The Place, London, UK; October 24, 2014
Many years ago, I toured with Oily Cart as an actor/musician for a year. It was a treat then to observe the company from the outside and to appreciate their development over the years; and a big well-done to The Place for welcoming such specialist work.
As can always be assured with Oily, sets and costumes for “The Bounce” are spectacular and designed with form and function equally in mind. The theme is circles, reflected in the great drums of the two trampolines echoed in orange and pink pompoms on the performers hats, shaggy black round rugs on the floor and blobs of (very comfortable) bean bags.
The company has evolved with changes in educational practice and has refined this show for young people on the autistic spectrum and for those with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Friday’s performances were catering for the former.
It starts before it starts. Various resources are available in the bar, themed of course to the performance. There are bouncing balls with LEDs inside (dog owners will be familiar with this winter plaything!), textured objects are suspended on a rope, and there are iPads detailing all of the characters and explaining what will happen in the performance.
Once in the theatre, lighting is muted and music is provided by a Syrian musician playing a traditional quanun, a type of zither. Singing is low and gentle and incorporates the participant’s name. The performance is both structured and flexible so that it can cater to the two individuals who participate on each trampoline. While they are enabled to react as they wish to an extent, they influence the mood with changes of pace and measured breathing and of course, there are plenty on hand when the bouncing gets a little too energetic.
Large black beans bags are hauled onto the trampolines so that gentle bouncing can occur recumbently (useful for the PMLD version where participants may have very limited movement). The tramps are overlooked by circular screens (not good for those with odontophobia as they look like giant dental mirrors!) and cameras can be used to project an image of the participant above the screen, empowering them to shift their focus to their own external projection.
Circles are projected onto the surface of the trampolines and a small pink laser is chased across the surface, again changing the focus from the large to the small until it is time for the good bye song.
It is all most impressive. But “The Bounce” is more than that. Watching three sessions in succession provides an opportunity to see how subtly adaptable the show is, and just how hypnotic.