Groundbreaking immersive new show from the award-winning theatre company the Guardian calls ‘thrillingly talented’
Wednesday 20 - Thursday 21 March 2024, 7pm
|Night Classes cast l-r Alex Elliott EJ Ryamond
and Harrison Rowley-Lynn
• Premiere at in March then touring autumn 2024
• Performed in British Sign Language and spoken word
Inspired by profound insights from deaf and disabled people, Unfolding Theatre’s Night Classes is a playful, immersive theatre experience that challenges society’s goal of independence and asks the game-changing question: what if we celebrated interdependence instead?
Performed in British Sign Language and spoken word, Night Classes brings together an award-winning creative team of co-writers Lisette Auton and Becci Sharrock, director Annie Rigby, and is designed by disabled artist and drag king Lady Kitt. The idea for Night Classes came out of a conversation between disabled author, poet, activist and performer Lisette Auton and Director Annie Rigby. Lisette says "I've always struggled with asking for help. When I became disabled I suddenly needed to, but I didn't know how. Lots of this was wrapped up in shame and guilt and how our society, government, policies and systems prize independence. What happens when you can't be independent? What happens when you don't want to be? How can we value messy, fragile, glorious, beneficial interdependence instead? These are some of the questions I've had the pleasure of asking and unravelling with Unfolding Theatre.”
|l-r Alex Elliott Annie Rigby EJ Raymond Lady Kitt & Harrison Rowley-Lynn
Director Annie Rigby adds, “Lisette’s words really resonated with me. I thought about the guilt I feel when I ask for help with childcare. How we often live in separate little units, disconnected and unaware of the people around us. Unfolding Theatre’s work is about bringing people together. We talk about making big-hearted theatre, and so much of that comes from the joyfulness of different people sharing a space. I’m really excited to be creating a theatre experience that forges connections and celebrates inter-dependence. It feels like exactly what the world needs right now.”
Over fifteen years, Unfolding Theatre has built a reputation for bringing together all sorts of people from different walks of life to make theatre with a wild sense of humour and strength of character. The Guardian described Putting the Band Back Together as “Fantastic - funny, big-hearted, moving and truthful.” when it premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe, and A Street Like This won Best Performance at the 2023 North East Culture Awards. As with all the company’s work, participation drives the creative process. Night Classes has been shaped by the experience of the creative team and collaboration with local people, including a community group at ARC Stockton who shared insights into learning, asking for help and interdependence.
Writer Becci Sharrock explains, “What I love about being a Creative Associate with Unfolding Theatre is the way they empower everyone within their process creative; whether that's a professional artist, a participant or a whole community. It seems apt then that the central idea of Night Classes is exploring what we as individuals and society can gain from working together, from drawing on our collective experiences, from celebrating shared success over competition. I can't wait to share this very special piece with our audiences, an opportunity to invite everyone in to be part of that journey.”
Designer Lady Kitt says, “I have a very emotional connection to the themes of this project - as a disabled person I spend a lot of time navigating ideas around, and practicalities of, interdependence in my life. I find the almost fetishistic obsession humans have with achieving independence pretty destructive; there is often a lot of pressure, especially for young people, to become independent in prescribed ways and at specific times, so it's great to be involved in a project which is creating space to gently challenge assumptions.”
The cast includes EJ Raymond - a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, EJ is an actor and writer who runs North East Deaf Youth Theatre with Annie Rigby, wrote and performed a short film as part of Deafinitely Theatre’s Talking Hands series, and founded Turtléar - an organisation that supports the deaf community to have greater access to the arts. Harrison Rowley-Lynn - a queer actor and facilitator who graduated from Newcastle Theatre Royal’s Project A actor training in 2022, Harrison’s recent stage credits include critically acclaimed one-woman show, Soapbox Racer (Alphabetti Theatre) and Big Girls Don’t Cry (Blowin’ A Hooley). And Alex Elliott - a founder member of Northern Stage Ensemble (1998-2005), Alex has performed in several Unfolding Theatre shows including Putting the Band Back Together, Hold On, Let Go and A Street Like This, and is Artistic Director of Operating Theatre, creating thought-provoking theatre and film on health and social issues.
Following the premiere at ARC Stockton in March, Night Classes will tour in the autumn, dates will be announced soon. For more details or to book tickets see www.unfoldingtheatre.co.uk/whats-on
Cast and creatives
Director: Annie Rigby
Writers: Lisette Auton & Becci Sharrock
Designer: Lady Kitt
Cast: Alex Elliott, EJ Raymond and Harrison Rowley-Lynn
Photos: Mark Savage
Recommended age: 14+
Tickets: https://arconline.co.uk/whats-on/night-classes/ Pay What You Decide