#lovelowry guest curator – Amber Onat Gregory & Lucy Garland ‘getting back to theatre’

We love our Lowry audiences. At Frozen Light we make and tour theatre for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD).

We have a passion for: stories and adventures; engaging interactive theatre; devised theatre with original and electrifying soundtracks; theatre that is fun and mischievous; theatre that questions; theatre that is bold; theatre that encompasses all senses.

Unconventionally we perform for audiences of 6 people with PMLD and their companions, usually performing two shows a day.

The Lowry is one of the few venues where we have a ‘long’ five day run (long for a studio show!) so ten shows in total. 

When you’re a touring company it feels like such a privilege to be a venue longer and really get to know the building, the staff and the wonderful variety of local audiences.

At The Lowry, our audiences have been made up of visits from adult day centres, SEND schools across the North West and local family audiences.

This is an audience comment from when we toured ‘HOME’ to The Lowry in 2017: ‘The performance blended all five senses, we didn’t just watch we felt it, we heard it, we could smell it and we could touch it. To Zack that is conversation, that is interaction and that is bringing the world to him.’

Building an audience has been exciting when touring to The Lowry as we become part of a diverse programme, rather than the only accessible show at a venue.  We’re excited about a future of a more accessible arts programme at venues nationwide.

When the pandemic hit we felt completely stuck. We had two new shows very nearly ready to tour and all theatre venues having to close their doors, we had no idea what the future would look like.

Not only that but working up close to our audiences in one to one sensory interaction is one of the key elements of our work and suddenly that felt impossible due to COVID risk.

When venues and theatre companies started going digital, we couldn’t see a way to make digital theatre for our audiences. Initially, we launched The Frozen Light Podcast, as a podcast to stay in touch with the PMLD community in the age of coronavirus.

We also wanted to create a platform that would document people with PMLD’s experience of this historic time as these were not stories that were being captured. We interviewed families in lockdown, charities that support people with PMLD and different community groups. We recognised that the podcast itself wasn’t accessible in particular to people with PMLD but we learnt so much from connecting with individuals carers, siblings, parents etc.

Particularly when the country started coming out of lockdown in the summer of 2020 we heard from Sarah Walker (episode 8), a sibling carer and Lowry audience member; ‘Everyone else seems to be going a bit more back to normal, and it actually feels more isolating now.’ Interviewing the guests made us feel a lot more connected to people at a time when we weren’t able to connect with people with PMLD directly, and we learnt so much from all of our guests. 

You can listen to The Frozen Light Podcast here: www.frozenlighttheatre.com/podcast

With the guidance of our audience panel, In Autumn 2020 we made the decision to film the production of ‘2065: The Multi-Sensory Movie’, a movie version of the theatre show that we still hope to tour.

We knew to make a digital production accessible we needed to ensure it was multi-sensory so we looked at how we could adapt and package the sensory moments in the show. 

We worked with our Set Designer, Kat Heath, to design what became sensory ‘Rebel Packs’ to send out to audiences. 

We also worked with filmmaker Sam Halmarack from Helm Films, and theatre director, Kate O’Connor,  on how we could make a hybrid of film and theatre when creating the movie. 

We released 200 tickets for the digital production, which came with the sensory Rebel Packs, and sold out in 31 hours. 

It was amazing to see that our audiences were still there and eager for multi-sensory experiences we hadn’t yet been able to provide during the pandemic. It was great to see a mixture of both old and new audiences wanting to experience this new work and being really excited for it. 

We’ve received some wonderful feedback so far.  Check out feedback from one of our audiences who usually see us at The Lowry!

Due to demand it’s likely we’ll release more tickets for the movie, check out the trailer below.

Now a year into not being able to tour to theatres we can look back and see how we’ve been able to adapt our work.  With care and thought about how we can connect with communities and reach our audiences we can continue to develop our work in ways that we previously thought were impossible.  Saying that, we miss our audience hugely.  People with profound and multiple learning disabilities are incredible at living the moment, and the live responses we get from audiences during our shows are sorely missed.

We know not to make predictions about the future. Prior to covid so much of our work was focused on booking larger and longer tours to reach more audiences.  Now we’re desperate for the world to be safe enough to be able to reach any of our audiences in person at all.  Many of our audiences have now had access to the vaccine programme and we’re all aware of the ‘road map’ going forward with venues hopefully opening in the near future.  If we need to continue to develop digital content to reach our audiences we will, we know we can now, and we know that there are meaningful and accessible ways of reaching people with PMLD in a way that we didn’t before. Saying that, we hope more than anything that we are moving into a safer time and that we are able to see our audiences back at The Lowry for our touring production of ‘2065’ in Spring 2022! Hopefully see you there.

You can follow our work online at:

www.frozenlighttheatre.com

Facebook: frozenlighttheatre

Twitter: @frozentheatre

Instagram: @frozenlighttheatre

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