Interplay Theatre announce sensory theatre symposium  

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Armley-based Interplay Theatre has announced its first sensory theatre symposium, which will explore the latest in sensory theatre.

The day, hosted and supported by Leeds Playhouse, will see a host of artists, programmers and companies who specialise in work for learning disabled audiences, along with audience members themselves, discuss the possibilities and importance of sensory work.

Attendees with PMLD (profound multiple learning disability) and/or complex needs can experience the symposium through all the senses, with interactive installations, shows and sensory sessions running all day. The event is also offered digitally via a monitored Zoom stream, which means participants nationally and internationally can contribute to the day’s discussions and events, for £10 a ticket.  

With a number of new and emerging companies entering the sensory scene with different approaches to making sensory theatre, Interplay Theatre aims to bring together networks from across the UK to discuss these perspectives in collaborative sessions, highlighting especially, the wants and needs of audience members. 

Artists appearing include: 

  • Jeremy Harrison, an artist and researcher from Playground (Kent) and Rose Bruford College, who is an industry leader in Sensory Theatre practice 
  • Mind the Gap artist JoAnne Haines who has recently toured her sensory show Dancing with Colours to learning disabled and non-disabled audiences across Yorkshire 
  • Diane Thornton from Tenterhooks, whose show MESS, a performance for young people with complex needs, has just finished a SEN Schools tour with National Theatre of Scotland and Imaginate.
  • Lucy Garland and Amber Onat Gregory, Joint Artistic Directors of Frozen Light, who create multi-sensory theatre for audiences with PMLD in theatres and arts venues nationwide 

They will be joined by an array of representatives from organisations Interplay Theatre, Leeds Playhouse and Oily Cart, who have been making and touring sensory theatre since 1981. There will be audience representatives from Buzz @ Leeds Playhouse, which provides creative activity for young people with learning disabilities, and teachers and students from local schools John Jamieson School East SILC and Broomfield South SILC.  

Delegates will also be able to see Interplay Theatre’s show My Life with The Wave, a story of friendship beneath the waves which uses music, movement, digital technology and physical interaction to help engage audiences in a multi-sensory accessible and inclusive performance. The performances will be available throughout the day at 11am, 1.30pm and 6pm.  

Sensory Theatre communicates through all the senses and reimagines ways to engage audiences who may not follow language. It can be immersive, non-verbal, highly visual, tactile and include a whole myriad of techniques to engage audiences in ways not traditionally seen in theatre.  

Kirsty Pennycook, the new artistic director at Interplay Theatre said: “We are really looking forward to the Symposium to share practice with other artists and companies, and welcome in venues and programmers from across the UK. With the support of Leeds Playhouse, we are ensuring that this day is accessible to people with learning disabilities and sensory needs, and their presence on our panels will be instrumental.” 

Interplay has a 50-year history of working with the communities of West Leeds and an international reputation for its sensory theatre produced with and for young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, which it tours nationally. 

Their recent productions include My Life with the Wave, a story of friendship which used music, movement, digital technology and physical interaction to help engage audiences and This Land, the story of folk hero Woody Gutherie which immersed audiences in the in the action as it unfolded around them, with sights, smells, tastes heightening the experience.  

The event runs at Leeds Playhouse on 1 February 2024, from 10am-4pm. Digital tickets priced £10 can be bought here.

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