Review: Flight Paths, Extant (online)

Originally launched as a touring production in 2019, Extant’s Flight Paths has been adapted into a multimedia production, now available to view online. 

Flight Paths was inspired by the Goze, blind female storytellers and musicians of medieval Japan. During this interactive experience viewers are met at a crossroads by Taki, an animated Goze (voiced by Aya Nakamura). From there they have the choice of whether to head north, south, east, or west, with each direction of travel leading them on a journey through Japanese cultural history and storytelling.

Directed by Maria Oshodi, Flight Paths is an innovative and educational production that combines animation, aerial movement and creative audio description to great effect. The story of the Goze is brought up to date with footage taken from its 2019 tour of two blind aerial performers, Amelia Cavallo and Sarah Houboult, who discuss their experiences of applying for a UK visa as they prepare for an aerial routine using silks. In amongst the action is footage of two blind musicians, Victoria Oruwari and Takashi Kikuchi who came to the UK from Nigeria and Japan respectively, as they talk about their experiences. 

Writer Written by Glen Neath does a great job of linking the plight of the Goze with modern day visually impaired performers, with Aya Nakamura voicing the struggles that the Goze endured in between segments of contemporary footage of Amelia and Sarah discussing how they have to prove they have skills in order to remain in the UK. During the show viewers learn that the Goze had to train for five years, and if at the end of the period they were judged to have failed their test, they had to start all over again. It’s a particularly clever touch that after Amelia and Sarah’s aerial routine, the audience have to judge them too. 

Flight Paths features beautiful illustrations from Inko Ai Talita, while Aya Nakamura’s calm voice gently describes everything that is happening on screen. This is an incredibly thought-provoking production and if anything proves that theatre can be accessible to partially sighted and blind performers and audiences alike.

With the production broken up into four sections, it can at times feel disjointed, particularly when arriving back at the crossroads each time. Though you can technically navigate your way around whichever way you like, depending on which way you choose there may be moments when you are confused, and a suggestion of the ‘correct’ path might avoid any confusion. But this doesn’t detract too much from what is a fascinating show which brings to light the history of these women. Flight Paths is a fresh and creative production that really captures the imagination.  

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For more information visit https://extant.org.uk/productions/digital-flight-paths/

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