Collaborators/Directors: Alan Lyddiard, Denis Darzacq
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
Mind The Gap Studios are known for their true stories from the heart, and this is certainly evident in this unique production of Contained. The production features nine performers with learning disabilities and the show is in joint collaboration from Alan Lyddiard (Anniversary) and award-winning French Photographer and filmmaker, Denis Darzacq.
The performance begins when each actor, one by one, walks out to introduce themselves and share their compelling stories, invoking a range of emotions from the listeners. The barriers and stereotyped perceptions the performers have had to face are unbelievable. It is sad that even today, people can be judged primarily on their disability, casting a shadow on what they, as an individual, are capable of. Jez Colborne, the show’s composer, inspired by Bob Marley’s Get Up Stand Up, is determined to stand for his rights, no matter what his personal circumstances are. He asserts that one is neither my judge nor my jury and one should focus on ability.
Many will know Liam Bairstow for his role as Alex Warner in Coronation Street. During the production he shares his somewhat harrowing experiences, and how he eventually overcame them, securing a role on Britain’s longest running soap opera. There is also Howard, who drums to “forget all things” and his girlfriend, Zara, who experienced discrimination at a mainstream school, labelled as stupid, among other titles. The performers assure one another that they are all there for each other, the bond between them palpable.
Another actor, Paul, turns to the performance arts to combat stress and anger from his experiences but is grateful for his current foster family, who love him for who he is. The remaining performers share their stories, including Alison, from Bradford. She has lived through some poignant experiences and is also a talented saxophone player.
On stage, the performers are supported by Charli Ward, the company’s academy director, who works holistically and in unison with the actors. The show is accessible with visual screenings of texts, kinesthetic use of videos when stories are shared one by one, and a sign language interpreter is also present on stage.
At the end of the production, each performer consolidates their story, and there is a heartfelt and optimistic finale of I am fine, sung collectively. This emphasises their beliefs in freedom and being themselves, not conforming to existing perceptions. Significantly, it is about not being figuratively contained and is thought-provoking for all to reconsider disability in general.
Contained is a moving, poignant and powerful production that celebrates ability and artistic successes. The production is colourfully reflective, giving the viewer an opportunity to learn about the world through the perspective of those with learning disabilities. This is an unmissable production and one which is incredibly well done, and well received by the audience from beginning to end.
Runs until 11 March 2017 | Image: Tim Smith