Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Dramaturgy I Jump: Graham Eatough and Clare Duffy

  • The Reason I Jump - an outdoor site-specific performance event at The Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow, Glasgow from 11 to 23 June 2018, conceived and directed by Graham Eatough, based on Naoki Higashida’s bestselling book, translated by David Mitchell and Keiko Yoshida
  • A new partnership with the National Autistic Society who will provide training, guidance and support across the National Theatre of Scotland’s 2018 programme.
  • A new, free augmented reality experience for visitors to the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow in June 2018, celebrating neurodiversity through storytelling
 The National Theatre of Scotland presents
The Reason I Jump
based on the book by Naoki Higashida, translated by David Mitchell and Keiko Yoshida
Production conceived and directed by Graham Eatough, designed by Observatorium, dramaturgy by Clare Duffy, choreography by Zoe Halliday.

Full cast is Fletcher Mathers, Michael DawsonCalum MacRitchie, Emma McCaffrey and Nicola Tuxworth with four young performers from schools in Glasgow, Edinburgh and East Renfrewshire – Abercorn, St Crispins and Isobel Mair.

At The Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow, Glasgow from 11 to 23 June 2018
Opening performance on 12 June 2018 at 7pm.
Part of the West End Festival

Leading Scottish artist and theatre-maker Graham Eatough directs and adapts The Reason I Jump, a new project exploring the realities and experience of living with autism. Inspired by the bestselling Naoki Higashida book of the same name, translated into English by Keiko Yoshida and Cloud Atlas-author David Mitchell in 2013, the piece takes the form of a unique site-specific installation in the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow in the summer of 2018.

Access info:  all performances are open to all ages, and will be autism-friendly.
BSL performances on 15 and 23 June.
Audio described performance on 16 June.

Local ticket offer
All those living in postcodes G20 8, G20 9, G20 6, G20 7 are entitled to £5 tickets to Reason I Jump (normal price £8). These can be booked using the code G20.  Proof of address will need to be brought when collecting tickets from the box office.

The Reason I Jump is supported by The RS Macdonald Charitable Trust and The Mickel Fund. A percentage of the ticket price for The Reason I Jump will go towards The Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow.

What was the inspiration for this project?

I knew about the book through my own involvement with autism in my family. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to use some of the techniques I’d developed in other projects - working outside, collaborating with public artists, thinking about the different ways in which you can tell a story - to explore the topic of audience and try to communicate some of its fascinating ideas. 

There’s a lot of interest in autism but also quite a lot of misunderstandings, so this project provides an opportunity to hear directly from autistic people about what life is like for them. The show involves performers with autism who I’ve been working with for over two years now. They have been one of the biggest inspirations for the project. The show gives the audience a chance to meet them and hear about their experiences and attitudes as well as those from the book.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

We wanted to make a show that removes some of the barriers to going to the theatre that some autistic people experience. Although that feeling of being trapped in your seat in the theatre where everyone has to be quiet and things feel very much outside of your control isn’t unique to autistic audiences of course. So this show invites you to visit a beautiful outdoor space - North Kelvin Meadows and Children’s Wood in the West End of Glasgow - and to go on your own journey around this place. 

The show takes the form of a giant outdoor maze designed by Dutch artists Observatorium. As you travel through the maze you encounter the different performers until you arrive in a special central area where you’re invited to walk a labyrinth that we’ve permanently installed there. Hopefully it all adds up to a fascinating and moving experience in which you can find out a bit more about autism and maybe some things about yourself too.

How did you become interested in making performance?

It was all a very long time ago.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

See above

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

The show draws on large scale outdoor projects I’ve made such as Nomanslanding which was originally designed to float on Sydney Harbour. The audience were invited to go on a journey across the water and into this structure where they encountered a performance. I made this show with four other artists, one of whom - Andre Dekker, I’m working with again on The Reason I Jump.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I think they’ll have a unique experience in a beautiful place, meet some really interesting people, find out a bit more about autism from individual's first hand experiences, gain an insight into the world of the original book and it’s author, and hopefully stay dry.

Clare Duffy

What was the inspiration for this project?

