Last month, Beijing cultural centre Body On and On screened a film recording of Blue Apple’s Frankenstein to over 2,000 people in China as part of the UK Disability Arts Spring Screening Season, a cultural event arising from a British Council initiative.
Frankenstein was originally staged at Theatre Royal Winchester and livestreamed in summer 2021 by Blue Apple Theatre in partnership with the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association to mark the 200th anniversary of the deaths of the poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The production explored themes of alienation and prejudice through observations from learning disabled performers who themselves often experience rejection from society.
On the night of the Beijing festival screening, Blue Apple’s Frankenstein was watched in China by 2,290 people online and a further 95 people who watched the screening in person. At the end of the film, a group of Frankenstein cast members and Blue Apple’s Artistic Director joined the festival online via Zoom for a post-show discussion to talk about the interpretation and answer questions from the audience.
Blue Apple’s Artistic Director Richard Conlon said, “Our experience of working with Body On and On was rather magical – if a little bit surreal. When we joined the Zoom group we could see the screening of our film happening in Beijing. We were then brought into the room – digitally of course – and then they began a fairly traditional post show discussion with us. An autistic audience member asked what it meant for Sam, as an autistic man with a learning disability, to be a performer – the questioner referenced their own experience of toning down their autistic tendencies within public speaking to try and ‘pass for normal’ – and that’s what Sam does on stage when he is performing characters who are not autistic, whilst at the same time being very open about being autistic himself. Tommy talked about what it meant to be a performer who’d gone from nowhere to do his training in dance, singing, and acting, right up to being a professional. Everybody got a chance to throw in their thoughts. Ros was very keen to get the message out on the importance of collaboration. Anna spoke about the choices that we make as a theatre company and why we use heart, wit and charm to make some serious points about the injustices of some people’s lives. She highlighted that some people are at the margins of cultural conversation when they should be in the mainstream. All in all, it was rather wonderful experience of two cultures (that maybe aren’t that different) having a conversation about something important.”
Body On and On is a Chinese disability arts organisation collaborating with the British Arts Council to showcase films by UK disabled performing artists with the aim of helping to develop disability arts in China. The Beijing Body On and On Culture Center, managed by Dew GE, their Producer and Curator of Performing Arts, is committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in arts and culture in China. The British Council has been working with arts organisations via the UK-China Disability Arts Forum to promote inclusion and remove barriers that stop disabled people from taking part in society. Via the forum co-hosted with the British Council, Body On and On hopes that China can draw on the experience of the UK in promoting disability arts and explore a pathway suited to the context of China.
- Picture: Harvey Mills.
You can watch a recoding of Blue Apple’s Frankenstein here:
- For more information about Blue Apple Theatre, visit: blueappletheatre.com/
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