pieces of work to draw a family audience.
Kazzum looks at ways of moving accessible children’s and young people’s theatre forwards. Please click on this link to check out their website. They’ve got some really interesting projects in the pipeline.