In an attempt to escape the decline of her hometown, Kaya (Sophie Coward) finds herself shipwrecked on a beautiful yet seemingly uninhabited island. Without the means to repair her boat, Kaya believes herself to be stranded with a storm brewing on the horizon. That is until she is discovered by Agata (Lucy Garland), a lighthouse keeper on Brimsker. Like her mother and grandmother before her, Agata lives a solitary existence maintaining the light that guides boats away from danger, and caring for the island’s unique ecosystem. Together they must face the changes that, one way or another, will lead to them both leaving the island.
Co-founded by artistic directors Garland and Amber Onat Gregory, Frozen Light, the theatre company behind The Isle of Brimsker, creates interactive and original multi-sensory theatre for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD).
To ensure that the audience is as comfortable as possible each participant and their carer is greeted by the actors and lead into the performance space where they are provided with a soft knitted blanket and their own curtain of plastic ribbons to pull around themselves. The Isle of Brimsker features many interactive elements and live music composed and performed by Al Watts.
Radios sport LED panels which change colour depending on frequency, a mist-covered pool of bubbling water which vibrates with the music, bowls of shells and scented pebbles, shaved ice and, my favourite, hot water bottles in individually knitted jackets. Each element gives the audience members the unique opportunity to discover and engage with a variety of sensations and textures. The mixture of delight and calm amongst the participants is clearly visible and their reactions to the various objects are lovely to see.
The cast uses a combination of speech and sign language when engaging with the audience members. Garland, Coward and Watts have a very direct yet intuitive approach to their interactions. Every participant has their own way of engaging with the story elements and the cast has to be ready for all kinds of reactions. One of the participants sitting closest to me really enjoyed rummaging through the shells so that they jumped all over the place, which Garland happily joined in with and encouraged.
Katherine Heath’s set design adds a whole other dimension to the performance. It is truly a treasure chest, with draws opening to reveal all sorts of delights and the cave in which Kaya is sheltering quickly transforms into a lighthouse with revolving lamp.
Kaya and Agata’s story is all about the sharing of experiences and caring for each other. However, even more important is letting the participants explore and interact with the performance. Frozen Light show that there are ways to make theatre accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
The Isle of Brimsker played at the Stratford Circus Arts Centre 4 May. For more information, visit the Frozen Light Theatre website.