Interview with the Relaxed Theatre Company

Sophie Dickinson 23 October 2017
Image credit: Relaxed Theatre Company

On Friday (20th October), the Relaxed Theatre Company announced their scheduled Corpus Playroom show would be cancelled. Any Little Thing was due to open today (24th); the second relaxed show the company has put on in Cambridge. TCS met up with producer Georgina Evans, and producer and director Georgina Taylor to discuss what was next for the RTC.

The two are clearly deeply enthusiastic about the company; and are quick to launch into an explanation about their aims.

Taylor stresses that they provide “theatre anyone can enjoy- if you need to make a noise, or need space around you, the theatre space will be tailored to that. The audience is the focus, not the actors or the production”

She rushes on, detailing how “although there are no blanket solutions to providing accessible theatre to everyone, as some requirements are the opposite of others, the theatre experience will be made as comfortable as possible for anyone watching the show.”

“Rehearsals and auditions are held in accessible places, and we opened applications via DRCs at the University and Anglia Ruskin, to allow anyone interested in relaxed theatre to get involved.”

Both Taylor and Evans are eager to says that they “think [Any Little Thing] is a story worth telling”, as the piece of new writing focuses on minority voices- providing “friendship on stage” for the audience.

It’s clear that both are passionate about the project. Rushing from topic to topic, the RTC producers launch into an explanation of their plans to make Corpus Playroom accessible. Plans to build wheelchair ramps and temporary solutions to the inaccessibility of the space were met with encouragement from ADC staff initially- the company spent weeks measuring St Edmund’s Passage; designing various solutions so no audience member would be unable to watch the show.

Less than a week before the show was about to open, Evans and Taylor were rushed into the ADC for an “emergency meeting”. After initial encouragement, the pair were told their temporary ramps would not be in accordance with fire safety regulations. Their plan for a small ramp on the back door of Corpus was disallowed by the college porters.

The pair are quick to praise the work of ADC staff, however, and said the problem did not lie with them- rather the “ADC executive committee, Cambridge council, and the fire officers and porters at Corpus”.

After the pair were told the show would not be able to to fully accessible, a meeting was held with the Any Little Thing team. Taylor explains how “nobody would have felt right” putting on the show, as the Relaxed Theatre Company has “accessibility as its forefront”.

She goes on, “every ticket we sell would be funding a stubbornly inaccessible venue”, and so Any Little Thing was postponed.

Their plan now is “two-pronged”, and “necessarily political”. The Company are working with Florence Oulds, the CUSU Disabilities officer, to find an accessible venue. They’re also working to create a student front fighting all aspects of inaccessibility in Cambridge, from writing open letters to campaigning through petitions.

An open letter from the cast and crew of Any Little Thing was sent to the executive committee of the ADC, asking them “to fix Corpus now, or stop using it immediately.”

Evans hurries on, saying “We’re not asking people to boycott shows on at Corpus this term, as the shows that are booked now are important in their own right. However, we are asking those applying to produce shows in Lent term- will they accept a place at the Playroom, and activiely choose to alienate disabled people from their show? As an audience member, are you going to pay money and support this alienation?”

Their plan for the long term is to encourage all shows to have at least one relaxed performance per show. They’re keen for producers and directors to contact them too, stressing that they will “do the legwork for shows to find them accessible venues, and make them appropriate for as many needs as possible.”

Taylor and Evans finish with by asking “even those who aren’t theatre people to follow their Facebook, fill out the petition, let us know your thoughts.”

The Relaxed Theatre Company’s petition can be found here.