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been imposed on them during lock-down, which had seen many of their freedoms curtailed and was resulting passive and withdrawn behaviours.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-