Skip to main content

Christine Devaney and Maria Oller - We Are All Just Little Creatures

Something akin to musical chairs appears to be the order of the day in the Edinburgh church hall where members of Lung Ha Theatre Company are gathered to rehearse their new show. As a trio of professional dancers from the Curious Seed company join in the fun, simulating waking up to a brand new day in a place unknown and pulsed along by a percussive soundtrack, it is clear from some of the strange behaviour on show that We Are All Just little creatures does what it says on the tin.

By the time this co-production between Lung Ha and Curious Seed opens in Edinburgh later this week, there will be forty performers from Lung Ha’s ensemble onstage alongside the dancers, with seven children aged eight to ten years old from the Craigmillar-based Lyra company up there with them. Together, they will be moving in some kind of unison to a live soundtrack composed and played by David Paul Jones and Kevin Lennon. All of which makes for a very different kind of show for Lung Ha as the premiere theatre company for performers with learning disabilities.

“It’s not a traditional story which starts, and then has a middle and an end,” says the company’s artistic director Maria Oller. “It’s episodes of life.”

The roots of the show came from Christine Devaney, artistic director of Curious Seed, who is co-directing We Are All Little Creatures alongside Oller and Lyra’s artistic director, Jo Timmins.

“I’d had an idea for a show, based around the idea of us all being little creatures living in this world” says Devaney. “That’s all that we do. We’re born and we die, and stuff happens inbetween, and we’re all kind of the same, really.

Out of this has come a series of impressionistic moments rather than a conventional play.

“There’s not a narrative as such,” says Devaney, “but there’s a sense of a journey through being in a place together, whether that’s metaphorically being in life together or being onstage together. Because of devising the work in the way we have, coming in with an idea rather than a script, and asking the performers to contribute to that, even the process of the show is part of that. Just being here, sharing space and thinking about the world in which we’re all bonding metaphorically.”

As Oller points out, “This is quite different for Lung Ha, because we haven’t done a movement-based production before. That’s why Chris came in so early, to build up stamina and skills, and how to tell a story with movement.”

Devaney talks about how the process was more to do with “being expressive of the body, giving people keys into how you can story tell without it being mime, and it becoming about self-healing and self-expression, and really gathering a lot from how people respond, taking that and shaping it.”

Devaney first worked with Lung Ha on the company’s productions of Around the World in 80 Days and Jekyll and Hyde. While both of these saw her lead the company in more general movement work, the effect of more intensive sessions over the last eighteen months has left its mark on all involved.

“They love it,” Oller says of the response of Lung Ha’s performers. “They are moving in such a different way. So what they have got from Chris during this last year is going to shape every show we do from now on. It’s amazing how they are. Just the other day, one of the actors said, I can’t believe it, I was on the floor.”

For Devaney, “Things that movement artists might take for granted a little bit, we really have to take time over with people here. It can be really tricky for someone to get on the floor, or it can take time for someone to realise that their arms can go further back than they thought. Then to get them to repeat it, and find out how it feels emotionally, and that it’s not just physical, that’s been amazing to see.”

On a practical level, Oller points out how “The actors are more aware of each other onstage. Because there’s some quite fast movement and there are loads of them, there’s none of that bumping into each other anymore.”

For the professional dancers too, “That learning process completely turns around,” says Devaney, “because we’re re-learning about time and process, rather than thinking we can just do it, and what that brings in terms of a sharing of process the other way round as well.”

This surge in confidence among the performers has rippled out beyond the rehearsal room.

“One of the mothers of the actors said that there’s something in her movement that has made her daughter much more confident walking in the street,” says Oller, “and she’s not holding on to her mum as much as she used to do. During this process she’s become more aware of her body and how it’s moving, and has become more in charge of it. Moments like that matter.”

Once the idea began to take shape, Lyra was a natural fit.

“Curious Seed share an office with Lyra,” says Devaney, “and I had done a residency with them. During that time, one of the questions I was exploring was about delight and small things in people’s lives. Jo and I did a bit of research into what we thought delight is. We went around collecting delight from people, and brought young people into it. Then when we started talking we thought it would be good to bring all the stuff about delight in small things into this, and Jo said yes. Seeing the young people come in brings a different energy.”

With all three companies finding common ground, We Are All Just Little Creatures aims to become a microcosm of the everyday epiphanies experienced by everyone.

