19 June 2014
Peter Faventi of Stratford Circus’s Blue Sky Actors and associate artist at Face Front Inclusive Theatre Company, with Ramira Arts Collective present: No Barriers with Barriers a striking site-specific play performing at Rowans Bowling Alley, in the heart of Finsbury Park London. Sophie Partridge went along to find that access barriers are still grossly misunderstood…
It’s MANY Moons since I was at a Bowling Alley, watching my brother play and when I arrived at Rowans, confronted by a staircase – I thought it was gonna be a good few more!
I was aware that the piece was site-specific and therefore, access is often a challenge. Steps, ramps – even evacuation chairs had been mentioned before-hand but in my naivety, once I had clarified that I use a small but heavy power-chair, I assumed all would be well; particularly as the cast is inclusive of disabled performers in the piece. Surely what’s acceptable as access AND WHAT IS NOT, would be understood…?
Unfortunately, it seems access is still something open to a very `wide’ interpretation. The producers considered my being carried up stairs on an evac’ chair whilst my most precious `chair was manhandled up separately, acceptable access. I don’t!
To be honest, it’s a long time since I’ve found myself in such a situation and I was unsure what to do. My Social Model guru shouted “Don’t Do It Partridge” whilst waving an `Everybody Out’ placard but my slimey, Medical one, whispered “Ah but you CAN, can’t you Pixie; you can fit in someone’s pocketsys! My Preciousss...”
Alas Gollum’s prevailing whine plus the forlorn and embarrassed looks on everyone’s faces, along-side apologies, won out. That plus the fact that I was really keen to see the show and the bar was up-stairs! I slipped on the ring of temptation and onto a sofa (with the aid of my PA), then up the stairs (I drew the line at using the Evac-chair) whilst my `chair was magicked up stairs by 6 blokes.
Once up in the parallel universe of the bowling alley, with my glass of Rescuing Rose and pondering the so-called Legacy of 2012, I then realised the loo was back down stairs! Probably my just deserts for shafting those who couldn’t have `accessed’ the show in that way, nor should have to.
“But what about the show Sophie?” I er.. very much enjoyed it! The inclusive cast included several actors who have performed with FaceFront and the story revolved around 2 opposing teams and a 3rd, find themselves in the competition after some miscommunication (ahem!).
Interspersed with factoids about bowling, characters got to tell their own stories of triumph and tragedy in the alleys. All with a live game going on and very atmospheric with music blaring through the speakers.
The piece was ambitious and I did feel that, in some of the movement pieces, there wasn’t perhaps enough awareness of all the ensemble members; elements needed to be at a pace where everyone can show skill, not just the non-disabled performers.
It was interesting how some `diversities’ were hinted at, such as girls fancying girls but there were no specific `disabled’ or `ethnic’ characters, rightly or wrongly, yet several actors were from those communities.
All in all, despite the many barriers I encountered to `Barriers without Barriers’ I do recommend this show, once it’s REALLY accessible!
No Barriers with Barriers continues until 30 June. Please click on this link to go to Dao's listings pages for more information