Rachel (DNA artistic director) writes :
A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend a series of sensory workshops, hosted by Barking Gekko childrens theatre company based at Subiaco Arts Centre, Perth, Western Australia.
A whole range of artists from different disciplines as well as education specialists working with children with disabilities came together . The aim
of the workshops is to give WA artists access to this unique art form and establish a sensory
theatre practice in WA.
UK artist Amber Onat Gregory had been touring for the last few years with a small back pack style sensory awareness show for special needs children through out the UK and Europe, bringing it to Perth, WA with the aim of developing this specialized form of interactive theatre over here.
From small seed funding recieved from Barking Gekko development grants, a team was formed with Francis Italiano, Michelle Hovane and Rebecca Bradley to create a performance piece for local schools.
‘The Jubb Jubb Tree’ was inspired by and adaptated from Amber’s original show with a specially created green forest environment, live music, large marot style puppets and full participation for approx. 8 children at a time. Performances had been well recieved by local schools who very rarely have theatre visits.
Each day we were treated to a section of the performance with sign language, smells, sounds, taste and tactile elements.
The sensory theatre workshops ran over a week , concentrating on devising and creating work, performance, music and an open forum at the end of the week
for artists and members of the disability and education community to learn about
For the devising and creating work exploration workshop day, after discussion, we worked together in small groups with the theme of water to explore the senses every step of the way. Underwater creatures made with objects assembled, sitting under a blue sea sea cloth waving, water spraying the small of the sea,were some of the ideas the groups devised, playing with materials and using rhyme and repetition to facilitate the narrative .
The performance themed day, further played with ideas from the group particularly focused on participation by children with different kinds of special needs. Many people shared their experiences and knowledge with the UK companies Oily Cart and Horse & Bamboo much discussed as best practice in their work created for special needs audiences.
Further exploration included using different storytelling techniques with props, shadows & lighting, aswell as percussion and rhythm to reinforce the narrative . Hands on exploration was set in multi learning styles, lying down , promenade or blindfolded for the experiential journey of each different person by using sensory elements.
This was a great opportunity to begin to explore the possibilities and potential for this kind of specialised theatre in WA and I hope further projects and performances will be developed.