“Today was the first time I forgot myself, and was just there”
Young man with autism, 15 years old.
Up to fifteen children, young people and adults on the spectrum become the participants for each unique performance, sitting with seven actors in a circle on our stage. Each performance is adapted to the specific needs of the participants, however complex they may be. 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 ways the participants and actors share the dfferent games. After each performance everyone is invited for tea and biscuits with the cast. There is never a rush to leave. The foundation of this unique production is the Hunter Heartbeat Method created by Artistic Director Kelly Hunter.
Adapted by Kelly Hunter with music by Tom Chapman
For young people with autism and their families
"Totally unique and very important work" Broadway World UK
After the success of The Tempest in 2016, the Orange Tree Theatre invited Flute to create a second peice of theatre for young people with autism and their families. This invitation gave us the opportunity to create our production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which has been a highlight of Flute’s creative process so far. We have created new games at the requests of different children we have worked with, some asking for more hugging, some asking for more ‘creatures’. We have incorporated more music to the entire process, creating a deeper and more intense experience for the participants and we have reached out and played with people on the spectrum of all ages, continuing to push the boundaries of who we are able to share our performances with.
First performed at the Orange Tree Theatre in October 2017. Subsequent performances at Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Kansas City US 2018, the Bridge Theatre, London 2018. Teatre Lliure, Barcelona with a Catalan version with actors from La Kompanyia and children and staff at Escuela Especial Monserrat Montera, April 2018. In November we performed in Romanian at the Festival Tanar de Sibiu at Teatrul Gong, Sibiu Romania.
“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
“Dear Flute 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
Tom Chapman Finlay Cormack Paul Gorostidi Oliver Grant Paula Rodriguez Augustina Seymour Josh Sneesby 2017 Tom Chapman Finlay Cormack Tas Emiabata Oliver Grant Paula Rodriguez Katy Stephens