CRIPtic Pit Party – music, dance and performance reflecting the jubilance and defiance of survival

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Jamie Hale talks to DAO about curating a showcase of disability talent at the Barbican, London on the 11th and 12th October 2019.

landscape black and white portrait of performer

Jamie Hale – in my own words. 2018. Credit Ben Gilbert, Wellcome Collection

The Barbican have been central to the development of Hale’s work. They first became involved with the venue as a performer at CN Lester’s ground-breaking showcase of trans artists, Transpose from 2015-2018. With encouragement Hale then applied for the Barbican’s OpenLab programme, which provides a residency in the Pit theatre to research and develop a show. NOT DYING came into being as Hale began experimental medical treatment, which probably saved their life.

“From the outset, the Barbican have been incredibly supportive. I used OpenLab to develop the script I had for my solo show, NOT DYING into a complete show. The freedom of the residency and the mentoring support Kate O’Donnell gave me allowed me to really explore every possibility for the piece. When I then pitched the idea that I curate a showcase of D/deaf and disabled artists, the Barbican suggested I do that, but as a double bill with my solo show.”

“It’s no exaggeration to say that without OpenLab my show would be unlikely to have been finished, and without the Barbican I’d have been unlikely to find anywhere with the resources needed for the showcase. The intensive support I’ve received in the preparation for CRIPtic has been a wonder. They’ve been generous and flexible, right up to travelling out to South London for meetings by my hospital bed.”

The idea for CRIPtic had been gestating for a long time – very much based on CN Lester’s Transpose showcase of trans artists. It took a venue as big as the Barbican to offer the necessary access support with a Changing Places toilet, and the resources to fund captioning, audio-description, BSL interpretation, and to offer a chill-out space for the audience – all necessary components for CRIPtic.

“I was convinced from the outset that I wanted as much of the team as possible to be made up of D/deaf and disabled people. I wanted the money to circulate in our communities, and I knew I wanted to give people opportunities that they might not otherwise have had.”

Careers in theatre are often built in inaccessible spaces, and Hale wanted to mitigate the impact of this on the careers of D/deaf and disabled performers, by using CRIPtic as a platform to support their development.

“While Kate O’Donnell was an integral part of NOT DYING from the outset, as my director, everyone else was brought together through an application system. I had about 30 people interested in non-performing creative roles, so I narrowed them down based on experience, and then did email interviews, after which I selected a final team. I wanted people with a theatre background and experience, but also people who might be facing access barriers in the arts world. I’ve got a massive diversity of skills and am really glad to be working with the team I have.”

Hale also did an open application process for the artists, specifying that a significant part of the group identify as D/deaf and/or disabled. Drawing from a diverse and flourishing disability arts scene, Hale selected artists from 70+ applications, having suggested applications reflect themes of anger, joy and resilience – all themes key to NOT DYING,

“I wanted the performances to explode outwards from NOT DYING into a wild diversity of experience. There were so many talented applicants that it was very difficult to select the final line-up. I would have liked to do in-person auditions, but this just wasn’t possible/ practical in terms of access needs, so after a series of email interviews, I went with the material people could send, and the ideas behind their pitches.”

Hale wanted a a diversity of art-form and experience, from prominent and well-known artists, to lesser known (and equally good) ones and selected the final line-up of Signkid, Jackie Hagen, Amelia Cavallo, Katie Walters and Elle Chante, Donna Williams (Fri only), and Jessi Parrott (dir Crispin Lord, Sat only).
CRIPtic directly and tangentially showcases the D/deaf and disabled experience. With Jamie Hale’s NOT DYING forming the first half of the showcase, each evening 5 short performances will respond to the themes of the solo piece through a variety of artforms.

landscape photo of performer on stage in a bed

OpenLab. Credit Becky Bailey

“Now, as we approach the showcase, I’m very much giving the artists a free rein to develop their work as they wish – the director (Shereen Hamilton) and creative producer (Lucy Hayward) will be working with them and shaping and organising the performances, while I focus my energy on NOT DYING.”

Determined to confront and dismantle barriers so often encountered by disabled people, Hale’s solo NOT DYING intertwines video and narrative to thought-provoking effect. The vibrant second-half showcase curated by them completes CRIPtic.

“Ultimately the message comes down to ‘we’re here, and we’re staying here’ – an act of reclaiming the stage as our own, and taking up our places in the (theatre and wider) world.”

CRIPtic Pit Party takes place from 11—12 October, 7.45pm, Barbican, The Pit

Performers
Jamie Hale: NOT DYING
Signkid: The Visual Experience
Jackie Hagan: This Is Not A Safe Space
Amelia Cavallo: Tito Bone
Katie Walters and Ella Chante Seasick
Donna Williams
Jessi Parrott: PREPARE IT, MY BODY

Fri 11 Oct 2019, 7.45pm: Audio-described and BSL-interpreted performance and a BSL-interpreted post-show talk.
Sat 12 Oct 2019, 7.45pm: Captioned performance:

All performances are chilled performances
To book please go to https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2019/event/jamie-hale-criptic-pit-party