'This show isn't about having a learning disability - it's about being human'

'a little space' will be performed by a cast of learning disabled actors at Derby Theatre. Photo by Tom Woollard.
'a little space' will be performed by a cast of learning disabled actors at Derby Theatre. Photo by Tom Woollard.

Performers have drawn on their own experiences for a piece of physical theatre which uses movement, imagery, sound and lighting to portray the needs, desires and fears of the characters.

Derby Theatre will host a touring production entitled ‘a little space’ from February 27 to 29 which will feature a cast of learning-disabled actors.

Set in an apartment block, this show follows the lives of five people and explores what happens when they connect and disconnect from each other, whether through choice or through isolation,

This is the first physical theatre production by Mind the Gap which has collaborated with the award-winning physical theatre company Gecko.

Karen Bartholomew, associate artist at Mind the Gap and co-creator of ‘a little space’ gave an insight into the production:

What can audiences expect from a little space?

'a little space' offers an escape from the world. Photo by Tom Woollard.

'a little space' offers an escape from the world. Photo by Tom Woollard.

Something they’ve never seen before! A cast of brilliantly talented learning-disabled performers telling an important tale of being alone and finding connections. A visually and sonically striking show that will give them goose bumps. It’s physically demanding and emotionally honest – we put the audience at the heart of the narrative.

Can you tell us about the relationship between Gecko and Mind the Gap?

We’ve been ‘playing together’ since 2017, exploring the Gecko style and getting to know each other, both cast and creatives. This time to play has been invaluable. We’ve shared how each company works and found a really positive middle ground where everyone can learn from each other to create the best work possible. It’s a really open and honest rehearsal room that allows us to get the best out of every aspect of the show. The devising process invites everyone in the rehearsal room to be co-authors of the show and bring their own personal experiences to the creation of the piece.

Tell us about the show, and who you think this production is for?

One kind word or gesture can make the world of difference to those who feel isolated. Photo by Tom Woollard.

One kind word or gesture can make the world of difference to those who feel isolated. Photo by Tom Woollard.

A bit of a cop-out but I think it’s for everyone! We all experience being alone, whether we choose to be or not, and we all need connection. The show isn’t about having a learning disability, it’s about being human and what we need on a fundamental level to survive. We need love and we need each other. The style is also incredibly universal. We all feel, we all move, and when you bring both of those human experiences into a rehearsal room or studio, you can really start to uncover new facets in people that you never knew existed.

What are the challenges of taking a production of this scale on tour?

It’s a demanding show to tour. The show itself is 65 minutes of energy, adrenaline and absolute commitment from the performers. The show has its own beautiful apartment style set, designed by Rhys Jarman, which takes two hours to build and creates its own a little space world - we really take over the space! The set is almost the sixth character in the show – it’s just as important as each character and really helps us bring our show to life. It’s a real team effort to get the show on the road but it’s testament to both companies to see how we all pull together, as all we want is to give our audiences the best show possible.

What do you hope audiences will take away after seeing the piece?

'a little space' runs at Derby Theatre from February 27 to 29.  Photo by Tom Woollard.

'a little space' runs at Derby Theatre from February 27 to 29. Photo by Tom Woollard.

I hope they will see themselves reflected on stage. To see moments when they think ‘that’s how I feel’ or to empathise with the characters in front of them. Maybe they won’t have seen a cast of performers with learning disabilities before and maybe this raises their expectations of what is possible. I hope this piece makes them think about how they connect with other people in their own lives. Most of all, I hope they find a connection with the show and feel moved by what they see in some way.

Tickets to see ‘a little space’ are priced from £19.50 and the show has a recommended age range of 12+. To book, call 01332 593939 or go to www.derbytheatre.co.uk

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