Hijinx Theatre in association with Blind Summit
Meet Fred, the two-foot-tall cloth puppet that fights prejudice every day. He just wants to be a regular guy, part of the real world, to get a job and meet a girl, but when threatened with losing his PLA (Puppetry Living Allowance), Fred’s life begins to spiral out of his control.
The show contains strong language and puppet nudity.
Sharp, funny and vastly entertaining. – The Guardian
Hijinx is an inclusive theatre company based in Cardiff, all our productions include learning disabled performers alongside performers without learning disability. To support our work we have a network of Academies around Wales that train learning disabled performers in a variety of skills. We provide this training because it is virtually impossible for an actor with learning disability to access more traditional drama schools or universities. When ready, students from our Academies join us on our professional productions. This ensures that our work is always of the highest quality, with all artists starting a process on an equal footing. “Meet Fred” features three of our performers with learning disability, all of whom were heavily involved in the devising of the production.
Blind Summit is recognised as one of the UK’s most exciting companies working with puppetry. They have had huge success with productions such as “The Table” and “Citizen Puppet”, and often work with companies such as Complicite and ENO. Hijinx came into contact with Blind Summit in April 2014 when we invited them to run a week’s training in puppetry for our Academy students in Cardiff. We were joined by three of their artists, including Artistic Director Mark Down, it was during this week that the seed for making an inclusive production with a puppet was sown. Blind Summit have supported us throughout the process, from their designers making a set of puppets for us to train and explore with, and providing associate artists Tom Espiner and Giulia Innocenti to work with us during the research and development stage for the project and rehearsals.
About the process
As we explored the concept of creating an inclusive show with a puppet, the parallels between life for a puppet, and the learning disabled artists that we work with quickly became apparent. Just as many of the people that we work with rely on support in order to live an independent life, so Fred relies on his three puppeteers simply to exist. The relationship of dependence and interdependence that exists between Fred and his puppeteers is the exact same situation that many people with learning disability and disability in general face in their everyday life.
Inevitably during a devising process, it is the people that you have in the room that ultimately influence in what direction a piece may go, and crucially what their experience is of the world at any given time. As we were making this show, many of our learning disabled performers were living through the current overhaul of the benefits system by our wonderful Tory government. We began to explore how life would be for Fred if he also lived in this environment, what would happen if Fred was threatened with losing his Puppetry Living Allowance, what would Fred be without his puppeteers, would he even survive? Suddenly, instead of the whimsical, light puppet show we had envisaged, we had a serious political message on our hands, but one that could be presented with hilarity and made seem all the more ridiculous when seen through the eyes of our puppet hero Fred.