News: Without Walls brings outdoor performances to communities most impacted by Covid-19

Covid-19 restrictions combined with economic and social uncertainty has made accessing live culture impossible for many – practically, financially and logistically. This summer, Without Walls will bring exceptional outdoor performances directly to audiences across the UK, focussing on communities without high-quality arts activity and those most affected by Covid-19. Without Walls go beyond major cities to reach large, diverse and new audiences across the country.

Outdoor Arts are essential for providing Covid-safe opportunities to revitalise our cultural experiences whilst supporting the creative industry. The touring programme will see 37 productions, all which have been commissioned and supported by Without Walls, return following past successful showings across the UK. Highlighting the power of Outdoor Arts to adapt and recover in light of Covid-19, these productions will be presented in a way that ensures Covid-safety. From the epic to the more intimate performances, these exciting and ground-breaking productions will enable audiences to reconnect with culture and their communities.

From works created in response to Covid-19 to those inspired by social and environmental issues, these touring productions mirror our rapidly changing society in a powerful yet entertaining way. These exceptional outdoor productions will tour to towns, cities and rural areas across the UK including events at Basingstoke Festival, The Arches Festivals in Worcester, Grimsby’s Festival of the Sea, SO Festival in Lincolnshire, Arts by the Sea Festival in Bournemouth, Theatre Orchard’s Whirligig! and Arts + Health Week, and Appetite’s The Big Feast in Stoke on Trent with more dates to be announced.

As people try to make sense of the last year, Covid is becoming a key theme within the arts. Recovery Poems from Emergency Exit Arts, Robert Montgomery and Deanna Rodger is an inspiring light poem which commemorates what we have lost, what we want to hold onto and how we can make positive changes as we recover from the pandemic. While, Luke Jerram’s In Memoriam is a memorial of flags created from bed sheets and arranged in a medical logo – a tribute to those we lost and front-line workers who risked their lives.

Forced to spend more time at home, our sense of place and belonging has also been questioned. Apocalyptic Circus’ My House combines slack rope, hand balance, acrobatics and physical theatre to create a playful piece questioning what we value from our homes and who we share them with. Routes from Theatre Témoin is an interactive promenade show built by a team of refugee, migrant, and British-born artists which tells a heartfelt story of home, hope and belonging. Using music, song and shadow puppets, Thingumajig Theatre’s Ghost Caribou explores stories of lost homes and impossible migrations using giant illuminated creatures in a hauntingly beautiful dreamlike world. A timely production addressing the migrant crisis and inspired by the Windrush Scandal, Talawa Theatre Company’s The Tide spotlights the challenges that immigrants face in navigating the bureaucracy of proving their identity and asserting their rights as residents and citizens.

As we start to venture out again, our appreciation of freedom has grown. ON EDGE from Justice in Motion marries exciting choreography and parkour with beauty and humour, creating a stimulating moving tale that asks, ‘what does freedom really mean?’. Meanwhile Captive from Motionhouse is a powerfully physical and emotionally charged blend of dance and aerial comparing human and animal captivity; it asks how the wild and free can express themselves within a cage.

The climate crisis is an increasingly urgent issue that arts companies frequently attempt to bring to the forefront of conversation. Highly Sprung’s Urban Astronaut uses stunning aerial choreography to provide a glimpse into the future when air pollution has reached its crisis point. Asking us to take responsibility for the world we live in, Ramshacklicious’ The Band at the End of the world! tells the story of the possible end of the world through anarchic, raucous and musical clowning.

While our freedoms have been limited, we became more appreciative of natural environments and green spaces. Look Up from Hikapee is a highly visual and inspiring mix of circus, puppetry and theatre which encourages audiences to look up from their phones and find joy in their surroundings. Taking inspiration from the moon, Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon uses detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface featuring surround-sound composition created by BAFTA award-winning composer Dan Jones.

Multi-sensory experiences also form part of the touring programme. BEES! The Colony from Artizani is a multi-sensory installation where audiences wander amongst a honey-perfumed Bee Colony, learning how to view and interact with Bee Hives. The outdoors allows audiences to have a different relationship with sound. Gobbledegook Theatre’s Ear Trumpet is a playful installation which allows you to listen to sounds under the ground. In Ray Lee’s Congregation, audience members are given silver spheres which emit sounds guiding them towards a central location, where this mass of ‘singing’ spheres will hum together to create an electronic web of sound.

While Covid-19 has altered our relationships and sense of self, many of these outdoor productions explore vital human connections and expressions of self-identity. Lance Moi En l’air from Joli Vyann is a sensitive physical piece which explores the connection between two people using acrobatic prowess. Looking at what it means to support each other, Mimbre’s Lifted is a collection of funny, poetic and surprising moments. Upswing’s Catch Me is a playful and dynamic pop-up style performance and installation questioning expectations of age and gender using dance, acrobatics and object manipulation. Meanwhile, Stopgap Dance Company’s Frock is an uplifting dance production celebrating individuality and freedoms of self-identity.

In our high pressure world, it is also easy for human relationships to become fractured. Kapow Dance Circus Theatre’s Adrift sees two women lost on the high seas forced to learn together in their struggle for survival. Stefano Di Renzo’s Hold On uses a self-counterweighted slack rope system to explore the relationship between a man and the system that governs his life. Meanwhile, Motionhouse’s Wild considers our disconnect with the natural environment and how our sense of belonging is questioned as we choose whether to survive as a lone wolf or engage with the pack.

The touring programme also features fun favourites for the whole family. Bootworks Theatre’s The JukeBoxes sees two beautiful 1950s JukeBoxes spring to life creating pop music for the whole family with The Beatles and Adele. Plunge Boom’s non-verbal production, BOING invites you to see and hear the world from BOING’s perspective, using humour and pathos to introduce this character who makes noises but never speaks. Also from Plunge Boom, Vegetable Nannies is an imaginative and interactive street theatre performance which sees two everyday gardeners take their young vegetables out of the ground for a day trip.

Families will also love the themes of space and sci-fi. Showing how even the smallest person can achieve their impossible dreams, Unlimited Theatre’s How I Hacked My Way Into Space brings to life one man’s mission to hack his way into space from his garden shed. A life-sized interactive game zone for all ages, Matthew Harrison’s The Actual Reality Arcade will see audiences jump into classic arcade games including Tetris, Space Invaders and more.

These outdoor productions help increase accessibility within the arts. Audiences can happen upon these exciting productions in open, public spaces in ways which traditional indoor performances do not allow. Without Walls and their partner festivals will also connect with audiences through their outreach and development work. Affirming their commitment to engaging directly with audiences, their work will include workshops in primary schools, and installing mobile screens in libraries, community centres and other public spaces to screen productions. Accessibility will be further increased by delivering activity packs to doorsteps to engage D/deaf and neurodivergent communities, as well as providing subsidised and free tickets for low income families where possible amongst other outreach ventures. Without Walls are committed to gathering robust data from all their events and performances to understand where their audiences come from and their unique needs.

Elsewhere within the Without Walls consortium, their incredible 2021 programme which features 21 brand new commissions, will tour concurrently this summer. Productions from their largest programme to date were announced in March and have recently premiered at Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Brighton Festival and City Encounters by Wiltshire Creative. They will tour to further major festivals this year including Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, Hat Fair, Timber Festival, Certain Blacks – Ensemble Festival, Stockton International Riverside Festival and Just So.

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Photo credit: JMA Photography

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