Touch Compass And Frozen Light Theatre Create Groundbreaking Work For Audience With Learning Disabilities

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Touch Compass And Frozen Light Theatre Create Groundbreaking Work For Audience With Learning Disabilities

New Zealand's leading inclusive performing arts company, Touch Compass, has collaborated with one of the UK's foremost multi-sensory theatre companies, Frozen Light, to create a pioneering new dance theatre work for audience members who have profound and multiple learning disabilities - the first of its kind in Aotearoa.

Premiering as an Auckland tour and part of Auckland Live's Pick & Mix programme this October, Masina Returning Home has been created for audiences, primarily aged 13 to adult, who have what is referred to as PMLD - profound and multiple learning disabilities.

Children and adults with PMLD have more than one disability, the most significant of which is a profound intellectual disability. These individuals usually have great challenges communicating, often requiring those who know them well to interpret their responses and intent. They frequently have other, additional conditions, too - from physical disabilities to sensory impairments, sensory processing difficulties, complex health needs, mental health issues and self-developed coping strategies.

The interactive and multi-sensory show, Masina Returning Home, is presented to meet the needs of the audience members who attend, usually with their support person or whānau members.

Using words, song, music and dance, as well as multi-sensory props and experiences, the audience joins Sina on her exploration to reconnect with her history, her land and her future.

UK-based Frozen Light creates multi-sensory theatre for audiences with PMLD. They were invited to Auckland by Touch Compass to share their knowledge in this area and collaborate on this new piece of multi-sensory theatre.

It is the first work of its kind in this country and Frozen Light were thrilled to be able to support the kaupapa.

"People with PMLD are amongst some of the most excluded groups in society and it can be very difficult for them to access mainstream theatre due to the content and conventions not being relevant to their needs.

"Touch Compass acknowledged that in New Zealand this group of people, who, like everyone else, can gain so much from the arts, were being excluded from engagement through lack of appropriate experiences and decided to bring Frozen Light over to work with them and ensure a legacy of work for this audience," says Frozen Light's Co-artistic Director Lucy Garland.

Frozen Light and Touch Compass worked with an inclusive cast of two actors and a musician - Lusi Faiva, Katrina George and Sam Jones. Lusi has Cerebral Palsy, uses a powerchair and talks with the aid of an iPad.

The two companies also partnered with Takapuna's Wilson School, to help the performers learn how Frozen Light engages with audience members with PMLD.
The production was originally presented in a development showing at The Rose Centre to an invited audience of people with PMLD and their support workers and families, as well as young people from The Wilson Centre. It was a huge success.

The upcoming premiere season will comprise two shows - one mainstream version for Auckland Live's Pick & Mix Season on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 October (free to attend). On Sunday 20 October there will also be a performance for children with PMLD at The Bruce Mason Centre, which is also part of Pick & Mix.

The show will also tour Auckland with performances for people aged 13 to adult who have PMLD and who must have a support person with them throughout (up to two whānau members are also welcome to attend). These will take place at The Rose Centre, Glen Eden's The Playhouse, Albany Jnr High School's Performing Arts Centre, and in South Auckland.

All show details are below.

Touch Compass General Manager Charlotte Nightingale says, "We are trying to reach different communities in Auckland and bring the show to them. For this audience, travel is often the greatest barrier to attendance, especially with the price of mobility taxis and the unavailability of direct public transport.

"We hope this show has a long life, with tours throughout New Zealand and beyond, hopefully overseas. We feel this is incredibly important work and is the start of a new layer of work for us. We will be able to add more shows to our repertoire for this specific audience, for whom there are very few theatre experiences available which meet their needs," Nightingale says.

According to Frozen Light's Co-artistic Director Amber Onat Gregory, "It was an honour for Frozen Light to be invited to work with such an inclusive company, which is clearly leading the way in terms of inclusive work in New Zealand, not only for actors with disabilities but also for diverse audiences and especially in this project. Sadly, audience members with PMLD are often invisible and ignored by society."



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