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Kubla Khan

2017: Kubla Khan…Interview

With only 2 months to go until bOing! 2017, Oily Cart have been working on creating a very special brand new show which will premiere at the festival called Kubla Khan. We caught up with them and asked Communications and Development Producer, Flossie Waite, a few questions about the piece.

How did Oily Cart begin?

Oily Cart was established in 1981 by three friends: Claire de Loon (aka Amanda Webb), Max Reinhardt (aka Dave Bennett) and Tim Webb who, regrettably, does not have a stage name. Today, Max is our Musical Director who also composes much of the live original music featured in our shows, and Tim is our Artistic Director, writing and directing most of the productions.

The first Oily Cart productions were for children under five. Back in the 1980s, under-fives were thought to be an impossible audience by most theatre practitioners. It was commonly assumed that such young people would not have the attention span to watch anything more challenging than the most basic clown act or puppet show. The company began to evolve a form of interactive, highly visual theatre, which always involved live music, to challenge such assumptions.

In 1988 Oily Cart were invited to perform an under-fives shows in a school for young people with severe learning disabilities. When we discovered that the young people in the school were aged from 3 to 19 years, we asked if we might research and create a piece that was age appropriate. This set Oily Cart off on the quest for theatre that would truly communicate with young people with high support needs. Today, Oily Cart specialises in creating theatre for very young audiences (childre

n under 6) and for children and young people aged 3-19 with complex needs and/or, for the first time with Kubla Khan, who are deafblind.

Tell us about Kubla Khan

Kubla Khan
Kubla Khan

Kubla Khan is a brand new production which our Artistic Director describes as a boat ride through a poem! Audiences will go on an immersive, multi-sensory journey along the River Alph to meet the Emperor. From the sounds of a sitar to the feel of a flowing river, they’ll experience the temperatures and textures of Coleridge’s acclaimed poem Kubla Khan, as the aroma of incense drifts by…

We partnered with national charity Sense to create the show, and are very excited as it is our first touring production with a version for children and young people aged 3-19 who are deafblind. There are also two other distinct versions of the show for young people on the autism spectrum, and for young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

What can families expect?

Like all our productions, Kubla Khan will be an immersive, multi-sensory experience, with opportunities for the audience to not only see and hear the show, but to smell, touch and even taste it! A particularly exciting feature of Kubla Khan is the channel that will wind its way around the audience, filling with water as soon as the crew set sail to meet the Emperor, and allowing the audience to really feel the boat’s journey down the River Alph.

Kubla Khan will also be very interactive, with the performers working closely with each audience member, taking their lead from the responses of the children and young people and adapting the performance accordingly.

If you’d like to find out more about what to expect before seeing the show, we will be adding preparation materials, including a social story and handbook for carers, to our website very soon.

What does it mean to you to come to bOing!?

We are thrilled to be visiting bOing – a festival celebrating great theatre for all ages is the perfect place to premiere Kubla Khan! We are so excited for the first audiences to experience the show, and to be part of the biggest bOing! yet!

At the bOing! 2017 Symposium we are discussing creating work for Early Years, what was the first piece of art you experienced? Why do you think access to the arts by early years is important?

Some of my earliest memories are bits of the plays I saw when I was really little – seeing shadow puppetry at Little Angel Theatre, watching Wendy, John and Michael learning to fly in a ballet of Peter Pan at Sadler’s Wells, and a princess dashing into the audience and hiding behind my seat during a Christmas pantomime. These experiences really stuck with me, and ultimately shaped what I wanted to do when I grew up – work in theatre for young audiences.

All children and young people deserve access to high-quality cultural experiences, for all the reasons that the arts, and theatre, is valued by adults. Children should have access to great art that speaks to them and their experiences, that fires their imaginations and helps them understand the world now rather than thinking of them or investing in them as the audience of the future. Access to the arts by early years is particularly important as it is the first opportunity to ignite an interest in the arts, to make attending and experiencing the arts seem normal, and to encourage the view that cultural venues are welcoming places for everyone, rather than daunting places for the few.

The theme for this year’s bOing is fabulous beasties – can you describe, draw or creatively show us a fabulous beastie?

I won a competition at primary school to design a new Pokemon (they count as fabulous beasties, right?) I have to say that, from what I remember, it was basically a banana with a face, but hopefully it still impressed my Pokemon-mad little brothers…

Find out more about Kubla Khan