Leeway Productions’ take on Jason Robert Brown’s musical The Last Five Years is fascinating for many reasons; they have co-authored the work with d/Deaf and hearing cultures and they have drawn on and skill-shared with a wide variety of local communities as part of their process. It was Leeway Productions’ commitment to inclusivity and belief in the power of communication that has made them such ideal collaborators for the BA (Hons) Creative and Therapeutic Arts degree at the University of South Wales.
Students on our course are artists and facilitators passionate about hearing all the ‘voices’ in a room and this project was an opportunity to create artwork from a variety of different perspectives. Angharad Lee fed into the design process for this Year 2 Art Project and suggested some themes for our students to use as creative springboards. Provocations like ‘language’ and ‘time’ inspired interesting visual work from the students.
A real highlight of the collaboration was when Creative and Therapeutic Arts students attended a Leeway rehearsal in a local school. They were first led in a warm up by the energetic choreographer Mark Smith. His process as a Deaf choreographer working with the whole cast was fascinating and even students taken out of their comfort zone enjoyed the enthusiasm and poetry of the artistic use of British Sign Language within movement.
As the rehearsal continued our students responded visually: they made collages of what they could see, created clay and wire sculptures tracking the movements of the performers, they scored, smeared and wiped ink on printing plates to create evocative patterns and worked on a large collaborative drawing of the process. It was exciting to share these with the cast and production team at the end of the session. The cast were fascinated to see that elements of the text they were trying to highlight through movement and voice were being picked up visually by the audience and the students were delighted to be asked to leave the visual scores as prompts for developing the work further.
In the ‘Visual Reflections’ that you see in this gallery each of the Year 2 Creative and Therapeutic Arts students have reflected upon elements of their creative journey through this project. In some we see how the provocations provided have taken them in exciting and sometimes challenging directions, in others we see how the impact of attending the rehearsal has transformed their artistic practice.
Click on thumbnails to explore the art works
Photographs by Michal Iwanowski
Lecturer on BA (Hons) Creative and Therapeutic Arts degree, University of South Wales.