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EDINBURGH 2016: BWW Q&A - The Forest

EDINBURGH 2016: BWW Q&A - The Forest

BWW speaks to Lucy Garland of The Forest ahead of their run at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Tell us a bit about The Forest.

The Forest is a multi-sensory theatre show for audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD). It is the tale of Thea and Robin who both crave an escape from their everyday routines. One day they are drawn into a dark and mysterious forest and find themselves on a journey of self-discovery filled with surprising encounters and experiences that change their lives forever. Ivy the caretaker of the forest weaves a path with the hope that eventually Thea and Robin will find each other and the escape from their everyday routines that they so desperately seek.

The Forest immerses audiences in a world filled with sights, sounds, smells and other exciting multi-sensory interactions.

What inspired the show?

Frozen Light create theatre for audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD) so the inspiration for all our work always begins with the desire to make pieces of theatre that are truly accessible for our audience.

In terms of The Forest we wanted to create a show that was for an audience of teenagers and adults with PMLD but had a universal feel to it. Before the development of this show myself and Amber were both feeling strangely drawn to imagery of trees and the sensory experience of being in a forest. We wanted to re-create this on stage in an abstract way that would transport our audience to a familiar yet different world. We knew that we definitely didn't want to create a twee fluffy green forest so explored the torment in our main characters to influence the type of forest they would be exploring. Through following these characters on their journey into the forest and eventually to each other we wanted the audience to discover everything our forest had to offer, from forest shelters and food to the forest storm.

How has the show been made accessible?

Accessibility is at the heart of all the work we create. People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities have multiple disabilities which includes a profound learning disability, difficulty communicating often physical disabilities and complex health needs. Our audience explore the world on a multi-sensory level so this means that for theatre to be relevant to them it needs to be multi-sensory. It also needs to be performed at close proximity to the audience. Therefore, we ensure that our show is built around the one to one interactions between performer and audience. These moments are key to reaching and communicating with our audience. We also include collective moments that all the audience can experience at once to create a sense of community within the performance space.

Many of our audience (41% during our Tunnels tour) have never been to the theatre before. Therefore, we create a safe space for our audience to enter. This begins before the show starts. We provide each audience member with a visual story which has photos of the characters and information on what will happen during the show. We provide a chill out zone which we place outside the performance area. This is a space with cushions that our audience can use if they become overwhelmed and need to have a break from the show. During the show we sing to each audience member a song which incorporates their name this makes everyone feel that they are part of the show.

Why did you want to bring it to Edinburgh?

We wanted to bring The Forest to Edinburgh because, as far as we are aware, there has never been a show for audiences with PMLD at the Fringe, the world's largest international arts festival. We wanted to ensure that this year there was an offer for audiences with PMLD so that they could come and experience the Fringe with a show that meets their needs.

How has audience response been so far?

We are only at the Fringe for the last week (22nd- 25th) but tickets are already starting to sell out. We toured the Forest nationally in Autumn 2015 and responses were great. Here are what some Audience members said:

"Extremely impressed with the professionalism, thought and planning that allowed Ellie to partake and enjoy, despite this being a day when her epilepsy was active and can interrupt her enjoyment. Would highly recommend." Mother of audience member with PMLD

"Thank you so much for a fabulous morning! It was a real joy to see the communication and interaction between yourselves and the students. Every single student engaged with your production throughout and every one of them thoroughly enjoyed themselves." Teacher

"Amazing performance. This is what theatre is all about! Thankyou!"

Timings and ticket information for The Forest are available on the edfringe website.

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