This thoughtful, imaginative and accessible production takes audiences into a whole different world.
In the last year, a number of theatre companies have adapted their shows to make them suitable for online audiences. Extant Theatre’s online adaptation of its show Flight Paths is a mesmerising, fascinating and imaginative story, inspired by the secret history of the Goze – blind female travelling performers of medieval Japan.
Combining footage from its 2019 tour with beautifully delicate animations, audiences are guided by Taki on a journey learning about the Goze but combining their stories and history with that of two contemporary women Sarah Houbolt and Amelia Cavallo. It is a piece that carefully explores the prejudices and struggles faced by those who are either partially sighted or who are completely blind.
By putting your headphones in for this show, the sounds completely surround you beautifully as you choose your path at the crossroads during the introduction to the piece. Through the use of vivid audio description, beautifully voiced by Aya Nakamura, you do feel completely transported, it is wonderfully poetic and fluid in a way that is soothing to listen to.
It is really unlike anything else I have experienced before, particularly in the way it smoothly moves between the gorgeous illustrations created by Inko Ai Takita, with the pastel colouring that offers a dreamy quality, vividly brought to life through Dave Packer’s animations.
But it also feels like a real journey. On the one hand you learn more about the Goze and how it took them five years to learn everything they needed to know – but if they failed the test at the end, they would have to start learning all over again. This is wonderfully contrasted with the story of Sarah and Amelia, learning to do an aerial routine – magically realised through warmth, support and humour.
However, it does have to be said that the fluidity of the show can be disrupted when it comes to the idea of having to select the path you go on. It is educational and I saw it all in order – but to those who want to take random path it would feel a bit disjointed.
But this is a minor flaw in this creative and thoughtful show that really highlights the need and possibilities of creating theatre for those with specific needs – let’s hope that 2021 is the year that we see more of this kind of inclusive and accessible theatre.
Overall, Flight Paths is an absorbing and educational experience that really captures the attention and imagination from start to finish.
By Emma Clarendon
Flight Paths is available to watch here.