Sensory theatre designed specifically for individuals with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities is extremely rare and, in the case of this reviewer, not something seen before. Home, the latest show from Frozen Light Theatre Company, makes a very strong argument that there needs to be more of it.
This hour-long show from long-time collaborators Lucy Garland and Amber Onat Gregory is a remarkable experience. Playing to only an audience of ten (five young people with PMLD and their carers), Home is an intimate, immersive and very emotional piece of theatre. Telling the story of two girls who are left behind after the rest of their community escape from a storm, the performance uses multi-sensory elements to show how these characters try to survive until help arrives.
The narrative is a very simple one, but it offers a solid backdrop to the various experiences they offer to the audience. Cornflour and cinnamon are mixed together to look like dirt, offering both something to touch and to smell. Blueberry-flavoured water is sprayed into mouths to act as water, and a small box with bright yellow lights inside acts as the starry night sky. Each young person is given individual time to enjoy the experience at their own pace, with Garland and Gregory bringing a warmth and personable approach that is visibly calming. These are two performers and practitioners at complete ease in this environment.
Joining them on stage is musical director Al Watts, who brings live music and sound to proceedings. From electric guitars and drumkits to cymbals and saxaphones, Watts uses a variety of different sounds to elicit emotions from the audience. Seeing the audience react to these three performers in a positive manner is a deeply emotional experience.
What a show like this really highlights is how important it is to bring theatre to such communities. This was a group of people that had never been to the theatre, and the joy they all expressed was infectious. Home was a wonderful piece of theatre, and a privilege to be a part of. Whether suffering from PMLD or not, it’s an experience that must be seen. This is theatre as therapy, and Frozen Light deserves our gratitude for bringing it to Cardiff.