The Taking Flight theatre company are staging You’ve Got Dragons in Tonbridge on Sunday. The production will be signed for the hearing impaired and include audio description. There will also be a collaborative workshop for the audience to join in. Here, creative producer Beth House explains to Eileen Leahy why there is a need for more inclusivity the theatre
I SET up our theatre company, Taking Flight, in 2008. We decided to do so after being involved in a workshop with some spinally injured participants from the BackUp Trust.
We wanted to bring together our passions for working with underrepresented groups of people and making quality performance work. The aim of the company has always been to attempt to redress the imbalance of who gets to make theatre, as well as who can access performance. I think that’s what was unusual about us at that time. Lots of companies were certainly starting to consider audience access, but not necessarily thinking about making the professional environment accessible to disabled and deaf performers.
Having said that, we don’t make shows for deaf or hard of hearing people. We make shows for everyone – our work aims to make theatre as accessible as possible to
as wide an audience as possible. We don’t want to make theatre that further marginalises people by saying ‘this is for you and this isn’t’. Theatre and the arts need to keep working to be more accessible to wider audiences in so many ways. You’ve Got Dragons is our latest production, and we will be performing it on Sunday at the EM Forster Theatre in Tonbridge.
It’s based on the children’s picture book by Kathryn Cave and follows the journey of a young girl, Benjaminah, whose life is being disrupted by her dragons.
They follow her to school, distract her when she’s trying to do her work and get in the way of her friendships. The story shows how she learns to come to terms with the dragons –
even befriending them in the end. We aim to start conversations in families with young children about anxiety and mental health.
The production also has integrated British Sign Language, captions and age-appropriate audio description. There are loads of tactile and audio foyer activities, and anyone
can ask for an acclimatisation tour to familiarise them before they experience the show.
We consider access at the starting point of the creative process. It’s part of the artistic product; it’s not added on afterwards.
We’re currently on tour with You’ve Got Dragons all over the country, performing in places such as Harrogate, Wiltshire, Newport and Barking, and no matter where we go we always look forward to meeting new audiences of all ages.
And, through our shows and the workshops we put on, we are hopefully providing some sort of support for families who may be grappling with their own dragons. We find that this inclusive approach allows more people to join the conversation.
We aim not to exclude anyone from the process of exploration merely because they haven’t been able to access the show. A larger percentage of deaf and disabled children experience mental ill health than children without additional requirements. It’s so important to ensure this work is open to as many young people as possible.
There will be two performances of You’ve Got Dragons on Sunday April 22 at 2pm and 4pm, with a free workshop taking place at 3pm where all are welcome to go along and discuss the play and any issues they may have relating to mental health. Tickets cost £9 per person, and can be booked at www.emftheatre.ticketsolve.com