by Tim Webb
Unicorn Theatre (Clore Theatre) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 8 May 2011.
3-6 May 10,45am & 12.45pm (for Complex Difficulties)
7-8 May 12.15pm & 2.15pm (for Autistic Spectrum).
Runs approx 55min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 April.
Young people have a thumping good time.
As much event as performance, Oily Cart theatre company’s Drum, for up to six 3-1*, each with a carer, leads audiences into the Clore Theatre with players B-b-bongo who’s been making music in the foyer, Shoo-bee-doo-bee and Be-bop-a-lu–lah, along a pathway of red mats, to sit in an arc facing three large vertical drums.
One version is sensory-based, for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties. The other is tailored to youngsters on the autism spectrum. Here, each person is first given a coloured mini-mat to hold, helping them identify their seating-place on a same-coloured full-size mat. There’s also a visual guide to people and events.
In both versions each child’s name is learned and repeated to a musical phrase. In complex needs performances there’s Shady Lady Be-bop-a-lu-lah silhouetted through a drum-skin, carrying out actions initiated or suggested by each young audience member.
In complex needs shows young audience members can lie and roll inside an upended drum. Then a drum-skin is removed and passed slowly over audience heads as rice rains down upon it. In autism shows rice is thrown on a drum as the audience stands around.
Both versions have cascades of soap-bubbles blown in the air, and the chance to see (for complex needs) or hold (for autistic spectrum) a solid column of bubbles, accompanied by the airy sound of B-b-bongo’s tuned wooden, percussive balafon.
Reassurance in autism performances comes with Huggy, a loose-limbed, long-legged soft toy, whose great hands extend round anyone wanting physical comfort or safe interaction.
Both versions end with a chance for audiences to try the drums, including one laid horizontal that, when struck, gently bounces a body lying across it.
B-b-bongo’s single beats wit a fist on one drum, which had to be preluded by a smile and stillness to prepare the younger complex needs audience for the sound, become a call to attention with older, more active audiences.
In their focus on sensory and autistic needs, Tim Webb’s company show how to respond to specific young audiences, accepting their ideas while maintaining momentum in a secure, happy and stimulating atmosphere.
* A third version of Drum, for babies and toddlers is aimed at 6 months-2 Year olds.
B-b-Bongo: George Panda.
Shoo-bee-do-bee: Laura Street.
Be-bop-a-lu-lah: Lindsay Stockley.
Director: Tim Webb.
Designer: Claire de Loon.
Music: Max Reinhardt.