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Southbank’s Head of Performance and Dance, Wendy Martin, talks DAO through the nine Unlimited 2014 commissions

image with the artist Katherine Araniello in six different guises

The Dinner Party. Image (c) Katherine Araniello

Katherine Araniello: The Dinner Party Revisited
Katherine is caustically funny and irreverent, and plays with all the stereotypes of disability to show the truth from her perspective. Her truth is hard hitting and in your face, but she’s also got a brilliant comic imagination. In this piece she plays all six guests at a dinner party. A butler, her assistant and her Chihuahua are also on stage. It’s not easy for her to tour. So the performance in the Purcell Room is also going to be relayed to another London venue simultaneously through a live link. If it works, the show could actually tour the world with Katherine remaining at the same venue in London. It’s quite pioneering.

Julie McNamara: Let Me Stay
Julie is a really beautiful writer. This piece is about her mother’s Alzheimer’s, which is something that is touching so many of us now. It’s something I’ve been through myself with my stepfather. But Julie is trying to present a different way of seeing it. She shows us that it doesn’t have to be a negative road that you’re treading down.

Jo Bannon: Exposure
This is a really interesting one-on-one experience, which is something we haven’t had in Unlimited before. It’s about identity – how we perceive ourselves, and how others perceive us. You go into a dark space on your own with her, and what she does in that dark space confronts you with… I don’t want to talk too much about it and ruin the experience. But it’s a very simple, clean, clear piece that questions our ways of seeing.

Chisato Minamimura: Ring the Changes
Chisato is a dancer whose performances are very well known through her work with Candoco. Her choreographic interest is in exploring the possibilities for dance from the perspective of being deaf. People often ask her how she responds to music as a deaf person. So she’s working with a collective called body>data>space, investigating the relationship between sound and movement. She’s set herself this wonderful challenge of exploring the world of sound through being deaf. I’m really looking forward to seeing how she rises to that.

Ian Johnson and Gary Gardiner: Dancer
Adrian Howells, who sadly died a few months ago, found a way in theatre to tell very personal and intimate stories. Ian, who has a learning disability, and Gary worked with him on this piece, which is really a celebration of the love of dance. Neither are trained dancers. It also asks questions – at what point does what you’re doing on stage make you a professional, and why is somebody untrained less valuable than a professional if they've got something important to say?

Birds of Paradise/Random Accomplice: Wendy Hoose
The thing that’s exciting about Wendy Hoose is that we don’t often see stories about the sexual desires of disabled people. These guys are saying: we are sexual beings. It’s set on a Friday night and, just like everybody else (well maybe not everybody!), really all they want to do is get laid. There’s a lot of naughty fun this year amongst the shows that are exploring serious issues.

Fittings Multimedia: Edmund the Learned Pig
It’s so right to have a work specifically for kids. This is a piece inspired by sideshow, and based on an unpublished poem by Edward Gorey. Martin Jacques from the Tiger Lillies has a very particular style so it’ll be interesting to see how people respond to it. It’s set in a circus where Mr Memory can’t remember anything and the aerial artist is too terrified to get up on the rope – along comes Edmund the Learning Pig and shows everyone how to get it right. Their goal from the outset has been totally BSL so that it’s fully accessible for deaf kids.

Jess Thom and Jess Mabel Jones: Backstage in Biscuit Land
Jess Thom has become really quite well known in the comedy circuit. She has Tourettes syndrome, and one of the things she deals with is spontaneously saying ‘biscuit’ 16,000 times a day. People may be used to seeing Jess in the comedy realm but this piece will have more of a serious edge – although she says she’s incapable of staying on script.

Juan delGado: The Flickering Darkness
This one doesn’t circle back to disabled culture so much. It just so happens that Juan is disabled. I think what’s important that artists deal with the stories they want to deal with. He’s a multidisciplinary Spanish artist who’s lived in London for many years, and this is a beautiful, impressionistic video about the food chain, from the farm to the table, and the politics of eating. His work is very widely shown, but it was important to him as a disabled person to be part of this festival. 

Please click on this link for details of all 26 commissions, including the 17 research and development awards