Writers: Lucy Garland and Amber Onat Gregory
Music: Al Watts
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Theatre has the power to move, to provoke, to challenge a belief or just entertain. Despite those powerful characteristics, theatre only rarely involves all our senses. Not so Frozen Light’s Tunnels, a show that utilises light, sound, smell and touch to create a totally immersive world.
Designed for teenagers with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties, this use of sensory stimulation is key to engaging the young audience, however, through the course of an hour, all audience members are drawn into this magical world.
Part Eastern European folk tale, part Hans Christian Anderson, part clowning and part adventure story, Tunnels sees our heroine Lana journey to find light to bring to her dark city. We’re invited to take part in the journey as we are offered blankets against the cold, the sensory experience of running our fingers through sand, beads and water and even the olfactory delight of sampling a chocolate flavour perfume.
With just three performers, six teenagers and their friends and family, Tunnels is an intimate affair. The performers (Lucy Garland, Amber Onat Gregory and Al Watts) take time to ensure each audience member receives individual attention. Be it involving them in the sensory experiences or weaving their names into song the delight this involvement brings is evident in the young audiences’ faces. There are almost two shows to watch here, the one on stage but also the sense of pure joy of the audience. It’s a sense of fun that is infectious, with even the most serious of observer finding it hard to resist the camaraderie of the shared experience.
Garland, Onat Gregory and Watts prove highly adept to tailoring the show to their audience, soothing those audience members who find certain elements upsetting or integrating those who want a closer view of the action.
The story does lose some of its drive during the final 10 minutes but the target young audience don’t mind as they take the journey back through the mysterious tunnel into the bright light of a February afternoon.
A show created for those with PMLD may not be a standard theatre programme offering, but Tunnels demonstrate that the power of theatre to reach, move and entertain is a transformative force and one that this young audience clearly revel in. If success is measured in smiles then Frozen Light have hit upon a winning formula.
Runs until 26 February in Cambridge then tours until June 3rd