Welcome to The Interval (#17), VocalEyes’ weekly selection of accessible cultural experiences available online. This week’s guest editor is Emily Wiles, senior live programme producer at Wellcome Collection, the free museum and library that aims to challenge how we all think and feel about health by connecting science, medicine, life and art. Emily’s selection of articles and interviews with visually impaired, d/Deaf and disabled artists and performers is followed by news about Blindness, a sound installation being staged at the Donmar Warehouse in August, which will be audio-described by VocalEyes describer Julia Grundy. It will be our first audio description inside a theatre since mid-March, and I can’t say we’re not very excited!
Discover the co-design project Inclusive Futures by Heart N Soul at The Hub . This started as an installation at Wellcome Collection and has since moved online. Read, watch or listen to people with learning disabilities and autistic people asking how the world could be better designed for everyone.
Activism, art and access
Read or listen to the series Activism, art and access edited by poet, writer and researcher Jamie Hale. In this series of three articles from Wellcome Collection’s Stories, Jamie is joined by other disabled artists to discuss the places where access and creativity collide. The articles are also read by voice artist and poet Kirsten Irving and links to the audio are embedded within each article.
In Talent, tech and visual art, Jamie speaks with Keith Salmon, a landscape artist who has a visual impairment, and Sarah Ezekiel, an artist creating work with her gaze, to explore how they use technology in making their work. They talk with poet and songwriter Miss Jacqui about access, tech and acceptance in the music world in Disabled musicians and the fight to perform.
In The politics and power of audio-description, hear how the blind multidisciplinary artist Amelia Cavallo has developed a radical and creative way of integrating access into their performance work. They describe how they pair a low-fi approach with a deliberate act to make audio description visible to the whole audience.
Blindness, Donmar Warehouse
We’re excited to announce that VocalEyes will be providing audio description for the sound installation Blindness, running from Monday 3 to Saturday 22 August 2020 at Donmar Warehouse.
Based on the dystopian novel (published 1995) by Portuguese Nobel prize-winning author José Saramago (1922-2010), Blindness is adapted by Simon Stephens and directed by Walter Meierjohann. The hour-long ticketed installation will run four times a day, with seating arranged 2 metres apart in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
As the lights change at a major crossroads in a city in the heart of Europe a car grinds to a halt. Its driver can drive no more. Suddenly, without warning or cause, he has gone blind. Within hours it is clear that this is a blindness like no other. This blindness is infectious. Within days an epidemic of blindness has spread through the city. The government tries to quarantine the contagion by herding the newly blind people into an empty asylum. But their attempts are futile. The city is in panic.
Acclaimed stage and screen actor Juliet Stevenson voices the Storyteller/Doctor’s wife. Visitors will listen on headphones to this gripping story of an unimaginable global pandemic and its profoundly hopeful conclusion featuring an immersive sound design using binaural technology by Ben and Max Ringham. The Donmar Warehouse is reimagined by designer Lizzie Clachan, with atmospheric lighting designed by Jessica Hung Han Yun.
Professor Hannah Thompson of Royal Holloway University of London, consultant to Donmar Warehouse on the production, and a regular collaborator with VocalEyes, writes:
“The Donmar Warehouse has a strong track record in supporting visually impaired audiences to enjoy their productions. I am pleased that I have been invited to support the creative team to ensure the Blindness sound installation has accessibility built into the experience for all visitors. José Saramago’s novel is a complex portrayal of blindness, and the Donmar is exploring how blindness can lead to different ways of being in the world and an appreciation that sight isn’t as necessary for understanding as we may think. In fact this installation will show that blindness can lead to rich and immersive aesthetic experiences.”
Audio-described content created by VocalEyes will be available at every installation from Friday 7 August. An audio-described digital version of the installation will also be available for purchase for those not able to attend in person.
Tickets go on sale from 12pm Friday 17 July for public booking. Donmar members can book from 12pm Wednesday 15 July. Up to 2 tickets can be purchased per transaction. When you arrive at the venue you will be seated by Front of House staff in accordance with social distancing. If you are purchasing two tickets you should ensure you are attending only with someone in your household or social bubble as you will be seated together. If you are attending on your own you will be seated in a single seat.
To accompany the installation the Donmar podcast ‘Reclaiming Blindness’ will be available to download from 7 August. Simon Stephens will interview Prof Hannah Thompson to unpack the representations of blindness in both the novel and this adaptation. They will take the long view across centuries of literature while discussing the exciting possibilities for creatively centring the non-visual in theatre today.
When we announced that a group of our audio describers had written and recorded an Audio Introduction for each episode of the BBC’s new series of Alan Bennett’s much-loved monologues Talking Heads, we hadn’t quite finished them all. Well, they are now all complete. You can listen to the audio-described introduction and link through to the AD version on BBC iPlayer.
Image: Tito Bone is the drag king creation of blind multidisciplinary performance and audio-description artist Amelia Cavallo. Photo credit: Christopher Andreou.