“I went to see my now big boy perform Shakespeare’s ‘Pericles, Prince of Tyre’ with the Flute Theatre group last night. How they managed to keep 12 autistic young adults & an audience of family, friends & the wider community engaged is an astounding achievement.
These beautiful young people with autism were simply wonderful, bringing so many emotions to all of us with their brilliant performances.
I’m so pleased I got to share this with my lovely friend Donna Cain, we cried and we laughed so much that tears came rolling down our cheeks.
Families with children on the autism spectrum rarely (never!) go to the theatre, certainly not to ‘highbrow’ theatre like the RSC for fear of how their young person will respond; (noisy, anxious) or more typically fear of other people’s response, I mean it’s hard enough just walking along the road never mind being in a theatre!
The Flute Theatre are consciously and actively challenging this and supporting autism towards increased inclusion.
I’m so pleased and proud of our boy, Luke, who is very profoundly autistic; non verbal and struggles to stay focussed. I’m so pleased that he wasn’t ‘left out’ as is usually the case, as the more able young people with autism, the more accessible ‘face of autism’ are included- yep there’s even a hierarchy in disability… even within accessing disability groups! I’m so pleased I fought hard for Luke’s place at his college so he gets to be included, celebrated and championed.
I wish everyone could have seen this performance last night but mostly I wish my Tom could have, he would have loved it”.
Nicole, Luke’s mum
“Lydia had the best time, she tells everyone she meets, in true Lydia style…” I was in drama…. ( tap tap tap on her chest… ) hello hello hello Lydia and everyone”
I think participating in such an inclusive performance has really helped her to grow in confidence, ( she was a bit cheeky but no-one seemed to mind that she hooted a horn in the middle)
The professional performers handled each individual so well, so that every participant responded in a meaningful way to each moment in the performance, it was beautiful to watch.
Thank you for including her”.
Tina, Lydia’s mum
“It was an absolute delight and privilege to watch Flute Theatre’s performance of Pericles with students from St John’s College. There was plenty of laughter, tears and drama – just what you want from a night at the theatre! I was moved and inspired by how everyone was fully included and how much they seemed to be enjoying themselves. I was also struck by how engaged everyone was throughout the performance which is a significant achievement in itself. Autistic people need to be seen and heard, just like everyone else in society, and, during this performance, they were seen and heard quite magnificently and it was a joy to behold. Flute Theatre’s work is so valuable as it gives these young people the chance to express themselves creatively and to connect with people in ways that are often hard to access for them”.
Sally, Dan Kersey’s mum
“I found the performance very moving, not just because of Emily’s involvement, but also the way all the student performers were engaged with and how the actors were so adaptive to all the performers as individuals with their own characters and abilities”.
Emily’s dad, Robert
Whilst working from home, Ollie and I have befriended the girl who works in the coffee shop where we go, daily, for our essential Flat White fix and ‘Friday is treat day’ brownie. It could be argued that this tiny little coffee shop just off Caledonian Road has fuelled Flute Theatre during the pandemic (Well at least 2/6th of the acting company). When we explained what we do for work she gave us the very familiar look of, amazement, interest, and a good dose of confusion. I don’t blame her; Shakespeare, autism, theatre company, acting, sometimes in Spanish, sometimes not, and all on Zoom is most likely not a typical answer to: “So what do you do whilst working from home?”.
We see this girl, every day. Order the same coffee, every day. Try to have conversation through masked faces, every day. Comment on the weather, every day. And every day she asks the question:
“So, how’s the teaching going?”
Obviously, I don’t mind being compared to a teacher. I’d love to be a teacher. No of us would be here without our teachers and, Wow, we’ve met some pretty amazing teachers whilst working with Flute Theatre. But I believe what we do isn’t teaching, it isn’t target or learning based, and I’m sure what my new friend from the coffee shop would see when she watches Flute’s work is that:
We don’t teach our friends on spectrum, they teach us. They teach and show us now to be the best versions of ourselves as human beings. They teach how to live.
So, whilst reflecting on the friends I’ve met since joining Flute in 2019, both in person and online. I thought I’d make lists of the lessons they have taught me.
-Joshua Welch, Actor-
We had 30 performances of Perciles Online as part of a residency at St John’s College Brighton. Each performance was unique to the individual and catered for their specific needs and communication style. The learners responded with great enthusiasm; enjoying the interaction and engagement with the actors, and joining in with play, singing, listening, sound, language, emotion and movement opportunities. It was a welcome break from the restrictions that had been imposed on them during lock-down, which had seen many of their freedoms curtailed and was resulting passive and withdrawn behaviours. in The learners connected extremely well with the online format, and were quickly immersed into the world of ‘faces’. It was a great privilege for each learner to have a bespoke one-to-one session, where actors could perform directly to them and make them feel valued and special. Some were offered a second opportunity to do the performance, and they all accepted enthusiastically. I felt that most would have benefited from repeating the experience at least one more time to build familiarity and develop skills . As is always the case with Flute Performances, there were some learners who demonstrated creativity and interaction that as teachers, we have never seen before. It’s like they have been unlocked and given permission to express themselves in a truly authentic way. All learners engaged and found an aspect of the performance that appealed to their sensory preferences, whether that was listening to beautiful voices singing their name, enjoying the feedback from the physical movement, or embodying character and emotion.
-Joanne Horsley. Teacher, St John’s College-