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Disability, language and distance: an international collaboration that overcomes these three barriers
"The Tempest: Swimming for Beginners" was created by people of all backgrounds, regardless of disability, nationality, gender, age or experience, aiming to be appreciated by everyone. Jenny Sealey, a pioneer of the UK disability arts movement and co-director of the London 2012 Paralympic Games opening ceremony, oversees the production as Artistic Director. The project launched in February 2019 as a key programme in the UK in JAPAN initiative. After more than two years of preparation and postponement due to Covid-19, the production will finally be presented to the public in June 2021.
The production features disabled directors and cast members from three countries - Japan, the UK and Bangladesh. In addition to their diverse national and cultural backgrounds, the cast also have different disabilities, which will be incorporated into production. There were also many unexpected challenges in the development of the play. Covid-19 made it difficult for Jenny to visit Japan, and instead she has been directing remotely with the British and Bangladeshi performers participating via video. The performance is therefore a new form of international collaboration that overcomes the three barriers of disability, language and distance.
A play for all to enjoy, with or without disabilities
Jenny Sealey is the Artistic Director of the Graeae Theatre Company in the UK. The company is known for its work with disabled actors and staff. Jenny herself is a deaf director. Her effective use of sign language and audio description has won her an international reputation, and her creative and inclusive direction is a key feature of this production.
The play has been created to be enjoyed by disabled audiences. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, there will be projected subtitles, as well as sign language and written communication, from the moment audience members step foot into the venue. For those who are blind or have difficulty seeing, the theatre will provide transport from Higashi-Ikebukuro station to the theatre, and an audio guide explaining the stage setting before the performance.
Directed by Jenny Sealey, the performance will continue the legacy of the 2012 London Paralympic Games. It aims to be a stepping stone for disabled artists to expand their careers and create a barrier-free environment for both artists and audiences.
An original production based on Shakespeare's The Tempest
This play is a bold modern reworking of Shakespeare's last play, reflecting the impact of Covid-19 on the world. The Tempest is said to be as transparent as the wind after a storm. In its romantic and supernatural elements - fate, the wonders of nature, the guidance of the gods, reconciliation - we can see Shakespeare's message of human reverence and affirmation. What is noteworthy is the way the message of the play is expressed to the audience by the actors, who come from different disabilities and cultural backgrounds.
In addition to Jenny, the production will be directed by Hiroe Ohashi and Yasushi Oka, both of whom were selected at workshops. The cast includes Kotaro Yanagi, who made his debut in the hugely popular musical "The Prince of Tennis", four Japanese, three British and two Bangladeshi disabled artists, and CODA (Children of Deaf Adults) actress Sakura Yoshidomi, who was raised by a deaf mother. Please come and enjoy the new "The Tempest" that transcends differences in culture, language and disability.
Name of the performance: "The Tempest - Swimming for Beginners"
Date: Tuesday 1 - Sunday 6 June 2021
Venue: Owlspot Theatre (Toshima Performing Arts Centre)
Performance schedule and ticket information
Script: William Shakespeare, Pamela Carter
Original script tranlation: Kazuko Matsuoka
Text translation: Keiko Nagata
Artistic direction: Jenny Sealey
Direction: Hiroe Ohashi, Yasushi Oka
Cast: Hiroe Ohashi, Sachika Segawa, Rio Sekiba, Hidetada Tashiro, Kazumi Hiratsuka, Kotaro Yanagi
Cast in the video: (UK) Phillipa Cole, Fatima Niemogha, Jack Hunter, Jenny Sealey / (Bangladesh) Mohammad Saddam Bepary, Morshed Mia
Organised by: British Council, Toshima Mirai Cultural Foundation, Toshima City
In Association with: Graeae Theatre Company, Dhaka Theatre
Supported by: Arts Council Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture