Pros: A great example of how to set attitudes that focus on people’s abilities, rather than their disabilities.
Cons: Those who expect a regular performance should be aware that this 90-minute long show is slow-paced and very relaxed.
Accessibility in the arts is a very hot topic and one I’m particularly fond of. With more venues, in the West End and beyond, that have introduced relaxed performances and the diffusion of pioneering technologies for caption and audio-description, London theatres have become more inclusive spaces. But what happens when the accessibility extends to the stage and people with disabilities take their place in the limelight? Since the 1980’s, companies like Amici Dance Theatre Company and Turtle Key Arts have devoted their existence to the integration of able-bodied and disabled performers and the inclusion of disabled, disadvantaged and socially excluded people with outstanding results.
Tightrope is a reprise – five years after its first staging – of the Amici’s 30th anniversary celebratory show and combines dance with extraordinary circus acts, presented by artists with physical and learning disabilities that share the stage with able-bodied performers. It tells the story of an old circus company that sticks together and tries to survive against the odds. The outcome is an explosion of colour, an astonishing spectacle and a lesson on the limitless potential of individuals that are given the opportunity to express their talent.
Describing Tightrope in detail is an impossible task, as the words to talk about disability seldom sound appropriate. Watching a man on his knees, endeavouring to make his way centre stage, before taking it to the sky, or a woman leaving her wheelchair to carry out a complex routine on the trapeze is as inspiring as hard to explain. Watching these exceptional people perform can put our ‘normal’ lives into perspective and give meaning to what we tend to ignore. Tightrope reminds us that inclusion, integration, equality and the respect of people’s diversity is not only a duty, but also an enriching pleasure.
During this 90-minute one-act show I reserved little attention to the technical aspect. Nao Masuda’s original and engaging soundtrack is played live by the artist herself, with the support of cellist Jenny Adejayan and singers Wendy Grose and Danny Standing. The flashy lighting, the eclectic props and the colourful costumes are just a shell for a one-of-a-kind performance that is devised entirely to highlight people’s amazing abilities, rather than their disabilities. Go in to watch it with a little patience, as the pace is slower and far more relaxed than a regular theatrical piece, and enjoy the diversity and the overwhelming enthusiasm of over thirty brilliant circus artists.