Flute Theatre presents The Tempest for children with autism and their carers.
This production of The Tempest was premiered in the summer of 2014 in Stratford-upon-Avon and Columbus Ohio as a co-production between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Ohio State University. The result was – in the words of a parent whose fourteen year old took part – a phenomenal success.
Fifteen children on the spectrum become the participants for each performance, sitting with six actors in a circle on the floor around a painted floor cloth,which represents Prospero’s island. The children’s carers and parents sit just behind them on an outer circle of chairs. The actors invite the children to join them on the island as the story unfolds through sensory games, which the children and actors play together.
Although the games and the narrative remain the same for each performance, the show is completely different every time depending on the nature of the children and young people who attend. By the end of each show the children have been able to assert their own personalities within the space and many have expressed that they have ‘found their voices for the first time’. At a performance in Stratford-upon-Avon during one of the quieter games – Ariel’s Trance where the only sound is the single female voice of Miranda – one young man, an articulate high functioning twenty year old began to speak out loud as he played, describing himself as an exploding star finding his place in the universe. He spoke for some minutes of trees and nature and feelings, comfortable in the space, at ease with the actors and intent on expressing his innermost feelings.
I have witnessed many breakthroughs over the years as children emerge from the shadows of their autism as a result of weeks, months and years of playing these sensory games in workshop settings. However the almost immediate emergence that so many of the children experienced through playing the games within the transformative space of this theatrical experience was overwhelming. It has led me to form this new company – Flute Theatre – in order to establish a theatre going activity for children on the spectrum and create further productions of Shakespeare using the same model.
Sunday 25th October 11am & 3pm
Bloomsbury Theatre Studio, London.