THE FOREST

Mon 22nd – Thu 25th August 2016

reviews

Hannah Congdon

at 21:28 on 24th Aug 2016

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As I walk into the theatre at the Pleasance Courtyard, I am a little alarmed to see every row of seats empty bar the first, where several other reviewers sit, pens poised. It is only when I get around the corner that I realise the stage has been converted into an immersive space, with couplets of chairs dotted about alongside which wheelchairs can easily be stationed. Between the clumps of chairs are make-shift trees, their leaves draped across several of the audience members, and a gentle piano melody plays in the background. It may sound childish and clichéd, but it is a bit of a Narnia moment, stepping into a mystical little world that exists in tranquil self-containment. Lucy Garland and Amber Onat Gregory have created something truly special with their theatre company Frozen Light, treating us to this gem of a show that caters specifically for the needs of audiences with profound learning disabilities.

Never before have I felt so welcomed into a theatre; Garland warmly invites me to sit down in the front row, whilst other members of the audience sit drinking cups of coffee, munching on crisps, and wandering around the stage. It is a show dedicated to providing an environment that is as relaxed and comfortable as possible for its audience, with no restrictions on movement, noise or audience interaction. The performance is an exploration of the senses, with the three actors wandering among the audience singing, playing instruments, offering food, and holding rich-smelling wood beneath our noses so that even the scents of the forest begin to enshroud us. Many of these activities are directed particularly to the audience members with evident learning disabilities, almost all of whom respond with utter delight to the sensory treasures of the forest. But I, too, find myself grinning as droplets of water sprayed above me splash my face, as do those adjacent to me. It is a rediscovery of the small pleasures we so often dismiss as banalities.

The plot of the performance feels fairly irrelevant, and I search for possible metaphors in gnomic lines like ‘’they feel each other’s presence, without knowing how close they are’’, but sense I’m reading too much into things. It might have been a nice addition to add more value to the story, but even without it the show is a beautiful piece of enchanting escapism that perfectly caters for its target audience.

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Darcy Rollins

at 10:55 on 27th Aug 2016

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“My forest - our forest.”

‘The Forest’ is an immersive production aimed specifically for people with profound learning difficulties, which tries to involve as many senses as possible.

As soon as the audience enters the theatre you can sense there is something different about this performance. The narrator greeted me with such warmth I was a little baffled and a little worried that I had interrupted the performance. It is really far more of an experience than a play. And a personalised one at that. Seats are dotted around the stage, which the actors weave through at times carrying food, drink and even trees to provide comfort to the audience in this hour long sanctuary. The narrator interacts with the audience members with disabilities for however long is needed to get a smile. With one particular roving audience member she makes sure to get it from their family member.

There is no sense of rush as the simple tale is told of two lost souls finding a friend. The caretaker of the forest is the one that comes to the aid of Robert, a statue that has come to life, and Thea, a lonely girl who writes poetry. With an audience filled with carers you cannot help but think this is intended to strike a chord with their lives and those of their loved ones. It is an hour infused with kindness where all the elements are conjured to make the plot as clear and as charming as possible; drops of rain fall from a water pistol, wind whistles from waving metal sheets and there is not one but three moons in this special place.

Everything is soft and gentle from the charming piano to the cheery narrator. The focus of this play is completely on making the audience feel at ease. Judging from the smiles of all, Frozen Light clearly succeeded.

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