What does ‘A Little Space’ mean to the cast of Mind the Gap?


The term “a little space” can mean different things to people and Paul Wilshaw, Assistant Producer, talks to the cast of this latest Mind the Gap production to obtain an insight into their own feelings and experiences gained when touring.

portriat photo of a young learning disabled man looking at the camera

Paul Wilshaw Assistant Producer on ZARA with Mind the Gap Theatre Company

1986, the year I was born, and the song ‘Space’ was released by the indie band It’s Immaterial from the album ‘Life’s Hard and Then You Die’. The song did not create its own space in the charts; the album only reached 68, but after listening to it while thinking about my life, the lyrics hit me.

So, what has this got to do with Gecko and Mind the Gap’s new show? Well, “a little space” can mean so many different things to so many people, which got me thinking about my connection to the show and what the phrase means to the cast and a wider audience.

I have written this article in Sweden where I have been learning about Moomsteatern, a Swedish Learning Disability Theatre Company, and here is where I have found my own space in my hotel room with a carton of milk and my laptop.

The most ironic thing I have found out during the process of writing this opinion piece is the ‘little space’ I have had to write it … and for the cast, who are on tour, have had to answer my questions.

On with the interview with the cast:

In most of Mind the Gap’s shows there has been either improvisation or a script but in this piece there is muttering of words. What has excited you about this process and what has been hard?

Alison: “The muttering has been hard but a great skill we have developed. Not having a script means you have to find your own way of memorising the show.”

JoAnne: “I love talking! It has been so hard for me not to want to talk or speak during the show. I like to tell a story and I have to work really hard in this show.”

Lorraine: “Muttering is fun. It keeps us laughing! We can choose our own way of muttering and it can change it all the time.”

Where do you find a little space for yourself personally? Is there a specific place you like to go to? What do you need to do to find that space for yourself?

Charlotte: “I love being outside! My garden is one of those places that I find safe and happy! I like to go there in the morning where it is peaceful. I listen to the birds!”

Paul: “My bedroom is my little space. It is all mine and I spend most of my time listening to music! Music make me happy an helps me unwind after a long day!”

Lorraine: “My little space is my bedroom. My house can be very chaotic but my in my room I can relax and chill!”

JoAnne: “My little house. I moved out of the family home last year into my little home. I feel happy and that I can make decisions. I like making my own meals and organising my own time. It can be lonely there sometimes though.”

Alison: “I think it has to be my house, mostly in the living room or my bedroom. I like to be alone. My home is my home!”

production photo

Gecko and Mind the Gap coproduction A Little Space. Credit: Tom Woollard

Joanne’s answer got me thinking about when I moved from Dorset to Bradford and the fact that making her own decisions made her feel happy as she moved into her own house. This is what I have felt since being in Bradford but it was the last line that struck a major cord with me. The fact of being lonely and this follows on to my next question.

Do you think having space by yourself is always good for people’s mental health? Are there situations where it is, or isn’t good to have A Little Space?

Alison: “If you need to process things and get things organised in your brain, a little space can be very useful! If you bog yourself down though it can be hard to get yourself out of it and you need support with this.”

Personally, I think you should have a combination of both., Being alone and being around people is a good balance. Being on your own too much can be really lonely and you lose confidence to ask for help. I like to be on my own at night-time after a long day of being with people and being busy. I try to get a good balance to feel good.

Another person I spoke to about this said:

“I think it’s mostly a good thing to carve out a little space for yourself, somewhere you can feel comfortable, usually alone. Sometimes you can become too reliant on this space however and shut yourself off from the outside world.”

“As I say, it’s usually a positive thing to me but completely sympathise with people who find a little space difficult to deal with. There have been dark moments in my past where being inside my own head and without other friendly distractions (friends/family/colleagues) have being difficult to cope with – constantly questioning myself and overthinking situations. I think though that with age, I have learned to appreciate moments of being alone and use them to focus on positives rather than negatives.”

It depends if the individual needs their own space, I think this can help, especially if they need a time out away from the stimulation of the environment.

A major thing for me is always seeing new talent shine through and Charlotte and Lorraine, who have grown through the company (Mind the Gap) by way of the Performance Academy and have created space for themselves as apprentice artists. Now they’re on tour with ‘a little space’! I asked them if being an Apprentice Artist lives up to their expectations?

Charlotte: “MORE! Even though I haven’t spent much time with the other artists yet as I have been on tour so much. I am loving it and getting the chance to explore new things like how to make work and grow my performance skills.”

Lorraine: “YES! Definitely! I LOVE being on tour! It is my favourite part of performing. I do worry sometimes when I am so busy though, it can be really tiring!”

production photo

Gecko and Mind the Gap coproduction A Little Space. Credit: Tom Woollard

The connection to the piece in my own journey and experience is interesting. I connect each story to my own life, my first time on stage and how I felt that that was the only space I wanted to be in. That has continued in my career which has been nearly 23 years as an amateur and professional actor. From the experience of being scared in a room alone, the opening of a window and letting the world in and just breathing, to the pure happiness of being in a relationship but finding other things distracting you from someone you care about.

I absolutely love the piece now but the first time I saw it I didn’t get it. It didn’t feel like a Mind the Gap piece. But a company grows by knowing the artists and the company you are partnering with and seeing what works and what does not.

I don’t want to give too much away but the connection to the television by Paul Bates’ character is amazing and Lorraine role as his partner is wonderful. Charlotte’s character carries the weight of the world on her shoulders and JoAnne’s exists in a world that is both relaxing and scary in equal measure.

Alison’s role as caretaker holds these characters world’s together. This is how I feel about the show right now, but the next time I see it, my opinions may change – that’s the beauty of a piece which doesn’t direct the audience what to think about it – you’re free to experience the show in whatever way you like.

The last opinion piece I wrote was called I am me, I am here and I am fine. The title of this piece gives me a little time and space. Is that not what we all need in the end?

Please click here to read Gemma Nash’s review of Mind the Gap’s ‘A Little Space’