Hello! We’re Josh and Elspeth and we are part of Graeae’s Ensemble training programme. We have just completed our ninth week and we can’t believe that we are already over half way through. Although we have our own fantastic plans for the future, we just don’t want it to end! Having the chance to work with a group of artists who share our passion for the arts and with tutors who understand our access needs is just perfect. Graeae is a real springboard into the industry for us.
Training in movement and voice with Christopher Holt and Vanio Pappelleli has given us a firm understanding of how to make best use of what we have. It has also massively improved our confidence. To begin with, some of us didn’t like the sound of our own voices. However, after just five sessions we have learnt to embrace the individuality of our speaking. Movement sessions were challenging, but we found that the intensity of them forced us to be more open and honest with each other, bringing us closer together as a group. We are well on our way to being in a place where we can deal with whatever our future careers may throw at us.
Jenny Sealey’s lessons were some of our favourites. Working on Cosmic Scallies by Jackie Hagan, a graduate of the Write to Play programme, we explored all kinds of ways of making the performance accessible. We worked professionally on the script, starting with a read through and finding ways of stretching the text before arriving at a performance. We really shook the text up making it more accessible and revitalising it by adding BSL and audio description. Playing with the text was so much fun and we made some really interesting discoveries that really breathed new life into the work. At the end of the module, we took up Jenny’s suggestion to see Napoleon Disrobed, a play by Told by an Idiot Theatre Company. We really enjoyed this trip and now make an effort to make regular theatre trips together.
When we went to see Napoleon Disrobed Josh met his mentor, Paul Hunter, the co-founder and co-artistic director of Told by an Idiot. We have all been given individual mentors and they have been specially chosen to match our skillsets and creative desires. We are all making our own plans to meet up with them over the coming weeks and we are looking forward to the long term support we’ll receive from them.
Graeae is really keen to nurture their relationship with RADA and we were given the opportunity to spend two days studying Shakespeare’s The Tempest at RADA’s studios with teacher Annie Tyson. A lot of us felt quite intimidated and out of place at RADA and it was good to get an insight into their teaching methods and attitudes. We’re really happy that RADA and Graeae are working together and we’re hoping that RADA can become more open and accessible to people like us.
One particular focus of Ensemble is a project called Caitlin’s Corner. Caitlin was a young disabled activist and advocate for the portrayal of disabled people in the arts. She also raised a lot of money for Eyegaze Systems for young people. She was an aspiring actress but didn’t get the opportunity to see her dreams come to fruition as she passed away two years ago aged only 17. The funding that Graeae has raised for our Ensemble programme has been raised in memory of Caitlin.
For this project, we decided to tell a variety of stories with different themes and through different art forms with the link between them all being that everyone involved in the process has some kind of disability. This is a great project as it allows us all to throw our ideas together and also presents us with a lot of challenges too! We’re looking forward to sharing it with our teachers and other Graeae staff at the end of this phase of Ensemble.
A few weeks ago we were made aware that Ensemble will continue into another stage, ‘Platform’. This will run from May until July 2018 and will hopefully allow us more days in the studio to develop our skills further. We’ll also take part in an industry showcase at the end of the process.