“It’s about being connected with other people,’ says Devaney. “It’s about difference, and celebrating that difference, knowing that we all go through inner turmoil, and no matter who you are or where you’re from, you’re going to have that shared experience. What you bring out of that is what connects us up.”

For Oller, this has a wider resonance.

“I hope the audience will reflect on their own lives, and realise that every little moment is special,” she says. “We rush through life to easily without thinking, doing things automatically. We get up, go to work, come home, sleep, but life is so much more. Every day is different, and they’re full of special moments to delight in.”

We Are All Just Little Creatures, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, March 28-30; Byre Theatre, St Andrews, April 2.

The Herald, March 26th 2019



Popular posts from this blog

Big Gold Dreams – A Story of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989

Disc 1 1. THE REZILLOS (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (12/77)  2. THE EXILE Hooked On You (8/77) 3. DRIVE Jerkin’ (8/77) 4. VALVES Robot Love (9/77) 5. P.V.C. 2 Put You In The Picture (10/77) 6. JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS Dead Vandals (11/77) 7. BEE BEE CEE You Gotta Know Girl (11/77) 8. SUBS Gimme Your Heart (2/78) 9. SKIDS Reasons (No Bad NB 1, 4/78) 10. FINGERPRINTZ Dancing With Myself (1/79)  11. THE ZIPS Take Me Down (4/79) 12. ANOTHER PRETTY FACE All The Boys Love Carrie (5/79)  13. VISITORS Electric Heat (5/79) 14. JOLT See Saw (6/79) 15. SIMPLE MINDS Chelsea Girl (6/79) 16. SHAKE Culture Shock (7/79) 17. HEADBOYS The Shape Of Things To Come (7/79) 18. FIRE EXIT Time Wall (8/79) 19. FREEZE Paranoia (9/79) 20. FAKES Sylvia Clarke (9/79) 21. TPI She’s Too Clever For Me (10/79) 22. FUN 4 Singing In The Showers (11/79) 23. FLOWERS Confessions (12/79) 24. TV21 Playing With Fire (4/80) 25. ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980) 1. THE REZILL

Losing Touch With My Mind - Psychedelia in Britain 1986-1990

DISC 1 1. THE STONE ROSES   -  Don’t Stop 2. SPACEMEN 3   -  Losing Touch With My Mind (Demo) 3. THE MODERN ART   -  Mind Train 4. 14 ICED BEARS   -  Mother Sleep 5. RED CHAIR FADEAWAY  -  Myra 6. BIFF BANG POW!   -  Five Minutes In The Life Of Greenwood Goulding 7. THE STAIRS  -  I Remember A Day 8. THE PRISONERS  -  In From The Cold 9. THE TELESCOPES   -  Everso 10. THE SEERS   -  Psych Out 11. MAGIC MUSHROOM BAND  -  You Can Be My L-S-D 12. THE HONEY SMUGGLERS  - Smokey Ice-Cream 13. THE MOONFLOWERS  -  We Dig Your Earth 14. THE SUGAR BATTLE   -  Colliding Minds 15. GOL GAPPAS   -  Albert Parker 16. PAUL ROLAND  -  In The Opium Den 17. THE THANES  -  Days Go Slowly By 18. THEE HYPNOTICS   -  Justice In Freedom (12" Version) 1. THE STONE ROSES    Don’t Stop ( Silvertone   ORE   1989) The trip didn’t quite start here for what sounds like Waterfall played backwards on The Stone Roses’ era-defining eponymous debut album, but it sounds

Edinburgh Rocks – The Capital's Music Scene in the 1950s and Early 1960s

Edinburgh has always been a vintage city. Yet, for youngsters growing up in the shadow of World War Two as well as a pervading air of tight-lipped Calvinism, they were dreich times indeed. The founding of the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947 and the subsequent Fringe it spawned may have livened up the city for a couple of weeks in August as long as you were fans of theatre, opera and classical music, but the pubs still shut early, and on Sundays weren't open at all. But Edinburgh too has always had a flipside beyond such official channels, and, in a twitch-hipped expression of the sort of cultural duality Robert Louis Stevenson recognised in his novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a vibrant dance-hall scene grew up across the city. Audiences flocked to emporiums such as the Cavendish in Tollcross, the Eldorado in Leith, The Plaza in Morningside and, most glamorous of all due to its revolving stage, the Palais in Fountainbridge. Here the likes of Joe Loss and Ted Heath broug