I got to catch the show MadHouse re:exit, when I was in London, in one of the most hipster/artsy neighbourhood in London—Shoreditch. I was invited by Lesley Ewen who’s a theatre director and one of the co-creator of the work. The show is an interactive theatre that focuses on the discussion revolving disabilities, it immediately drawn me from the very beginning. I’ve been to quite a few interactive/immersive/site specific work, the delivery of the work can be very risky and tricky, this work has really brought this format to the next level.
The audiences were divided up into groups of 15 people, I usually get a bit anxious nowadays to go into unknown and enclosed places, but they really set up an environment and staff that makes you feel safe. It makes a lot of sense because I noticed right the way that more than 40% of the audiences (at least the group that I was in) were people with visible or invisible disabilities. I mean, I knew that some of the performers are people with disabilities, I’ve seem quite a few works by diverse ability of performing bodies that really made astonishing and powerful work, but it’s the first time that actually got to experience quite intimately with audiences who suffers various physical and mental conditions. It became one of the most meaningful part of the show for me, to experience a 110min journey together, viewing this satire, poetics, theatricality, dance, lights, sound and interactive games that’s really touching on some of the history and issues of systemic discriminations towards disabilities and the disillusions of institutionalization, with the lens of people in the contemporary time, who are undergoing these legacies of systemic discriminations. The experience was very quite entangling, empowering and liberating all at the same time.
One of the audience member who seems to suffer from some of condition that he seems to compulsively respond to everything that he perceives. So when the performs who were acting, delivering texts to us, he would respond to almost every sentence and punctuations. He was almost like an externalize subconsciousness of our minds, facilitating the work that is being delivered into our perceptions. In combination to this man, there’s a women of colour, short, chubby with a huge puffy hair who really speaks her heart really clearly without any filter. Almost everything that she said makes my day, she was my favourite audience in the group. Starting from the announcement from the theatre staff, “as a warning, there will be smoke” *she opened her eyes and mouth so wide “strobe lights” she gasps with excitement, “and explicit sexual content “ she frowned and said “what does that even mean?”. As you can imagine, during the whole show, one person would respond to the actors or even the characters/narratives on the screen, one person would give us her more primordial and immediate feeling, comments and dialogue of the show. It was very similar to when I watch shows with kids sometimes, I hear the most groundbreaking and innovative comments, sometimes it’s very simple but they would nail it so perfectly, and then makes everyone else seem overly elitist and conservative. I really don’t want to generalize and overly simplify these complex issues and experiences, but what I witness in this journey was really inspiring and enlightening.
As some of you know, I struggle with anxiety issues. I can feel severely unease in certain situation and environments. Yes, even in theatres. it’s a place where we are taught not to make noise, not to talk, not to distract others’ viewing experience. There’s something innately enclosing, restricting and confining kind of quality in these types of environment, I often feel (without realizing) how disembodied and removed I am from myself, from my natural expressions, my feelings in conjunction with my natural reactions. This women spoke everything that I wish I could spoke out—especially from the inner chid deep inside of me. I started to realize even more where the source of my anxiety are coming from, the gaze, the normalized view, the invisible rules and confinement that is silently governing us “regular people” this whole time, I started to go out-of-phase when my body and my heart aren’t in sync anymore, they wanted to break free from this heavy container. I envy this women’s humour, her filterless voice, her honest and liberated reactions to everything she sees. I really started to question why I couldn’t take these steps, my past traumas being a POC in such white spaces that really pushed me to talk and act a certain way? Yes, I know it can get really complicated, but I am inspired to question these things. And this whole time, I didn’t feel interrupted or uneasy at all, I felt quite nice being part of a new experience, a new group of people, a new community, almost a new kind of ideology. It was truly a collective afford from both the artists and the audience to create some unique experience that is quite boundary pushing, progressive, risk-taking but super family friendly and anxiety free at the same time.
Congrats to the artistic and production team. And I am excited announce that I’ll be working with Lesley and The Frank Theatre on coming project
CAMERA OBSCURA (hungry ghosts)
written and directed by Lesley Ewen
Produced by The Frank
Part of the Queer Arts Festival, June 2018, Vancouver
It was so nice to get to meet Lesley in London. We chatted about so many of our common friends and people we love in Vancouver, we took this photo for Paul Wong and Jamie Griffith…
the show MadHouse Re:exit will run until March 28th 2018 in London. There might be a show in April for Manchester.
Access All Areas
#disability #mental #physical #visible #invisible #disorder #theatre #london