Maria Oshodi, Artistic Director Extant and Co-Director of Flight Paths:
Since the start, I’ve aimed to define Extant by artistically integrating access for visually impaired audiences into its live shows. However, it was while I was directing Sheer in 2012 with visually impaired dramaturge Alex Bulmer and visually impaired aerialist Amelia Cavallo that I first identified and was excited by the creative possibilities of making aerial performance accessible to visually impaired audiences. Together, we became the first people to explore applying live access to aerial performance, and it is to these early conversations that Flight Paths can trace its genesis. A year later I met Kumiko Mendle and Vicki Amedume through The Sustain Theatre London Hub which aimed to unite leading BAME artists, and invited them to come and explore further how aerial performance could be made more accessible through the use of song, music and the poetic use of description delivered by its performers. I also brought blind soprano Victoria Oruari and blind viola player Takashi Kikuchi to get on board with Amelia and the rest of us for this thrilling flight. I’ve been keen for the team to always keep the ‘amplification question’ in our minds, that is, how do we amplify the voices of the performers from the position of their bodies, rather than coming from a static speaker which confuses location for a visually impaired audience? Crew member Tarim has brought us a brilliant solution to this access conundrum in the shape of ‘spatialised tracking’ which I am very excited about artistically integrating into the show.
Kumiko Mendl, Artistic Director Yellow Earth Theatre and Co-Director of Flight Paths:
Yellow Earth is delighted to be working alongside the UK’s leading visually impaired theatre company, Extant supporting Flight Paths, a project that the two Artistic Directors, Maria Oshodi and Kumiko Mendl together with Vicki Amedume from Upswing and writer Glen Neath have been developing over the past five years. The Japanese traditions of Biwa Hoshi and later the Goze have been a true inspiration for us all. As we researched further into the centuries old traditions of blind artists in Japan we discovered how Goze would live together and support each other, teaching each other the ropes so to speak on their journey to become a professional Goze and make ones living. The lifestyle, the journeys they made, the stories they told and their musicianship present many parallels and echoes with the contemporary stories of migration we are telling and continue to act as a great source of inspiration for us as we move into the final stages of bringing Flight Paths on to the runway ready for take-off.
Glen Neath, Writer, thoughts on Flight Paths:
What initially drew me to the Flight Paths project was an interest in the use of audio description to explore the ascribing of authorship. Who owns the words that describe the action? I was attracted to the idea of the audio describe person as a character on the stage, whose efforts at understanding the action might be disputed by the performers. By framing this as a discussion I hoped the performance would be opened up to the audience. As with all my work I am interested in the ‘position’ of the audience, and in Flight Paths we are working to move them through and around the performance area, via the use of ‘tracking’ sound, exploring the level of their immersion in the story versus acknowledging that they are in a theatre. The job of combining narrative with aerial work, with music, with song, with sound, with image and with audio description has proved challenging and Flight Paths is a true reflection of how we have all worked collaboratively together, across all these different artistic forms, to tell these amazing stories.
Vicki Amedume, Aerial Movement:
I rarely get butterflies walking into a rehearsal room but on the first day of this project I felt like I had just swallowed a hand full of the beasties. I knew very little about audio description when we first came together in 2013 for the first R&D. I quickly realised how much my work has always favoured exploration of stories through the structuring of visual images; primarily working with circus bodies to create a emotional or symbolic resonance. Flight Paths has made me a better artist. I now find myself working with different sensibilities how does the timber of the voice in the air or the direction of sound or the order of things being told support or detract from understanding of what was taking place and the story it told. Working with this team has been a challenge, a pleasure and an education I am excited how the many ideas we are holding will enrich and consolidate as we come closer to meeting an audience and above all, each rehearsal day I am reminded how cultural and artistic practice can in small and large ways influence vital social transformation.