Co-Founder of Frozen Light Theatre Amber Onat Gregory talks about ‘2065: A Multi-Sensory Movie’ created for people with PMLD

In response to the closure of theatres last year, Frozen Light Theatre created a podcast series in support of the PMLD community. Continuing on with their accessible practise, Frozen Light currently present 2065: The Multi-Sensory Movie – a multi-sensory filmic experience bringing theatre to the homes of those with PMLD. Ahead of the release of the production, Frozen Light Co-Founder Amber Onat Gregory tells us more about exploring the show’s narrative further, adapting the show – which was due to tour last year – for a digital stage and collaborating with people with PMLD to help shape and provide feedback for the production.

Hi Amber, you’ll be presenting 2065: The Multi-Sensory Movie, an experience designed to bring theatre to the homes of those with PMLD. How are you feeling ahead of the release?

2065: The Multi-Sensory Movie tickets were released on Monday 15th March and they sold out in less than 36 hours!  There were 200 tickets available and along with the digital link for the film you also receive a sensory box in the form of a Rebel Pack by post. This box is full of the smells, tastes and textures of 2065.  Due to the pandemic, we haven’t been able to reach our audiences with PMLD for such a long time and we are so thrilled that people continue to be excited by our work, and we can’t wait for audiences to experience the movie.  We’ve received orders from across the country and as well as reaching a lot of our regular audiences we also have new audiences in areas we haven’t managed to tour to before.  All of the packs will be posted out on 29th March and we can’t wait to hear from our audiences once they’ve watched the movie- and we certainly hope to receive some photos!

2065: The Multi-Sensory Movie follows a group of rebels living in a country run by an oppressive regime. What inspired you both to create a production exploring this topic further? 

2065: The Multi-Sensory Movie was originally designed to be a theatre show. When we’re creating shows we always think about what the ‘world’ and ‘environment’ of the show is, then think about sensory moments we want to explore, and finally build in the story.  When we came to creating the environment for what became 2065, we were really interested in creating a futuristic show, as imagined in the 80s.  The artistic style from films such as Bladerunner, Tron and Hackers were used as early inspiration in the rehearsal room.  We were also interested in creating sensory props which used technology in ways we had never used them before (and our Production Manager Dave Sherman had a newfound love of 3D printing!), all these factors combined brought us to the rebels.  When creating devised work, you’re often influenced by the climate that you’re living within, and in the age of Trump, Bolsonaro, Erdogan etc we started looking into creating a new world with many ‘rules’ which in many ways echoed regimes we’re surrounded by.  We were halfway through the development of 2065 when the first Covid lockdown halted rehearsals and in a bizarre twist of life imitating art, this time of Covid brought a surreal new world of living under extreme restrictions, much like the one we had created in fiction.

Originally due to tour last year, the production has now been filmed to experience at home. How have you found adapting the piece for a digital stage?

It has been both a really exciting and also challenging experience for us. We resisted going digital for quite some time as it’s such a new art form for us, but the longer the pandemic continued, coupled with numerous lockdowns, and hearing from the PMLD community about feeling even more forgotten during this time, we soon realised that we needed to look at new ways of making work.  We were fortunate to get back into the rehearsal room in October 2020 to finish the making of the theatre show of 2065 and used this opportunity to film the digital version. We had been working with talented musician Sam Halmarack to create the music for the theatre production, and he was just setting up his own artist led video production company Helm Films, so this presented itself as an opportunity to work with each other in a new and exciting way.  We knew that we didn’t want to make a film that was a filmed version of the theatre show, but a hybrid of film and theatre (and the sensory!), and working with Sam who already knew the production so well was a brilliant opportunity.

The movie will be accompanied with sensory props, audiences guided by an ‘archivist rebel in residence’ who will signal when to use the ‘Rebel Pack’ of props. What has this element of the creative process involved?

We build our shows around the environment and then the one to one sensory moments, and when adapting the show from theatre to digital this was one of the bigger adaptations we had to make. As mentioned, we’ve created Rebel Packs full of sensory items which the audience receive and we had to choose items which we could source in large quantities and that we could fit in the Rebel Packs (although they are pretty big boxes- we certainly haven’t gone for the fit through letter box option!) which has resulted in quite a different array of props than we usually use in our shows. In our productions, many of our props are bespoke and we had to think about the sensory properties we thought were essential to the story, yet easy to source, when adapting it to a digital production.

The character of the ‘archivist rebel in residence’ was a new role created for the digital production, played by Lucy Garland. In our theatre shows performers usually work closely with both the person with PMLD and carer during the sensory moments and this is something we can’t replicate in a virtual production, so we created this new character to act as a guide to introduce the sensory moments of the show in the film.

The movie has also witnessed you both collaborate with people with PMLD, with the support of carers who provided feedback in response to the piece. What did you learn from this part of the creative process?

In our last few shows we have had a small audience panel of people with PMLD and their carers give feedback on our work. We’ve always wanted to grow our audience panel and lockdown last year gave us the time and space to do this. It was a time that we reached out to the PMLD community in a way we hadn’t before as we felt so far away from our audiences due to not being able to tour. Our audience panel has a brilliant range of different voices from the PMLD community and really highlights different individuals’ needs.  We have a great cross section of people with PMLD and their carers from an SEND setting, a day centre, and parent and sibling carers.  We have learnt so much from our audience panel over the last year, both in the development of 2065 but also with the panel advising us on their feelings towards Covid, how lockdown has impacted their lives, and how they would feel about ways that we can adapt performances in these times.  In regards to the process of making 2065: The Multi-Sensory Movie they were first sent a short section of the film and asked questions about the filmic style of the piece, and then sent a prototype of the Rebel Pack with the first draft of the full movie to provide feedback this time looking more at the sensory aspect of experience.  We’re really excited about how this has already fed into our practice and we look forward to exploring new ways of co-collaboration in the future.

What can viewers expect from the experience?

Now that would be telling! We don’t want to give too much away but we want audiences to enjoy experiencing a new art form in the format of a multi-sensory movie! We want viewers to have fun, make a mess, explore new experiences, and have a good time with their friends and loved ones.  We also hope that after experiencing the movie that audiences will look forward to seeing the theatre show 2065. As much as we have enjoyed making a digital production, we cannot wait to be able to see our audiences, in person, again in the future.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

2065: A Multi-Sensory Movie is now available to purchase, first orders will be posted out from Monday 29th March. To find out more and book, visit here…

To find out more about Frozen Light Theatre, visit here…

To read our interview with Frozen Light Theatre about their podcast series, visit here…

To read our interview with Frozen Light Theatre about a previous production of theirs, The Isle of Brimsker, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop