Casson & Friends take their family-friendly ‘Night at the Theatre’ to The Vaults

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As part of Stopgap’s iF Platform Casson & Friends recently took their  accessible dance theatre show to the Vault Festival. Kate Lovell went along to sit-back and take in a Night at the Theatre but ended up sitting-up and taking part.

Three performers move forwards from in front of a stage curtain with tentative expressions on their faces.

Casson & Friends bring ‘Night at the Theatre’ to Vaults Festival

Tumbling through a tottering wall of shoeboxes, the cast of Night at the Theatre burst forth and set the energetic pace of the show with this dramatic entrance. The characters are a group of three young people who stumble upon an abandoned theatre, a setting that marries perfectly with the bare-brick aesthetic in the Vaults studio. It’s also a conceit that allows for oodles of imagination; a world of make-believe that’s ideal for a children’s show.

A beautiful opening scene sees the trio exploring the magic of this secret space, with moments of dance popping out from their rummaging and peeking. Looking at a costume becomes a dance with the empty dress; for a few moments two dancers synchronise their exploratory movements.

The subtlety of Night at the Theatre is delightful, deftly introducing dance into the aesthetic, and cleverly setting the audience up for participation later on. If dance can spring from such ordinary movements, then dance can be expressed by ordinary people. Dance is for everyone is the message, and this inclusive atmosphere grows as the show progresses.

All three cast members work together excellently, bringing a cartoonish energy and much warmth to the theatre space. Laura Dajao is a wheelchair-using whirlwind of dynamism. She executes moments of delicate dance, with a rambunctious humour at the heart of her performance. However, having seen a learning disabled performer in one of the promotional videos, I was disappointed not to see more diversity amongst the cast. It’s important for children and young people, to see as diverse a representation on stage as possible, particularly when it has audience engagement at its heart.

The audience interaction begins with a realisation that the abandoned theatre is far from it, and in fact peopled with a full audience. This shift into acknowledging our presence then allows for gentle steps towards gradually involving the seated crowd more and more, until by degrees we begin to learn a simple dance routine, working towards creating our own moves to perform the ‘grand finale’.

At the show’s end, the audience are encouraged to film the dance routine that they have created and upload it to social media, and are rewarded with an “I made a dance” sticker. It is a neat touch, which acknowledges the achievement of being bold enough to get involved, to create a dance routine, and encourages further engagement with movement and dance.

What is striking about this piece is its down-to-earth atmosphere and well-pitched audience interaction. For many, the idea of dance may conjure images of perfect ballerina-types, of incredible, unattainable feats of acrobatics. Whilst the shows that do contain almost super-human feats are equally as enjoyable to watch, Night at the Theatre is a joyful introduction to dance as something possible for anyone, at any age, with any type of body.

Night at the Theatre goes on tour across the UK until April 2017 with dates booked in FAREHAM, LONDON, BORDON, CANTERBURY and BOURNEMOUTH. Please click on this link to Casson & Friends website for more details.