In Conversation: Alice Christina-Corrigan and the team behind FADE

Photo: Andrew AB Photography

We speak to visually impaired and neurodivergent actor, writer and creative access director Alice Christina-Corrigan and some of her creative team about new show FADE which puts accessibility at the heart of new writing.

How would you describe FADE?

Alice Christina-Corrigan (Writer and Creative Access Director): FADE is a story following twin siblings, Cassie and Rubin, as they come to terms with the sudden death of their mother. The play questions the allyship of siblings, looks at the silent sacrifices we make for each other along the way and ultimately looks at how one decision we make can change the trajectory of our lives forever.
In three words, I’d say FADE is provoking, beautiful and important.

Hannah Tyrell-Pinder (Director): FADE is a really fabulous new play by Alice, and it’s an exploration of childhood and family, and the stuff we carry with us without really realising that we’re carrying it and how it can weigh us down, and how we try and free ourselves from that weight.

What can tell us about your role(s) in the production?

    Chris Brown (Movement Director): As a movement director working in theatre, you don’t always get the opportunity to integrate access into work, so this is a really good opportunity to work with a wide team who are really orientating everything towards access from the beginning from the writing of the script, to how we hold the space in the room, to how audiences can experience the show – access is kind of being filtered throughout the creative process.

    We’re thinking about how a visually impaired person can experience that choreography and how they can track and follow actors as they move across the space, so working with the access consultant thinking about how sound links in with movement, and the integration of a kind of sonic language and a movement language together.

    By integrating access from the get-go, the process of making the show inherently becomes more compassionate, a bit more tender. It means we can make really intense, beautiful, epic theatre, but we can also look after the people while we’re doing that.

    Alice: As excited as I was to write FADE, something that I’ve been really looking forward to throughout this process has been questioning and looking at what the role of a creative access director might look like within the theatre landscape. What is a creative access director? If I’m being honest, I’m not too sure yet and that’s beautiful. It’s not really a role that exists yet in this industry, but a role that I think is integral if we’re going to really look at developing and nurturing our disabled community.

    Similarly to how a movement director comes in and is focused purely on the movement and how it aids the story, a creative access director comes in and oversees all of the accessible elements of the show. So, for example, if we’re looking at a show that is incorporating integrated audio description, has a touch tour, is using captions and has a BSL interpreted performance, what they are doing is making sure that those elements are aiding the storytelling, aiding the text, aiding the director’s vision of it, instead of putting a lot of responsibility on a disabled person coming into these spaces, usually as a consultant, who ends up having to educate people at the same time as doing their work.

    FADE was created by a disabled-led team and is described as having access embedded in every decision made throughout the creative process, why was this so important?

      Alice: As a visually impaired and ADHD queen who grew up with these conditions, but never really saw the space for me to exist within the arts – never really thought about it, never really did anything about it – to now be in a position where actually I want to undo a lot of that for younger generations is so important to me.

      This project has given me the opportunity to look at and question for myself and nurture and develop new disabled artists to be able to then take on this experience, and take it as an expectation for everyone else in the industry for future projects. It’s about creating that legacy of disabled artists in this field of work and I’m so proud of that.

      Hannah: I was really intrigued and inspired by the creative access element of FADE. I was really interested to interrogate my own processes as a storyteller and actually challenge how I think about the audience’s experience, and all the assumptions I was making about the ways we tell stories and the languages we use to tell those stories, and actually realising that you can free yourself up from that and make everything a lot more open in a way that isn’t tokenistic or box-ticking, but actually really enhances and deepens the story.

      Photo: Andrew AB Photography

      FADE is commissioned by The Lowry as part of the ‘Developed With’ programme, what is it like to be part of this?

      Alice: The Lowry, and the other partners we’re working with, have empowered me to push myself and have that space and capacity with a wonderful group of local, northern, disabled, working class voices. Being in a group and space together, just making and questioning is super important if we’re really gonna look at how we can create accurate and truthful disabled representation across the UK.

        For me, one of the things this process has enabled is bringing experienced and emerging creatives together, so it’s everyone learning from each other. And what I mean by that is Emily, our wonderful creative captioner is an emerging creative captioner, who is really interested in learning in that field, whilst our wonderful lighting designer, Megan, has the experience of the technical world, and is sharing her expertise there.

        We’re creating these spaces for disabled artists to feel nurtured, feel heard, have that communication there so they have the opportunity to learn, build and expand.

        The show explores sibling allyship, why did you want to explore this type of allyship in the work?

          Alice: A lot of the time with siblings it’s the unspoken language between the two of you. It’s the secret handshakes, it’s the silences and how they can feel comfortable and yet isolating at the same time. So I was really challenging myself and pushing what audio description and creative captioning can look like in spaces where there is no text or speech to go from.

          FADE integrates projections and creative captioning – why do you think the industry at large has yet to embrace innovation in accessibility?

            Alice: I know what I’m saying at the minute sounds like I’m asking a lot from an industry which is facing severe cuts, left, right and centre, but I’ve been very fortunate to be working with The Lowry, Leeds Playhouse and Theatre Deli, as well as Arts Council to have developed a nine month long programme and time and space for me to look at and really question and develop a toolkit that can be easily accessible for theatres or producers or artists.

            Instead of finding disabled people in spaces where we’re having to talk a lot about the negatives, it’s looking to find a proactive and positive change in the industry and for me that change is the role of a creative access director.

            What are some of the important lessons that creatives looking to make engaging and accessible work can learn from FADE?

              Hannah: The way that I thought about access previously was that it was an added thing. FADE has helped me realise that it can be firmly part of the story itself and that you can tell the extra detail using audio description without breaking the ‘show don’t tell’ rule.

              I’ve long been saying that everyone needs to have access riders and I think the more that we normalise that in the industry, the better. And I think there’s a really interesting and quite detailed conversation that needs to go on about what structures that we all accept about our industry are good and necessary and helpful. And which ones could be flexed and changed to help access. And actually when those structures can’t be changed, like the amount of time that you have for rehearsal, or how rehearsals work, when those can’t be changed, how do we support everyone to access those in a really healthy, positive way.

              What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?

                Hannah: I feel like anyone who’s been a child or had parents, or been in a family, is gonna find something to relate to in this story and I think that, as challenging as aspects of the material are, it’s really important that you put those difficult stories on stage and that you give people space to explore stuff safely and feel like they’re not alone, and they’re not unusual and that actually hard and difficult stuff happens to everybody.

                FADE is at Leeds Playhouse from 25 to 27 April 2024