The Reason I Jump was written by Naoki Higashida a 14 year old, autistic Japanese boy who is diagnosed as ‘non-verbal’. It’s a really inspiring book in many different ways. I found it inspiring for what it had to say about communication: not being able to say what you want to say, the assumption that what you say is what you mean, the frustration it’s possible to have when communication is difficult or even impossible. 

He’s also really inspiring about what our (humanity’s) relationship is and could be with the natural world.

What does your role as dramaturge entail in this production?

Primarily I suppose I am the one in the team that most looks after and thinks about the words performers say and what they mean and when they are performed. I thought alot about how the book was structured, how Naoki answers 58 questions and that he also tells short stories. He deals with some huge themes and doesn’t create a linear narrative, so it’s a book that evokes lots of thought and feeling rather than stories. 

However I also found a shape to the book which I think is about exploring being inside and outside of different structures. Sometimes Naoki is talking specifically about himself and sometimes he is talking about how he perceives autism and the world. So it was really important to explore the difference between the book as a personal testament and questions about what autism is. 

Graham and I interviewed all the performers so they speak with their own words as well as Naoki’s. I thought about how to show connections and intersections between their lives and Naokis as well as the differences.

When I joined the project Graham Etough was interested in how mazes and labyrinths and the ways they are different might offer a way to focus the book becoming an environment. 

The whole company worked together thinking about how the book might become a time and place for the audience to explore. Graham and I talked a lot with Andre Decker (artist/architect) about how to create ‘Naoki’s Garden’ as a physical dramatic representation of the book and perhaps of Naoki himself.

Do you feel that performance is still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Yes I do. Of course. Well… I think it's a great way to create space for a public contextualising of ideas. I suppose performance can create time and space for an audience to think about something before they discuss it, to absorb some ideas or information perhaps as an intervention before we make up our minds about something. Sometimes performance can be really good at putting a bit of a break on the discussion and give time to think creatively about something. Performance can really productively focus on a specific context within a bigger idea too. 

Probably in the context of The Reason I Jump lots of people will have very different ideas that they want to discuss in relation to it. I suppose that’s what we’re hoping to create, a space and plenty of time to think about what your questions might be and who they are for.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I was interested in making performance from early early years…don’t know why or how really. Probably because theatre and performance is a bit magical and mysterious I suppose. But that pretty vague interest was consolidated when I was a teenager and having a tough time at school and I joined a young people’s theatre group, which did devising theatre and took political theatre into schools and that was my foundation inspiration I think.

Is there any particular approach to the making of this production? 

I think it’s been quite intuitive and everyone has been involved in the development from concept to script step by step. Graham has led a real company approach, which really tries to listen to everyone all the time. A lot of trust in everyone.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Yes in lots and lots of ways, I think I’m usually interested in making work that is fun, playful, assessable and that wants to engage with something big and serious (that is important to everyone) … the shows often look and feel pretty different and I probably like just about every style of theatre and performance … 

I’ve got a quite intense traditional 2 hander on in Traverse 1 this autumn which I’m hugely excited about, I’m making a ‘digital magic’ app about cyber security for teenagers and writing a performance with songs and dancing with my company Unlimited Theatre and Rash Dash at the moment. 

So it does fit and also I’ve never been involved in making anything quite like this before and I can wait to see how The Children’s woods are going to be totally transformed. It was great being there when the labyrinth was built a few weeks ago.

What do you hope that the audience will experience? 

I feel that if I answer that I might spoil it for people in a way… I hope that they will have fun exploring and ultimately enjoy just being where they find themselves.

Naoki is a non-verbal, autistic, Japanese boy, who was just thirteen years old when he wrote the book The Reason I Jump, a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrated how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds. Now audiences will be invited to take a unique journey into his world and meet the magical gardeners of his outdoor maze.

In this innovative adaptation, the book becomes an experience, a mysterious journey through a beautiful outdoor maze designed by renowned Dutch collective Observatorium, which will take over the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow in Glasgow’s West End. There, audiences will encounter the stories and insights of Naoki’s gardeners and become immersed in his playful world.
This adaptation will be a unique blend of site-specific promenade performance and interactive installation, created with, and performed by, a group of artists with autism ranging from 16 to 60 years old. During performances the piece will see audiences free to explore the outdoor maze, in which they will find storytellers and performances drawn from experiences in the book as well as the personal experiences of the performers themselves. At the centre of the maze is a stone labyrinth, constructed by members of the local community using reclaimed cobblestone from nearby Maryhill. Once the performance is complete, the labyrinth will remain in the meadow as a legacy for residents and visitors.

