Creative Development with Jenny Sealey
22nd Nov 2022
Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company, UK, has been working with artists Matt Shilcock, Michael Moshos, Sarah Houbolt, and Georgia Cranko on a three stage artistic development of Sarah Kane’s play 4:48 Psychosis. Produced by DADAA, with support from the Australia Council for the Arts, this project has echoed the global disruption to the arts over the past two and half years and speaks to the central act of adaptation that artists are so adept at, as well as the critical need for connected, disability-led, artistic practices.
While they relied on zoom for the second stage of development, recently, Jenny, together with DADAA Director Arts Strategy Julie Barratt and Executive Director David Doyle, joined the artists in Melbourne for the project’s third development stage. The DADAA team and the artists involved acknowledge the privilege of working with one of our sector’s leading thinkers, Jenny Sealey, on this project as they work towards a public performance in 2023.
David Doyle shares some of his thoughts below:
In 2022 it feels like disability-led has truly arrived.
To be disability-led is the sector’s aim but one which is seldom fully realised. When disability-led truly happens the difference is stark. Not merely allied or not ableist: this is when our sector flies.
The pallet is authentic and brimming with the lived experience of disability, otherness – brutally raw and unapologetic. This week, during the creative development I’ve seen young adults move fully into their adult voices, dark, brutally honest and spewing forth their inner response to a life-time of being othered.
Jenny Sealey, a global leader in our space, using Zoom over the past 2.5 years of Covid, guided the four young Australian artists driving this work to find their collective voice. An incredibly safe space has opened – with authentic voices, voices that play, rage and knit together.
I sit here in the creative development in Melbourne watching run after run, shifts happen, peer to peer critical refection, refined and pushes hard towards maximising their collective narrative and hone the politic, impact, and intent.
A powerful new work emerges about the NOW, through a mash-up of Auslan, British Sign Language, spoken word, and touch. There is no captioning, no audio description at play, but rather authentic disability languages, have merged.
A multiplicity of dialogue is continuously in play. Movement and a continuously connected gaze pushes the work forward, towards tomorrow’s first public showing – a work in progress.
Every few hours the artists re-group, mid-theatre, push and pull, refining as they search for impact and agreed meaning. Highly considered beautiful new writing – more direct, the inner worlds are placed on paper. There is such an honesty here, a level that most of us would never venture towards. This is when you know that an artist has come into their power.
This is serious business, serious theatre development. In the few short hours, I’ve been here, I can see the shift.
Iphones, Ipads, laptops, artistic reflection is constant, they elevate the work hour by hour. They artists are tired but ever-present, pushing hard, on an even keel with Sealey.
They work it, share it, consider it, and shift to best reflect their voice and the voices of their culture, knowing they are the ones who are speaking on behalf of those who will never share their stage. This collective responsibility is a burden. They are the privileged few and they know it.
They chant: ‘Do not shit on our, values’ over months and months with Sealey they forged their values … And Georgia Cranko’s recorded voice shouts – ‘I have decided to live’