Adapted by Kelly Hunter
“Totally unique and very important work” Broadway World UK
We created A Midsummer Night’s Dream for children and young people with autism and their families at the Orange Tree Theatre, in co-production with English Touring Theatre, in Autumn 2017. In Spring 2018, the production toured to Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Kansas City US and performed at the Bridge Theatre, London. In April 2018, we created a Catalan version at Teatre Lliure in Barcelona with actors from Teatre Lliure’s La Kompanyia and children and staff at Escuela Especial Monserrat Montera.
“Wonderful experience at Midsummer Night’s Dream! It was a magic spell of movement & sound, funny but mysterious. Katie & John were swept into the players’ company & became part of the show. Wonder full!” Parent, Orange Tree Theatre
“Last Saturday I really didn’t know what to expect when I turned up for Flute Theatre’s performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with my extremely autistic 18 year old son, Tim.
As always, being in a public place with Tim was panic-inducing, despite the fact that this was an incredibly supportive environment. Even before the start, while the actors and artistic director were warmly introducing themselves, Tim managed to run away from me 3 times – to be retrieved from the auditorium, the ladies’ loos and the admin offices. The difference was that no one minded or batted an eyelid, and I was immediately offered help with finding him. That never happens!
At the start I experienced familiar feelings – hard to shift ever since Tim was tiny – of feeling intensely anxious about his behaviour and nervous of being judged as his parent. As Tim galloped around the stage, made loud inappropriate comments and flapped his arms, I fretted repeatedly about whether to take him out and whether he was spoiling it for everyone else.
What was breathtaking, was the way the actors immediately adapted what they were doing, to incorporate what Tim was experiencing and communicating with his behaviour into the performance. In other words, they entered into Tim’s world rather than demanding that he enter theirs. Whether he was jumping, talking in a loud Cockney accent, or rocking back and forth, 2 actors worked with him to incorporate what he was bringing into the show.
It worked! He relaxed, he felt accepted for himself, he began to visibly enjoy the sensory games and humourous use of Shakespeare’s text. What’s more, the same was happening, in different ways, with all the other participants and actors.
After a while I noticed that I had relaxed too, both physically and mentally, in a way that almost never happens when I’m with Tim. My arms and legs had uncrossed, I was leaning forward, mesmerised, and smiling. I could relax because Tim was with people who really “got” him and understood how to work with autism.
At one point, an actor tapped a repeated single chime on a bell, and in the ensuing silence each participant in turn closed their eyes and turned to follow the direction of the sound. This was a spellbinding, beautiful moment with everyone in the room intensely focussed on each child. The silence and calm was magical. It felt almost religious, as though a sacred space had been created, within which something transformative was happening”. Parent, Orange Tree Theatre
“My daughter had a great time and even said “that was fun” when she got into the car. This is all the more significant when you consider that my daughter (who has ASD as well as Down syndrome) rarely comments. I can count on one hand the number of times I have heard her say she had fun. It brought tears to my eyes. When we got home, we had to do the bean/ maypole skit for 15 minutes and then she wanted to sword fight. I love that she wanted to interact with me; even though she was chopping me with a sword- I’ll take it. 🙂
Your team was amazing and the workshop exceeded my expectations. I am hopeful that you will be able to continue this and PLEASE let me know when and if you continue.”
Parent, Kansas City January 2018
Up to fifteen children, young people and adults on the spectrum become the participants for each performance, sitting with six actors in a circle on our stage. The families or carers sit just behind them to watch from the auditorium. They can join in the games if they wish. The actors invite the participants to help them unravel Shakespeare’s story through sensory games which everyone plays together. Although the games and the narrative remain the same for each performance, the show is completely different each time depending on the nature of the young people who attend. After each performance everyone is invited for tea and biscuits with the cast. There is never a rush to leave.
Director Kelly Hunter
Designer Daisy Blower
Composer Tom Chapman
Producer Emma Groome
Company Stage Manager Paula Salmon