Exploring new methods of sensory engagement for our inclusive productions at Replay Theatre Company is easily one of the best parts of my job. I get to experiment with light, sound, scent, colour, texture, fabric and absolutely anything I can get my hands on that might, in any small but significant way, contribute towards creating a positive and empowering sensory theatre experience.
The use of music is one of my favourite go-to strategies, because it’s often the most effective engagement tool in our kit. When carefully moulded and shaped to suit a specific production, it can help break down any initial barrier of anxiety or concern, unlocking the door to a world of new possibilities for interaction between performer and audience member. To put it simply, music is a ‘way in’.
That being said, music should be used in the right way. I’d love to tell you exactly what that right way is, but, just like any engagement strategy, it’s entirely dependent on the environment within which it’s being implemented. Creative application of music within an intimate show for early years disabled audiences can differ entirely from how it may be used within a large-scale inclusive production for young audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD).
Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give you is this, get to know your audience. Our Creative Consultation process, which we undertake during the development stage of each show we deliver, enables us to work closely with the intended audience of that specific production. This process not only gives us, as practitioners, the opportunity to explore new ideas and measure their effectiveness with the very audience the work is being created for, but it empowers the members of that young audience and provides a platform upon which they can directly influence the company’s creative output. That’s certainly a ‘win-win’ in our book!
Inspiration can often come at unexpected times from unexpected places. When I stumbled across a Russian company called RAV Vast (the internet really is a wonderful thing), I immediately fell in love with the beautiful, vibrant sound their hand-crafted steel tongue drums produce. The use of live instruments in sensory theatre can create incredible, powerful moments of interaction, and the aesthetically satisfying RAV Vast offers a combination of magical tone, with the exciting potential for hands-on tactile audience/performer engagement.
RAV Vast are passionate about their instruments and I’m delighted they’ve taken such an active interest in Replay’s work. By partnering with us on our up-coming production ‘Tribe’, a show designed specifically for young autistic audiences, which tours late 2019 and is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, RAV Vast are part of something truly special. Much like our partnership with Firefly by Leckey for our show ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’, for audiences aged 3-7 with motor impairment, RAV Vast have become tremendous supporters of inclusive arts, and have already played a key role in helping Replay continue to deliver high-quality theatre to younger audiences of all abilities.
The RAV Vast drum has all the potential to be a successful, dependable and engaging tool for creative interaction that empowers young disabled audiences, from autistic teenagers to children with PMLD. We’re proud to be the first professional theatre company to introduce the instrument to inclusive theatre and the ‘Tribe’ team and I can’t wait to get stuck in!
You can find out more about Replay Theatre Company's inclusive programme, watch videos of our work and see us in action by visiting www.replaytheatreco.org/up
For more information on all of Replay Theatre Company’s work, visit us at www.replaytheatreco.org
For more information on RAV Vast, visit http://ravvast.com/
Inclusion Lead Artist
Replay Theatre Company