Playful Tiger, which has been made with and for for young audiences who are profoundly autistic and mainly non-verbal, is proving to be both one of the most exciting shows I have been involved in as a performer and one of the most challenging. It’s exciting because as much as the show’s structure is set and there are strict choreographic rules, we have permission and are encouraged to deviate and interact when any little (or big) tiger enters the stage and they become included and involved in the story as it unfolds. Each curious tiger brings so many new possibilities and surprises to the performance, keeping it fresh and meaning that every show is a different experience, for both audience and performer.
This, perhaps, is what also makes it challenging…the unknown. Quite a lot of unknowns. Not necessarily negative but that anything is possible. We have to remain alert and tuned in to every person in the room as well as each other, and remind ourselves to trust our instincts when giving and receiving communication in ways that are non typical. We have to nurture trust quite quickly from an audience who haven’t met us before, and many of whom have never been to the theatre before. We also have to constantly take risks, in the moment, without knowing the outcome. At first, and during the research, having to be responsible for all of the above could be overwhelming at times, a bit of a mind squeeze, but it’s becoming easier as we bag more shows and I’m starting to really thrive on it.
When it comes to the audience, there isn’t really anything, within reason, that’s not allowed. It feels like an open space where there is complete artistic freedom on their part. I’ve noticed some particular personality types so far in how people choose to interact, all equally as valid as each other, we have…
-the fearless performer – who gets on stage pretty quickly and doesn’t hold back
-the quiet observer – watching mostly from the sides and interacting subtly
-the vocal observer – watching mostly form the sides and sharing sound interactions
-the win over – hesitant at first but totally on board by the end
-the not in the mood get me out of here – to be honest this hasn’t been a thing yet, but it’s entirely fine if it is. We wouldn’t be offended.
I’m really enjoying sharing the stage and the performance with our Playful Tiger audiences. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from all who have experienced it, which is not only humbling and great to hear but it also highlights the lack of opportunities for this kind of audience. I’m really excited to see what develops from here, and imagine what the future of theatre and dance could look like when we recognise more barriers so that we can work towards breaking them.
Photos by Jassy Earl