Head2Head Sensory Theatre tours with live shows that incorporate interactive moments to enable young people with SEND and their families to immerse themselves in the drama. Here, the Head2Head team share what they’ve been up to lately and introduce us to Lauren Masser, a young actor with SEND.
In our immersive shows, we invite everyone to join in the interactive moments. Seeing the actors and parents/carers having fun exploring the multi-sensory props – or dressing up or singing along to the catchy tunes – encourages the young people to join in too. We offer a safe environment for the children to try out drama and immerse themselves in the adventure as it unfolds. Parents/carers tell us that participation in our shows has encouraged their children to join local drama groups. During our touring shows, we have a young actor with SEND playing a role alongside us. Again, their presence is a huge encouragement to our young participants as they can see the pleasure gained from taking part in drama.
Lauren Masser is one such actor. She says, ‘When I’m acting, I feel free in myself and it boosts my confidence. I like how I can get lost in a character I’m playing. Being part of Head2Head Theatre has been a great experience because it has given me the opportunity to find out what it is like to act professionally and how much fun it is to perform with other actors.’
Over the past year, we have adapted our work into the virtual world, providing films, Zoom shows and interactive, multi-layered games to suit all abilities. An advance pack encourages families to gather together some items from around the home to join in the multi-sensory moments remotely. It also provides links to YouTube playlists to accompany each show, demonstrating how families and children may make their own props; for example, creating sand from crushed-up cereal or mud from a chocolatey goo! During the Zoom shows, everyone joins in with the many interactive moments. At the end of the Zoom sessions, families stay on for some ‘snacks & chats’ – a lovely way for everyone to share their experiences and off-load a little stress.
We also created a multi-layered game called Can You Find Neverland? to suit a wide range of abilities. It comes in the form of a printable PDF booklet which acts as the guide for the journey: it has things to cut out and colour in, as well as suggestions of household objects to use throughout the experience. This is paired with a YouTube playlist including crafting instructions, songs and dances run by characters from the storyline. And, of course, we filmed last year’s pantomime, Cinderella, and our holiday activity shows. With the help of Deaf Children’s Society, we included closed captions and a BSL interpreter to augment the Makaton signing used by our actors.
This year our family show, Piccolo Pinocchio, was filmed, again with closed captions and a BSL interpreter. Piccolo Pinocchio is about the adventures of a cheeky wooden puppet who just can’t help telling fibs as he heads out into the world for his first day at school. The film is accompanied by an information pack to help the audience prepare for the multi-sensory and interactive moments throughout. We offered a professional role to Lauren, who was amazing to work with and we can see a bright future ahead. She tells us, ‘I enjoyed the carnival dance because it was so much fun to do and also because I did it with the other actors. The funniest line was when the fox says “the city of silly sausages” because she said it in such a funny way and had a funny expression.’
Our Work Experience Programme, put on hold when we could not tour, has been reintroduced. In collaboration with The Orpheus Centre, we are now offering stage manager, assistant director and performance roles to students at the centre and those working with us remotely throughout the UK. Shortly, we will be launching our ‘Yearn to Learn’ programme, with films and activities exploring the Tudors. For young people with autism and/or social anxieties we are making a trip ‘Down on the Farm’ with The Sensory Squad. This will encourage young people to try out new activities with their families and go on a new adventure. And we haven’t forgotten the teenagers. Our Stevie Solvesit Whodunnit adventure series, now on its third episode, is proving very popular. A member of our professional acting team is supported by a young ‘detective’ from our Work Experience Programme.
Lauren has this advice for other SEND young people who haven’t yet tried out drama: ‘I would say it is good for your confidence and helping with social skills. When I started I had very supportive tutors and buddies to help me.’
Head2Head Sensory Theatre is a registered charity dedicated to the Special Needs’ Community. They are passionate about making theatre accessible to all and understand that families who have a child with a disability face many barriers. They also run a student work experience programme. Visit their website to find out more about them and their current projects and activities.