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creating possibilities for disabled children

Adapting Down to Earth

Down to Earth is a Bamboozle production designed for audiences with complex needs. Inspired by the Land Army Girls of WWII, the show creates a multi-sensory experience which sees our audience join Betty, Doris, Mavis and Arthur in Arthur’s allotment garden. Together, our audience and performers explore the produce of the garden, when a mischievous mole starts to cause mayhem! An air raid warning sounds, after which we take shelter in a magical forest filled with wildlife and fireflies. 

Usually, our set and props create this environment inside a theatre studio or a school hall. However due to venues being closed, and the necessity of being socially distanced in the open air, we decided to take a show outdoors. And there couldn’t have been a show more thematically suited for the task. 

In early September, members of Bamboozle’s creative team undertook the challenge of transposing the performance to take place in the beautiful gardens at Belgrave Hall in Leicester, and then at Rowley Field’s allotments. We were very lucky with the weather, and all planned performances were able to go ahead. 

Miriam Keye, Bamboozle artist and movement specialist, tells us about her experience being part of the adaptation process. 

“On the whole I think Bamboozle have been doing incredible things in the face of the pandemic and I am so proud to be in the team.

We aren’t struggling with vulnerability within my own family, but we have three young children, two of which are at an age with zero understanding of social distancing and we have no desire to teach them this skill. Therefore, we stayed very much within our own space, worked from home and only saa couple of other close family members until school started again.

highlight for me was arriving at the allotment and knowing I was going to spend the day with other people! But not only that; I was going to be spending it with people whom I have great love and admiration for. In that moment, the biggest challenge was not giving them all a great big hug! 

And knowing that our purpose there was to offer joy, connection and some well needed escapism just filled me with humungous delight.

The challenges of adapting the show: 

It was really hard juggling all the different strands of thought: firstly, getting to know the show, and then getting to know the two different spaces we were performing in” 

We looked at how different styles of wheelchairs might (or might not) be able to navigate those spaces and rejigged the show to fit in the most accessible way.  

Another challenge was finding different ways to offer the families some of the experiences we would normally offer through directly touching or making contact with the young people.  

We developed explorations that they could do in their family bubbles instead and worked these into the show through bringing in a new character (Mavis – that’s me!). 

When looking at the props we were using, we created “single use” props for families, (for example, everyone had their own pre-prepared vegetable packs to explore), and as performers we had individually assigned props and had to make sure we were the only one who touched them – being vigilant that your props aren’t picked up by someone else.  

We also wanted to maintain using puppets in the show, (our mischievous mole! And some buzzing bees), without bringing them too close to anyone in case they were to get touched 

We choreographed the cast to ensure we always maintained enough distance between us and the audience.  

After we’d worked out all of the logistics, the biggest highlight for me was to be with our families again. To hear that many families had trusted us enough to be their first experience outside of their bubble was humbling and an absolute honour. It made me grateful for the attention to detail that the team had paid to ensuring the safety of everybody involved.  

Another highlight was seeing the huge variety of ways that families responded to the activities offered in the show: the wheel of a wheelchair became the biggest garlic press ever! Chucking veg into bags, listening to the flapping of a leek, the delight of sweet honey on the tongue, filling the earth tray with golden leavesthe concentration of balancing sticks, being together in relative stillness and listening, and the moment where we danced in a circle all together, connected will long branches of willow.   

Watch a short film about our families’ experiences of Down to Earth at Rowley Fields.

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