A look back at Extant’s last 20 years

Formed in 1997, Extant was the inspired name chosen by a group of professional visually impaired artists, for the emergence of a new dynamic space, intended to redress our invisibility as artists and explore new creative territories.

Over the past two decades, we have produced groundbreaking theatre by and for visually impaired performers and audiences, and have lead the way in providing artistic development and performing arts opportunities for visually impaired artists.

Here are some recent highlights from our work, spanning from our touring productions, to training opportunities, artist support programmes and grassroots community workshops:

Rathband (2020)

A close up of a middle aged white man's face. His expression is haggard and his fingers touch his left cheek right below his eye.

A decade on from the shooting of PC David Rathband, we held an interactive Zoom cast of Rathband by writer Christopher Hogg and hosted by visually impaired actor, Robin Paley Yorke.

PC David Rathband was 43 when he was shot by Raoul Moat in July 2010. Rathband freezes these moments, and through the re-creation of David’s story, unpacks all the changes that our digital lives are having on the way we make sense of the world.

Watch a recording of the performance here and listen to the BBC Radio In Touch interview with writer Christopher Hogg and visually impaired host Robin Paley Yorke here. Read more about the event here.

Flight Paths (2019)

A black woman, an East Asian man and a white woman walking between two moving walkways

Inspired by the Goze, blind female performers who travelled around medieval Japan, Flight Paths weaves together personal stories of blind artists from Japan, Nigeria and the USA.

The multi-media production combines movement, music, narrative and creative audio description using new sound technology. Flight Paths will be brought to life on screen in a new digital retelling this August, with audience interaction and rich animation. More information including teaser trailer here.

The Chairs (2014, 2016)

A trio of performers on stage. From left to right, a bald white man wearing a beige jumpsuit with his neck craned to the middle, a person wearing a full body white hazmat suit standing elevated, and an older woman with curly grey hair smiling with hands clutched.

An elderly couple frantically prepare chairs to welcome a procession of invisible guests to their isolated home – an uncertain space where anarchy, ageing and anxiety collide. Who is the mysterious orator they all await? And what will their world-changing message be?

Extant’s production of Eugene Ionesco’s classic play cast two blind performers in the lead roles and incorporated audio description into the live performance as part of a unique soundscape.

Flatland (2015)

Flatland- A black and white shot of Two men and Two women standing in the dark. Dressed in neoprene boiler suits, they hold out haptic cubes in front of them which guide their way through the darkeness.

In Flatland, audiences were guided into an immersive, pitch-black world of sensation and sound using haptic technology. Without the use of sight, participants navigated the environment by holding a haptic cube that indicated what direction they should go.

Flatland was designed as a proof of concept piece to show that it is possible to create an immersive theatrical experience using technology, accessible to both sighted and visually impaired audience members.

Pathways

The Pathways Actors, a group of three men and five women, stand together. Their arms around on another they smile and laugh at the camera.

Pathways is Extant’s pioneering four-year-long programme that aims to influence, embed and improve greater awareness of and accessibility for blind and visually impaired practitioners across the theatre industry.

Starting in 2018, Pathways trains visually impaired and blind theatre practitioners in a bespoke yearly program in acting, directing, writing or technical work backstage. The programme includes masterclasses, mentoring, shadowing opportunities, and showcases.

Past Pathways participants have gone on to perform at the National Theatre and are now pursuing audition and performance opportunities on  TV and stage. 

No Dramas!

A black woman, stands centrally facing an Asian man and white woman in small triangle. The black woman has her hands on top of her head and the others step towards her.

Extant’s monthly improvisation workshops No Dramas! welcomes visually impaired people regardless of professional experience to have fun, participate in drama exercises and develop performance and interactive skills.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the workshops have continued virtually through Zoom. Participants from No Dramas! performed their work during lockdown in our online stand-up comedy event Eye Say Eye Say Eye Say, which will be further developed for Bloomsbury Festival in October.

Tinted (2018)

A close up of a white woman with electric blue lightning makeup on her right eye and smoky blue eyeshadow on the other. She is wearing a purple coat with fur collar and grasping a microphone.

Commissioned by Extant, Tinted was a full-length play that premiered at Bloomsbury Festival in 2018.

Written by Amy Bethan Evans, Tinted is a revolutionary disabled response to the #MeToo movement, staged entirely in a monologue format. Extant provided assistance and support throughout the writing and staging process. The play has gone onto being performed at Vault Festival this year.

Catching the Ghost (2017)

Catching the Ghost - A profile shot of a tall white man with short dark hair and a goatee stands on a dimly lit stage. He sings into a microphone, placed on a stand and strums of a guitar.

Developed and produced by Extant, actor-musician Chris Campion’s debut play is a portrait of one young man’s journey into sight loss and his struggle to reconstruct a life from the ashes of the old.

Catching the Ghost charts the devastating impact of Campion’s sudden life transition with unflinching honesty, resilience, music and laughter.

The play premiered at Wandsworth Arts Fringe, before travelling to Brighton Fringe Festival, and internationally to Zagreb, Croatia.

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