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creating possibilities for disabled children

An exciting collaboration with Artevox Teatro

We asked Sue Pyecroft, our Co-Founder and Associate Director of Families & Community, to tell us more about our current collaborative project with Italian theatre company Artevox Teatro.

When Artevox Teatro, an established Italian children’s theatre company near Milan, decided to create work for learning disabled (LD) audiences they were recommended to Bamboozle by Noel Jordan, Festival Director at Imaginate.  Marta Galli and Anna Maini, co-founders of Artevox, joined Bamboozle’s online trainings and then attended our Summer School in person in 2023.  They then invited Christopher to speak about accessible theatre at two festivals in Italy and have engaged us to advise on the creation of a new outdoor show for autistic audiences. To that end, Christopher and I set off for Italy at the end of May to attend a Festival before joining Artevox, Pandemonium Teatro and Campsirago Residenza for a week’s research and development at Campsirago’s base in the foothills of the Alps in June 2024.   

After the craziness of getting through Stansted airport, we were on our plane to Milan. On landing we were met by Marco, a young Italian taxi driver, who sped us towards Virmercate. He revelled in having a passenger (not me) to discuss all things football, in particular, Leicester’s underdog status when winning the Premier League in 2016 with the Italian manager Claudio Ranieri. Oh yes, and he was very rude about women drivers …

We arrived at the Festival hub to meet our hosts Marta and Anna. We were given the key to the apartment and let loose on Vimercate equipped only with a map and my awkward Italian.  

The Vimerate Dei Ragazzi is an outdoor family festival of theatre, workshops, talks – Christopher delivered one about accessible theatre – and a parade through Vimercate’s medieval cobbled streets.

The first show we saw was Artevox’s Secret Garden, a charming immersive sensory theatre piece in a small gazebo in a park designed for autistic adults. The main character had pictures of the attendees on their oversized jacket and made amazing connections with the audience.  

We saw an exquisite piece of marionette theatre called VARIATIONS by the Filippo Marionette Company and an amazing piece of storytelling from a company who were originally from Burkina Faso. 

Hansel and Gretel by Campsirago Residenza – who would be our hosts the following week – was set in a park. The audience were given pendants of a wire cage containing a tiny heart to put round our neck. We were invited to follow the Magpie character and a trail of white stones through woodlands, wearing headphones through which you heard music and narration. Despite not understanding Italian, we became immersed in a different world discovering strange characters and quirky installations.  In the final scene we all stood in a circle around a woodburner as our heart pendants were collected from us and given to the flames of the fire! It was then we realised that we were all Hansel and Gretel in the story.

On Monday we travelled 30 miles up steep mountain switchback roads, that would challenge the most intrepid cyclists, to the wooded pre Alps and Campsirago Residenza.   

For the next five days we followed steep paths to a pre-historic stone monument, recorded the sounds of the forest, walked in silence, watched fireflies dancing in the woods, explored streams and immersed ourselves in the rich sensory landscape of the ancient woodlands. We shared the Bamboozle ethos and the approaches to working outdoors with autistic children and young people.   

Later this month, the Italian companies are coming to Leicester for a week, where we will continue to explore the possibilities of working outdoors with autistic children. We will be based in the woodland at Stoughton Grange and have invited autistic children and their families to help us develop the ideas for this new piece of theatre.

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