Review: Take Up Thy Bed & Walk
This review contains mild spoilers.
At the opening of the double doors is Kyra Kimpton. She welcomes us into the space in small groups, where we are invited to walk around and discover. On five pillows on five beds screen projected short films animated through embroidery about young women, you can listen through headphones, read the captioning, read the braille, or, at one watch the Auslan interpretation; Michelle Ryan holds up embroidered sheets with sayings about women with disabilities; in one corner is a model of the set; in another is a live scorpion – don’t touch! reads the warning. No one says as much, but what we’re doing is part of a tactile introduction to the set and to the playing space: this functional introduction to the space presented for the blind and vision impaired before audio described shows is here part of the work itself.
Take Up Thy Bed & Walk is, by all accounts, the first “fully accessible” theatre work in Australia. While we have, in recent years, seen an increase in the amount of productions offering increased accessibility such as captioning and audio description, these performances are still infrequent in proportion to the larger season.
Take Up Thy Bed integrates access elements through the show: the four performers are joined by Auslan interpreter Gerry Shearim, who moves around the action; most of the dialogue is either captioned or projected behind the stage, with different fonts highlighting emphasis and meaning; the performers often audio describe their own actions; the music is heavy with base, reverberating through the chairs.