Pros: Easy to follow story, amazing production quality, special effects and attention to detail.
Cons: Only small audiences can experience a performance at a time; some multi-sensory moments may not be for everyone.
My first time at Ovalhouse, I felt intrigued by the venue. I had heard so much about it, but had never explored it myself. A venue that prides itself on inclusive and lived work, I’ll definitely be back for more (and soon – before they move their home down the road to Brixton). My reason for being there this time was to take in Frozen Light’s multi-sensory production Home, specifically created for those with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities, their carers, and friends and family.
I’ll admit, I was a little nervous going in, given that I was neither part of nor accompanied by a member of the PMLD community and that my experiences may have affected my perception of the piece. However, all nerves were immediately calmed as I was welcomed into the space by the actors. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this show, trying to look at it from two points of view; the fact that I enjoyed it on my own accord, and also enjoyed seeing how the PMLD audience members and their carers interacted with the actors and reacted to the piece.
The story itself is simple and easy to follow. Our scene is set in a town that is faced with a problem; a dust storm is coming. People in the town are getting on transports to be taken to safety and warn that anyone left behind will have to make shelter on their own, and representatives from the town will be back in five days, after the storm has passed, to collect them. Two girls from the town, Scarlet and Olive, miss the transport and are left behind to fend for themselves. Not knowing each other previously, these two girls only meet when they are both left behind. They bond in an unlikely friendship and work together to build shelter and gather the necessities for survival as they wait for rescue.
Lucy Garland and Amber Onat Gregory play Scarlet and Olive with precision and fervour, not only committing to their characters and playing well off each other, but also singing, using special effects and sensory props, as well as having individual interaction with each audience member. With a running time of an hour, the piece is well thought out and rehearsed, featuring original songs composed by Al Watts. Watts plays a character himself whilst playing music and sound effects live. The care he takes to move about the space to give everyone an experience of the sounds up close only adds more delight.
The most thrilling part of it all was the fact that the effects and props were designed specifically to provoke all five senses, allowing the audience to interact in ways they were comfortable with and from different perspectives. They used everything: pieces of cloth to smell; glitter and confetti to symbolise the dust; jelly decor water balls to symbolise and feel like water; even things to taste! The experience was specific, reflective and just plain magical. I’ve been a part of immersive and participatory performances before, but these interactions with the sensory objects and the actors made me feel like part of the story. I only wished for more performances or larger audiences so more people could experience the play, but I understand that it would lose some of the individual experience one gets this way.
If you want to open up your theatre experience, multi-sensory based performances are the way to go! Frozen Light’s Home is innovative and very carefully crafted; I’ve never felt theatre more magical. They’ve sadly finished their run at Ovalhouse, but have a few weeks left on tour. One to catch if you can!