Interview: Frozen Light

Frozen Light is a theatre company that creates multi-sensory theatrical experiences for audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD). This year, they present The Forest, the first ever Fringe show incorporating these elements—a timely endeavour, especially in an age when the arts have come under scrutiny for accessibility.

The Outlier Scotland interviewed Lucy Garland, co-creator of The Forest who also performs with two other cast members in the show.

 

Who or what inspired the creation of this show?
We wanted to create a show that was for an audience of teenagers and adults with PMLD but had a universal feel to it. Before the development of this show Amber and I were both drawn to imagery of trees and the sensory experience of being in a forest. We knew that we definitely didn’t want to create a twee fluffy green forest so explored the torment in our main characters to influence the type of forest they would be exploring. Through following these characters on their journey into the forest and eventually to each other, we wanted the audience to discover everything our forest had to offer, from forest shelters and food to the forest storm.

 

The Forest joins a list of other incredible immersive, multi-sensory interactive experiences. What about this production’s process or the show itself is different from other productions that do not necessarily offer the same kind of accessibility?
We focus on creating one-to-one interactions with our audience. For our audience to access theatre it needs to be performed at close proximity. Each element of our story has a sensory element that accompanies it. These sensory interactions ensure that our show immerses the audience at the heart of the action. We also always perform to small audiences of people with PMLD and their companions. This ensures that everyone gets quality interactions with the performers and that the show meets their specific needs.

 

What skills or knowledge are required of the team to develop a show for audiences with PMLD?
We have a specific methodology around the way we work with people with PMLD and we pass our knowledge on to our creative team. We work with other performers to ensure that they are in tune with our audience. Much of our work is about listening and assessing what the audience needs from us at any given moment throughout the show. Not only do our performers need theatrical skills, they also need to be able to adaptable and flexible with the performance to ensure we meet the needs of our audience.

 

Are there any shows out there in the world that aspire to make the same impact as The Forest does?
Edinburgh artist Ellie Griffiths has created an amazing network called the Upfront Performance Network, which has the aim of bringing artists who create work for audiences with learning disabilities together.
In terms of artists creating work in theatres for audiences with PMLD you have Oily Cart who really are pioneers in this type of work. Oily Cart has been really supportive of our work. You also have the work of Gill Brigg in collaboration with Nottingham Playhouse, which has toured theatres over the last few years. A wonderful company in Ipswich called Red Rose Chain has just started making work for this audience. Their first show was really great.

Define your ideal kind of theatre experience in 5 words.
Bold, accessible, interactive, narratively beautiful.

 

The Forest runs at the Edinburgh Fringe everyday from now until 25 August 2016 at Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) at 10.30am. Co-Artistic directors Lucy Garland and Amber Onat Gregory have both worked within the social care sector and have many years of experience supporting people with learning disabilities. They keep up-to-date on current learning disability practice to ensure that their work is best practice for their audience. They also write regularly for PMLD Link, a journal that supports people with PMLD.