"For all the bursting creativity of one, there is the equally matched, quieter pragmatism of the other."Laura Cameron

Georgina Taylor and Georgina Evans are the perfect duo. Taylor, the creative half of Relaxed Theatre Company (RTC), is talking animatedly about directing and devising their first production, Sögur: “I not only need great actors, but also amazing, creative brains. I want them to make it theirs. Maybe it will be one thing this week and another the next. Which is so exciting!” 

For all the bursting creativity of one, there is the equally matched, quieter pragmatism of the other. Evans, who throughout our conversation is the quieter of the two, but nevertheless speaks with considered precision, summarises their relationship: “The lovely thing about having two of us is there are so many things we differ and agree on – but it works.” What unites them is a passion and belief that theatre should be accessible for all.

“What unites them is a passion and belief that theatre should be accessible for all”

The relaxed theatre movement is a wave of theatre whose performance style facilitates the needs of those who consider themselves neuro-diverse. “Autism is the main thing that relaxed theatre is for, and relaxed shows often just means it’s autism-friendly,” explains Evans when I ask her about the ethos of relaxed theatre. “Our aim is to be a bit broader. So, if you’ve got tourettes you can come and see it, or if you need it to be louder, be quieter, or you need to leave. For example, if you’re a mum and you’ve got a young baby and you want to come and see a play, or anything where you just can’t feel included in a normal theatre environment, we’re trying to fit into the spectrum.” 

The two Linguistics freshers established the company in December 2016, the first in the world as far as they know, as a means of creating inclusive, high-quality theatre for anyone who feels unable to comply with traditional audience etiquette. A relaxed performance, they explain, entails some practical modifications including setting the house lights on dim throughout, or selling to only half capacity, “So that people are always able to leave if they need to, or move around, avoiding that very intense theatre atmosphere,” continues Taylor. “Like someone who was neuro-diverse was saying to us yesterday, there are no commercial breaks in theatre, you can’t press pause. And that can really become a problem for some autistic people.” Some technical aspects are also adjusted: “There’s no strong flashes of light, and the same with sound; there’s no sudden loud bangs or ongoing noises that can be problematic for someone.” 

Nevertheless, they do recognise the stigma that the label ‘relaxed’ can create: “This is why we decided to devise our own show and not do a scripted piece,” Evans justifies. “Say, if you went to see Hamlet, there’s Hamlet, and then there’s the ‘relaxed version.’ The stigma of, ‘Is this the less-good version?’ is so hard to fight. Because it isn’t, it’s just different. So by devising our show we aren’t saying this is Sögur, or this is relaxed Sögur. It’s just Sögur that happens to be relaxed.”

Sögur, RTC’s first production, is a dark, human tale inspired by Scandinavian folklore (“which we really, really love”). The production is an episodic piece and six stories branch off from the main narrative that follows the journey of a young man. It is devised from varying mythological stimuli and told through different narrative ‘modes’ (verbal, semi-verbal and physical) to suit a range of neuro-diversities. 

“It’s a refreshing take on the theatre producing pattern that most Cambridge students follow”

Taylor and Evans are unique in more ways than one. Besides their ethos, their general approach to producing theatre in Cambridge is distinctive. Throughout the creation of Sögur and RTC, they have been sharing their experience by uploading Facebook videos, explaining relaxed theatre and its philosophy. In them, they also introduce their plans for Sögur or announce auditions, all in an engaging, informative manner. It’s a refreshing take on the theatre producing pattern that most Cambridge students follow.

“It feels as though they are opening up the Cambridge theatre bubble by the seams and inviting all in to see”

Alongside their blog, it feels as though they are opening up the Cambridge theatre bubble by the seams and inviting all in to see. I ask whether this is deliberate: “It’s difficult to say that we’ve deliberately tried to do something different, because we don’t know what the normal thing is – we’ve only been here for eight weeks!” Taylor responds. “We’re both freshers, and after our first term, we felt… it’s not an easy thing to get into, Cambridge theatre. It can be alienating. And especially if you feel cut off from theatre because you’re not neuro-typical, it’s going to feel even more difficult.” 

“We did videos because we wanted it to be accessible,” confirms Evans. And as for the blog, “We care about relaxed theatre more than just our performances, so we wanted a system where people could access it and say, “This is what we did. Obviously, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all, but here’s how we made it – please, go and do it yourself.”

Accessibility to theatre is evidently the long-term goal of RTC. They have a clarity and maturity in handling their project’s future, which Evans displays: “We have two facets. We have RTC, whose first production is Sögur, funded by HATS, and we’re doing it in order to learn how to create relaxed shows, etcetera. But we also have the company, for which we have an O2 grant that we aren’t investing in the show, but are using to develop our website, go to seminars, and learn.” 

“This is not just two girls having a crack at putting on plays as a university hobby. They have an agenda”

“Because we are very aware that we only know a fraction of what there is to know, especially as neuro-typical people, catering for a neuro-diverse audience,” adds Taylor. Indeed, they have already dedicated a branch of the company purely to community outreach. This is not just two girls having a crack at putting on plays as a university hobby. They have an agenda. 

"They have started marking the outlines of a great movement, one that has the potential to transform people’s experience of theatre."Laura Cameron

I ask why they think relaxed theatre is important: “The main thing we want is for people to know about relaxed theatre, and for it to be something people look at and think about – whether you want to come and see Sögur or not.  It’s something all directors should consider, and ask whether there is a way for them to make things better for people.” 

Taylor chimes in here: “Yes, and we’re not putting a lock and key on relaxed theatre in Cambridge, either. If you’re not coming to see Sögur but maybe you’re putting on a show, then we could help you make one relaxed show in your run. It wouldn’t be a difficult thing for us to do. And if we can get educated and pass on what we know, we can make this a big thing in Cambridge and, hopefully, wider.”

Their modesty only serves to make this pair even more inspiring. Though they won’t openly admit it, they have started marking the outlines of a great movement, one that has the potential to transform people’s experience of theatre.

“It’s not such a case of our company going somewhere, it’s a case of relaxed theatre going somewhere,” Taylor claims. And I have no doubt that this duo can go very far indeed.  

Relaxed Theatre Company’s Sögur is on 16th-18th February at 2:30pm at the ADC Theatre. Find out more at @relaxedtheatrecompany or check out http://relaxedtheatrecomp.wixsite.com/webs/blog

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