by Tim Webb
Oily Cart Theatre Tour to 29 October 2014.
Runs 20min x 3.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 October at The Place London.
Carefully devised activity that values its young participants.
It’s theatre – but not as it’s normally reviewed. Tim Webb’s Oily Cart theatre company has developed and refined its work over a third of a century, increasingly specialising in work for young children in their early years (or, on occasions, months) and – as with The Bounce – a wider age-range of young people identified as being on the autism spectrum (now identified also as part of what is called ‘neurodiversity’) and those with profound and multiple disabilities.
This determines the nature of the performance. If it is a performance. It’s more an experience, designed to involve the young people for whom it is created as active participants. What matters is the series of sensations incorporated through colour, shape, sound, texture and movement.
In The Bounce there are more Oily Cartians than young participants. Within an hour-long session the event is played three times, in each case for two young people. They are introduced individually to the environment, which essentially consists of a circular trampoline for each child.
After an energetic bounce on this, with the chance to hold on to an adult or move independently, a quieter section provides reflection, the bouncers being encouraged to look down within the trampoline where creatures suggested by coloured lights move around. Following this there’s more bouncing, with Maya Youssef’s instrumental playing creating an unworldly calm, offsetting the activity, and with each child’s photo projected on a circular screen above.
This, too, they are encouraged to look at (though it’s a matter of guidance, not compulsion). The experience aims to place the individual youngster at the centre, to validate their feelings and responses. Hence the repetition0 of their names by the company.
This was a set of performances aimed at the autism spectrum. Performances for people with multiple disabilities need to provide fuller physical support for those who cannot express their feelings and responses as most people do. Oily Cart company members create and carry-out this work with an understanding of how it develops physical skills and social interaction. So it is expertly done.
The only pity is, there isn’t more of it available.
Bob: Griff Fender.
Bounce: Ellie Griffiths.
Spring: Rachel Bird.
Jump: Tom Jones.
Boing: Maya Youssef.
The Voice: Mark Foster.
Skip: Deanna Jones.
Director: Tim Webb.
Designer: Claire de Loon.
Lighting: Jack Knowles.
Composers/Arrangers: Max Reinhardt, Maya Youssef.
Video: Paul Williams.
Screen design: Nik Ramage.
Movement: Charlotte Mooney.
Feldenkrais consultant: Louise Coleman.
Associate director: Ellie Griffiths.