Flute Dreams – Year One

-February 2020. Actors work for a week at Queensmill-

This week we celebrated the end of our first year by exploring the beginnings of autism. We’ve been playing with ‘the babies’ all week; the youngest children of Queensmill School  in small groups of four-five children per session. Each session lasts no more than half an hour every day, for five days, eight groups a day. All day we maintain pulses of rhythmic sound  to ‘hold’ the children’s attention like an invisible web, while we play our games of Pericles with them using heartbeats, rocking, tipping, jumping, sword fighting and dancing. In these groups  a seven year old is ‘old’, the youngest child is four. A few of these children have played wth us at the Bush in the holidays,  but this was the first time we concentrated fully on these early years at the school.

We have another two years ahead of us and I already know I will be asking for another ten years after that. Because these tiny autistic children respond to our sessions in ways that they don’t respond during their normal school day.

Everything depends on the children forming the habit of playing with us. Once they know that our space is safe, their fears and anxieties associated with a new activity dissolve and they  are able to share their personalities through their voices and bodies. And what personalities! If we can achieve the ‘mini miracles’ with these children that we have recently witnessed, the idea of fully embedding these games and activities into their lives as they grow up is the obvious next step.

Lisha has been bringing her son Lumen to Flute Dreams since we began at the Bush Theatre, Summer 2018. He would always stay close to his mother during the sessions and she would play the games with him on the sidelines,  sometimes they would particpate in the circle. Both he and Lisha quickly became fundamental to the project; to be able to welcome them and their family to our world is a privilege.

 This week Lumen came to each session at school and sat on Holly’s lap  in the circle. This was a massive leap of faith from Lumen and made us so happy. On day three he  participated in the tipping exercise for the first time, brilliantly and happily falling backwards and forwards into our arms. We have respected Lumen for the last eighteen months  and allowed him the space and time to become used to our rhythms  and our presence in his life, this week he repaid us with his trust and burst our hearts with joy.

 Shakespeare’s late plays are full of miracle.The tipping in our Pericles represents the moment that the magician Cerimon brings Thaisa back to life – so it is literally a miracle. For me, the miracle of the game is that human beings can trust each other. For the children,  it offers a direct physical experience of trust; however far they fall, they will be caught.

For autistic individuals who may feel threatened by the very constructs of time and space, this experience of physical trust can be truly liberating. Lisha has told us that Lumen went home chattier than he had ever been in his life on Friday afernoon. Every week more unexpected doors open and  every week we never want this project to end.

July 2019
Mini festival at Bush Theatre

August 2019 
Our Summer Dreams 2019 project. “We are awake”. Two weeks summer holiday course of daily workshops led by Flute actors for children with autism and their families from Queensmill School

September 2019
MA Drama Students UAL 2019-20 learn the Hunter Heartbeat games with Kelly Hunter and play games from Pericles for two days at Queensmill School

October 2019
Actors Two weeks of Pericles game playing with secondary and 19+ students. One week at school and one week at the Bush during term time for students with no access to the holiday scheme to get a chance to visit the theatre. A 12 year old student calls it ‘Yoga with feeling’

December 2019
Flute actors give a Christmas Pericles at Queensmill School

January 2nd, 3rd and 4th 2020
Christmas holiday course. Already over subscribed