Joseph loved A Midsummer Nights Dream, and his confidence increased tenfold in the following days – he even wrote a little script to perform for us all! I haven’t been living with my family during lockdown due to work, and it’s difficult to keep in touch with J as he struggles to hold conversation over FaceTime. So, to have spent over an hour with him, playing on Zoom was very special for us both, thank you! The team’s dedication and compassion is infectious, and we all left feeling seen and cherished – “Yes, I’m very good and it’s amazing because I haven’t even been to drama school”.
Flute theatre is a family. We are an engine that is fuelled by the love of families. The family of the company itself, the families we play with, the families of the schools we visit, the families of the countries we visit, the families of our trustees, the families of our actors, the families of the theatre we work in- the energy of all these families is eaten up by the big engine of Flute Theatre and it fuels our work every day. ‘Family’ couldn’t be more at the forefront of my mind when we played with Joseph. The show was a gift from his sister of whom Joseph was separated from due to the Lockdown restrictions. Joseph played with his mother by his side and for the first time ever for Flute Theatre his sister, rather than being a silent observer off camera, joined on screen and played along. Joyous.
It was magical. It felt like Christmas Day. In particular that part of Christmas day when, the dinner has been eaten, the presents unwrapped, the dishwasher loaded, the walks been had, and everyone (if they’re completely honest) would rather like to go to sleep. But it’s Christmas day! The fun must continue! And so, the television gets switched off, the chairs all arranged in a circle in the living room and “the games” begin.
To start with everyone plays somewhat timidly, not quite ready to let go of their position as ‘Mum’ ‘Dad’, ‘Sister’, ‘Aunt’ ‘Grandmother’, still trying to save face. But that’s the magic of games and playing; they cast a spell over you and before you know it, you’re watching your own Grandfather acting out the “Titanic” for charades to a room of clueless faces.
That’s the magic of games and that’s the magic of families.
By exploring imaginary worlds within the comfort of our own world, with the safety of our family close by, we can be free to be bolder with our dreams, be bolder with our fantasies and allow ourselves to get lost in a made-up world, so that when we return to the real world the balance has slightly shifted and we are looking at everything with different eyes. With our families and our freedom to play we can actually move worlds. Nothing is off limits.
That is what I really saw happening when we played with Joseph.
His sister gave him freedom to get lost in the world of The Dream…
Joseph gave his sister the freedom to get even more lost in the world of The Dream…
Both siblings combined gave their Mum the permission to join them on the journey and the freedom to dream, imagine, play along, get lost in the forest, pretend to tickle a pretend donkey’s ears and, for one whole hour, not have to be in the role of “Mum”.
Never more did the words “WE ARE AWAKE” hold more truth and this family fuelled performance with Joseph.
-Joshua Welch, Actor-
Our session with Joseph and his family is probably one of the most joyful things we did this year, because I think it reminded us all that this work goes beyond the person on the autistic spectrum; it can connect the family that surround each person too. Joseph was incredible to work with; he played with so much commitment and articulacy, and an huge sense of fun too. But at the same time we also played with Joseph’s sister Rachel, who was not with the rest of the family at the time. Up to that point we had only played with one participant at a time, and I initially anticipated a huge challenge to incorporate an extra participant into the show – but as the performance unfolded it was extraordinary just how easy it was to adapt.
Of course each show is entirely focused on and geared towards the person on the autistic spectrum, but it was so beautiful to see that there is no barrier to that, and no reason why a neurotypical sibling cannot be included, even if they aren’t in the same physical space as our participant. It was also a very significant and useful reminder of just how important it is to let ourselves be playful. Whatever age, location or situation we find ourselves in, we never lose that need for play. And being a part of bringing Joseph and Rachel together through that sense of playfulness was so invigorating and hopeful, even amidst the enormous barriers and struggles of this year.
-Oliver McLellan, Actor –