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Disability Arts Online

Interview with Maria Oshodi

Close-up of the face of actor Mark Scales, with a strong silhouette on the left of the photo

Mark Scales as Jacques Lusseyran. Photo by Nik Mackey

Writer Maria Oshodi told DAO where her ideas and inspiration for Resistance came from.

I have been reading a few fictional, autobiographical, and philosophical texts by blind writers over the past few years. I was interested in exploring different ideas and experiences of blind people to discover whether there was a potential for bringing these together artistically.

At first I tried to combine several story lines with the work of Jacques Lusseyran, in what I hoped would form one piece for the stage. However, after exploring this approach, I decided to unweave and leave the other story ideas and just focus on adapting the Lusseyran story for the stage. Strangely, in searching for a way to turn the episodic events in the book into a more theatrical narrative, I found that some of the ideas in the other stories I had dropped managed to find their way back in, purely through the telling of the Lusseyran story.

One of my original aims was to develop a narrative style within the play that was akin to an experience of blindness. I realised this was emerging as I concentrated on the task in hand of adapting the autobiography. As the drafts of the play developed, so did the retrospective, fragmented quality within it. And so did my consciousness of this being reflective of the delayed way in which blind people access and piece together information, especially that of the visual world.

Audio-descriptive techniques?
We want the production to build in live access of the visual elements of the play, for visually impaired audiences, delivered by the actors on stage. Usually access for visually impaired audiences happens through technical means, organised externally as an add-on to rehearsals by sighted audio describers situated off-stage and feeding information directly through headsets. However, our aim is to create an accessible piece of theatre for visually impaired audiences, that does not require this interference.

We involved a visually impaired consultancy group during rehearsals to advise on how the access can work in a live context with regards this particular play. So far, the feedback is to keep it as minimal as possible and let the imagination do the work, with a little help here and there. We want to create theatre in which a sighted audience might not even think access was present. However, for a visually impaired audience, a subtle reference is all it needs to make all the difference in understanding of staging etc.

Blind in Theatre
Work in the Blind in Theatre field has just begun. There is potential for challenging, creative and inexpensive accessible theatre performance to be invented, that does not compromise the artistic nature of a piece. It just takes a willingness from mainstream theatre to be open to an alternative approach, which can result in exploration of a new theatrical landscape.

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