Photo: Back at DIY Theatre – Trails & Teepees

It is really great to be working with DIY Theatre Company again. I have worked with them on various projects over the past 10 years. They are a disability led theatre company. Whenever I work with them as designer, I run design sessions with the group that input into my design process but also help them in developing the show.

Following The Thread is a new multi-sensory show designed for performance for children in special schools. There is a central character, Wooly, leading the performance and a set of performers working one on one to add individual sensory experience for each audience member. DIY have already spent time developing this show and testing it with their target audience. So far they have been using stuff they had lying around. It is my job to bring the design elements up to a professional standard to enhance the audience experience.

2015-04-28-11.48.45_websqIn week 1, we looked at what the group had developed so far and started discussing who the central character was and where they are when we meet them. Key words to describe Wooly: cheeky, magic, fun, friendly, controls the weather. Key words to describe the location: natural, tent, beach. Through discussions we discovered that many of the group had a fixed idea of beach that was seaside, Blackpool, arcades & ice cream. The director, Sue Caudle, and I decided it would be good to run some exercises to help explore the idea of natural beaches and even try to plan an outing.

For the next session, both Sue & I brought in our collections of stuff gathered on beaches: stones, shells, old glass, dried seaweed, driftwood. I brought in a collection of photographs of windswept outings to Formby & Fife. Sue ran an exercise with the group creating beach trails with the stuff. We also looked at driftwood dens and teepees and decided it would be good to try making our own. We also looked in more depth at the character Wooly. I brought images of shamans and Prospero to help in Wooly’s transition from camper to someone slightly magical and intune with nature. We combined fabrics and accessories I had brought with the shaggy scarf from Wooly’s original costume. Different people tried it on and explored moving in it and using the rainstick.

2015-05-05-14.02.18_websqWeek 3 was teepee-tastic. We built 3 teepees using bamboo, masking tape and large newsprint paper  including one that was suitable for someone in a wheelchair to fit in. We explored three different themes: the song/journey; the weather/nature; the beach/sea. Each group took a theme and decorated their teepee using poster paint and sticky back plastic. I was keen to instil the fact that we were exploring a range of ideas rather than feeling it was a competition. The results were fabulous. I know have the task of combining their ideas to design the final teepee which will be made from calico and decorated using applique and a collection of sparkly trimmings that have kindly donated by Glen from Taylors Haberdashery Supplies. I will leave them for a few weeks to continue developing the performance and incorporating the design ideas and return with my designs for the teepee.