A handful of disabled theatre practitioners today are filling the empty space with powerful impressions and insights beyond the stereotypical idea of what having a sensory impairment implies, creating new theatre happenings and environments for us all to explore and wonder at. Sarah Pickthall explores
1 February 2012
When Peter Brook first spoke about The Empty Space, he presented a simple message for theatre and its call to take stock, take time, make more of pace and space and to notice the patterns of behaviour around us.
‘’Brook argues that for the theatre to be expressive it must be a distillation of language, of gesture, of action, of design, where meaning is the essence: ‘I take an empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space while someone else is watching him, and that is all that is needed for the act of theatre to be engaged.’”
Quote from Richard Eyre: Peter Brook: Filling the 'Empty Space' Whats On Stage, August 2003
Disabled creatives have to think hard about how they move into, inhabit and take control of the empty space in theatre: playing with the stereotypical idea of what having an impairment implies and people’s expectations around what might happen in the space because of this.
Writing these new environments is no mean feat, for the very reason, that society is still very set in its thinking about the disabled body, its behaviour in space and the meaning attributed to this. There’s nothing new in using the impaired body as a metaphor for the human condition, but a handful of disabled writers, are moving beyond this and tapping into the potential of the disabled presence in space and what is invisible and unseen for both performer and audience.
Disabled playwright, radio dramatist, writer and dramaturge, Kaite O’Reilly has for many years made work in a variety of settings. Her production of Peeling (2002) with Graeae Theatre was acclaimed for its utilization of the disabled experience as a sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit part of the weave.
I find that there is a ‘secret’ code in some of my work – a sensibility, a perspective, a way of being in the world informed by my disability identity, which infiltrates and is communicated, at a subtextual level, to any fellow crips who encounter it. Perhaps this is the same for all minority groups, or sub-cultures, but it is one I feel intensely in my engagement with the disabled community.
Quote from 'In the republic of poetry', Kaite O’Reilly Wordpress Blog, September 2011