The Reason I Jump has its roots in a Scottish government initiative called Limitless, a collaboration between The National Theatre of Scotland, RCS, and the National Autistic Society Scotland which explored the potential of creative arts in engaging and encouraging work by and for autistic children, teenagers, and young adults.

The National Theatre of Scotland in partnership with the National Autistic Society Scotland has been a pioneer in the field of offering audiences with autism access to high quality theatre productions in Scotland. The first autism friendly performance in Scotland was A Christmas Carol in Kirkcaldy in December 2012.
In 2018, the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Autistic Society Scotland will work together to deliver a series of autism-friendly performances across the Company’s programme and additional support for performances created specifically for neuro-diverse audiences. These include the National Theatre of Scotland’s first autism-friendly production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe of My Left Right Foot: The Musical, with Birds of Paradise, and an autism friendly performance of Eddie and the Slumber Sisters, in partnership with Catherine Wheels at the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival.  Full details on all autism friendly performances, to be announced.
The overall aims of the partnership, for the National Theatre of Scotland, are to increase audiences to educate and train artists and artistic partners in the needs of this community/individuals and to explore the potential for opening up more National Theatre of Scotland performances to neuro diverse audiences.

Fiona McGrevey from the National Autistic Society Scotland said: “We are delighted to be strengthening our relationship with the National Theatre of Scotland through this new partnership this year.
We warmly welcome this exciting production of The Reason I Jump to Glasgow in June and we look forward to seeing the autistic artists in action. We look forward to providing training and support to the National Theatre of Scotland company to help raise further awareness of autism. We will also help them identify any adaptations that may be required for this production as well as other accessible performances throughout 2018.

Around 53,000 people in Scotland are on the autism spectrum. Together with their families they make up around 232,000 people whose lives are touched by autism every single day. I hope other organisations throughout Scotland will be inspired by the National Theatre of Scotland to learn more about becoming more autism friendly.”

Jackie Wylie – Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Scotland said
“Identifying and nurturing diverse talent and reaching new audiences is at the heart of the National Theatre of Scotland and continues our commitment to opening up the Company to new ways of working. In 2018 we are delighted to be entering into a partnership with the National Autistic Society Scotland in order to celebrate the work of autistic artists, and to ensure that neuro-diverse audiences are accommodated and welcomed at our performances.”

In support of the evening performances, visitors to the space during the day will be able to enjoy aspects of the Reason I Jump production through a specially developed augmented reality experience. Available for free for Android devices and downloadable from the Google Play store, audiences can walk the maze in search of labyrinthine marker-points. Once located – and viewed through the app – the marker points begin to transform the surrounding space, filling it with the sights and sounds of the evening performances. In late June the site will continue to fill with marker points and an update to the app will be released. Users will experience music, stories and creative expressions gathered through a series of workshops with young people on the autistic spectrum, celebrating neurodiversity through storytelling. 

Schools involved in this project to date include High Park PS and Abercorn School.
The Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow is a much loved community greenspace in Glasgow’s West End, which is regularly accessed by the local community, specific groups, and 22 neighbouring schools and nurseries. Regular events are organised by The Children’s Wood community, designed to connect children to nature, raise aspirations and bring people together.
Emily Cutts on behalf of the Children’s Wood
"We are delighted to be the venue for this innovative production and hope it will raise the awareness of what it can be like living with autism.   

We also hope The Reason I Jump will highlight the benefit of being outdoors in nature for children and adults with autism. Restrictions are being placed on access to nature for children and young people with autism, and as a consequence they are suffering.  Having more places locally to connect with nature is important. 

The Children's Wood and North Kelvin Meadow is a magical place for people with autism because being in nature can reduce anxiety and encourage communication and social interactions."
Listings and booking Info
The Reason I Jump
The Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow, Glasgow
Dates: 11 to 23 June 2018
Tickets: £4 - £8Tickets can be booked at

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