Try this one at home

March 9, 2021

Just pull the curtains and your lounge becomes a stage. Tear an old white sheet into moonbeams. Then find a soft, fluffy jumper to be The Badger.

Now you are ready to hear, see, touch, taste and smell The Badger Story. This is new digital, multi-sensory theatre delivered online by the Glass Ceiling Arts Collective to people with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

It’s a COVID-inspired, in-home theatre experience for families who supply their own props from the cupboard, supermarket or $2 shop. It was developed with funding from the IHC Foundation.

The process of gathering the props is part of the whole experience. The Badger Story comes with instructions about how to get the best experience for participants as they use all their senses and involve all the family.

“For me, going out into the forest and finding leaves and playing with grass is an exciting thing in itself. Even my son, who has autism, it was an exciting process for him,” says author Charlotte Nightingale. Charlotte, a teacher and actor, is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Glass Ceiling Arts Collective.

The crew ventured into the trees near Charlotte’s home with a binaural microphone specially imported from Canada to record 3-D stereo audio for more lifelike sounds.

The Badger Story is an excerpt from Charlotte’s play, The Incredible and Glorious World According to The Fitzroys , which won Best Performance (Ensemble) at Auckland Fringe last year. 

It is the story of a teenager with autism who finds the outside world tricky, so he creates an incredible world at home. The Badger narrative is about navigating friendship. It is performed by an inclusive cast – of people and live action, animated characters and puppets. The giant badger was made by Tusk Puppets in Christchurch and Deaf actor Courtney Nairn is the screen goddess.

Co-founder and General Manager of Glass Ceiling, Mike Eaglesome, says The Badger Story was born out of COVID. He says those with high health needs were even more vulnerable during lockdown. Even at the best of times, going out to the theatre is beyond the reach of many. The Badger Story brings theatre into their world.

“The Badger Story was initially conceived to address the needs of a New Zealand audience. However, given that it is delivered as a digital experience, the audience can be anywhere.” Mike says New Zealanders out and about on their summer holidays were not so much in need of an indoor theatre experience. “Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom it’s winter and they’re in COVID lockdown and the demand is much more apparent.”

Mike says they have already had good feedback from Britain. A mother of twin daughters with a rare genetic condition and high needs, said she was working hard to find a variety of meaningful experiences for them while they were shut in.

“It wasn’t too bad when the weather was nice during the summer and we could do a lot outside, but during the winter any online-appropriate activities have been a godsend. The days are very long as the girls cannot easily occupy themselves. I am exhausted being entertainments manager.

“D… liked the dough, the foliage, the fur and the water spray. R… enjoyed each sensory experience but loved the lights and torch activities. We also used our bubble machine for the mist as the girls really love it and also had our light machine for the rave at the end.”

Mike sees the theatre experience evolving as families join in. “It also makes me think about our next theatre experience for people with high health needs, and what we can do better/differently to make the user experience even better.  “If any of your IHC members/whānau are particularly keen to embrace The Badger Story and give detailed feedback, we’d be really interested to hear from them.”

Watch The Badger Story

Caption: Puppeteers Jon Coddington and Paul Lewis from Tusk Puppets. Photo: Tom Grut.