Specialists in multi-sensory theatre for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD), Frozen Light have struck gold with their production The Isle of Brimsker: Where The Waves Meet The Rock, a show packed to the brim with inventiveness and performed with buckets of charm.
Agata (Lucy Garland) is a lighthouse keeper on Brimsker, an area of outstanding natural beauty where she lives alone, protecting the island and the boats that approach it, doing the job her mother and her mother’s mother did before her. Kaya (Sophie Coward) is a castaway, stranded on the shore as she struggles to escape the decline of her hometown. Together the women must weather both literal and metaphorical storms to face up to change – however initially unwelcome – and carve out meaningful new lives for themselves.
This simple – though surprisingly moving – story is a jumping off point for a multi-sensory theatre experience designed with real cleverness and care. Tailored to small groups so that each member of the audience gets plenty of attention from the cast, it offers a multitude of pleasing sensory experiences – from floaty streamers to vibrating pools to shaved ice and hot water bottles – designed to capture life on the island and to appeal to all levels of ability and comprehension. Small, smart details abound: stones are passed around for their tactile appeal, but are scented; a handful of shells is unexpectedly warm. Katherine Heath’s set is a magic box of delights, each drawer spilling some new treat.
The talented and amiable performers bring their roles admirably alive given the deliberate sparseness of the script, with Agata’s prickliness and Kaya’s despair both vividly rendered. All three cast members (the women and musician Al Watts) interact well with the audience (even managing to persuade some of the more reluctant adults – ie, me – to leave aside their inhibitions and join in) and the story is gauged well, pitched at a level that is simple and straightforward to understand, but with genuine emotional heft. Watts’ evocative score, folksy and melodic, beautifully underpins the women’s plight and features some properly catchy songs.
The thought which has gone into the piece is evident, but it’s matching this with playfulness, a light touch and plenty of panache that has created a real gem.
The Isle of Brimsker was at Northern Stage from 29-30 April. It tours the UK until June 8th. More info here.