GASP: Emotional and thought-provoking theatre

Guest post from Ben Miles – Creative Director at Full House

This year’s production, GASP, was the sixth collaboration between Bedford-based professional theatre company Full House and young disabled actors from Bedford and District Cerebral Palsy Society.

BedFringe theatre festival

But this year was very different. Instead of a light-hearted, 25-strong cast on a summer school, eight young disabled people wanted to express their creativity and get their message across in a gritty and emotional studio piece. The young people leave school this year and move on to adult services so emotions were running high. The cast asked themselves questions about what was next? What they hoped for the future? What were their fears and what excites them about a bright new future outside of school?

Over a period of eight weeks the young people and the team from Full House came together to explore new ideas, express emotions and have new experiences with the aim of creating a contemporary performance piece. The final production was performed at two venues. The Hat Factory in Luton and Bedford’s The Place Theatre as part of the BedFringe theatre festival in July.

Martial arts, physical theatre and movement

The performance used media, martial arts, fantasy storytelling, physical theatre and movement to tell the story of a fish breaking free from its bowl and journeying to the ocean. The young people were encouraged to explore exactly what they wanted to express and this lead to a wonderfully varied and visually stimulating piece of theatre. Elements of performance ranged from: a rapper performing urban music written by a cast member, a scene set in a pub in which three young men expressed their wish to let loose and make their own choices, an abstract fantasy of a young girl who dreamed of becoming Snow White and a very brave young actor who chose to express to camera how he felt about his uncertain future and his love of his family. All this was punctuated by three dramatic sequences of African drumming. The beautiful, simple set and subtle lighting contributed wonderfully to the thought-provoking and abstract world that the cast created.

Audiences were staggered by their achievements. The young cast did a wonderful job. Some of them had never performed before and had to over come severe stage fright, others were simply overwhelmed when at last their voices were heard and their opinions expressed through art and music.