A Little Space, Oxford Playhouse

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A Little Space, is a newly-devised production, a collaboration between Mind the Gap, one of Europe’s leading learning disability theatre companies, and Gecko, specialists in physical theatre.

Created by Dan Watson, Rich Rusk, Charli Ward and Karen Bartholomew, A Little Space aims to explore ‘what happens when people connect and disconnect from each other, whether through choice or through isolation’. The devising performers (Paul Bates, Lorraine Brown, Alison Colborne, JoAnne Haines and Charlotte Jones) commit entirely to telling their stories with every fibre of their body, barely uttering a word. Effective original music by Dave Price and sound design by Mark Melville acted as the script, to which these performers added more meaning and deep feeling. This is Mind The Gap’s first foray into physical theatre, and I sincerely hope it will not be the last.

The stories told are left largely to interpretation, but I saw a recent home-leaver try to control their own space for the first time, and a loving couple torn apart by the lure of technology. This second thread led to a rather marvellous Coronation Street vignette, which added a welcome moment of levity to an otherwise intensely felt production.

Rhys Jarman’s design is a triumph. The angled stage floor sets the scene for a whirlwind of disruption and unease. Performers flow in and out of imposing and industrial, yet skeletal and penetrable walls. Nothing is as it seems – trap doors, monsters, flowers, lakes, all springing from a deceptively simple set. The disruption is amplified by dramatic lighting (Chris Swain); the whole production was largely in near-darkness throughout, but at times the audience was quite literally dazzled. 

Given that it was devised based on the performers’ own experiences, it was surprising that the piece overall almost felt design-led, with the melding of set, sound and performers slick and near seamless. This attests to a truly successful collaboration, and one well worth (just over an hour of) your time.

The tour continues with March dates in Leeds, Ipswich, Brecon and Exeter, and in London at The Place from 12-16 May. Find out more & book.

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