by Ellie Griffiths

Sound Symphony is a new sound-performance made for young audiences with complex autism and their families.

The piece is a journey through music, sound and silence. Weaving together cello, singing and object noises, Sound Symphony is designed to create a sensory-rich environment, where the audience can feel the music through their whole body.

This highly interactive performance aims to give audiences with complex autism access to high-quality theatre.

Touring: May & June 2022 

An interactive play website and tour details are available at:  www.soundsymphony.co.uk.

Sound Symphony by Ellie Griffiths is being co-produced by Oily Cart Theatre and supported by Arts Council England, The Space, Hugh Fraser Foundation, Radcliffe Trust and Thistledown Trust.

Photo above by eoin carey
Photos below by Brian Hartley 

Press response to Sound Symphony . . .

“a joyful and exquisite piece of work, beautifully designed by Katy Wilson and lit by Colin Grenfell, and composed and performed with terrific sensitivity and exuberance by three musician-theatremakers, Greg Sinclair, Sonia Allori and Shiori Usui.” 
★★★★, Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman (read the full review here).

“As beautifully conceived in its visual and tactile dimensions as in its music and sound, Sound Symphony is a brilliantly crafted, wonderfully benign, deeply moving piece of theatre. ”
★★★★★, Mark Brown, Herald on Sunday/National (read full review here).

“Paying tribute to the sculpture of music, Sound Symphony has a keen interest in involving its audience in the sights, feels and environment of creating music through their own bodies, and the show accommodates a variety of senses for the whole audience.”
★★★★, Dominic Corr, The Skinny (read the full review here).

“I felt welcomed and comfortable. Performers joined in audience members in their vocalisations and mannerisms, not to mirror or imitate but to incorporate them into the performance. There was no dread of doing the wrong thing or interrupting. In this space, it was okay to be autistic, and stim, to laugh and squeal with joy, to clap whenever you were pleased or just watch and smile.”
92%, Brian Tyrell, The Fountain (read the full review here).
 

Creative Team
Director and Lead Artist Ellie Griffiths
Performers/Composer Sonia Allori, Greg Sinclair, & Shiori Usui
Musical Director & Lead Composer Greg Sinclair
Designer Katy Wilson
Sound Designer Matt Padden
Lighting Designer Colin Grenfell
Movement Director Natasha Gilmore & Hannah Venet
Dramaturg Naomi O Kelly
Research Advisor Joe Wright
Associate Artist Greta McMillan

Stage Manager Rosie Ward (2019) & Katy Steele (2022)
Technical Stage Manager Emma Reid (2019) & Dave Bailey (2022)
Production Manager Grahame Coyle (2019) & Gary Staerk (2022)

Communication Officer, Oily Cart Elizabeth Lloyd-Owen
Access & Engagement Officer, Oily Cart Siobhán Wedgeworth
Administrator, Oily Cart Joanna Morley
Audience Development & Marketing Sally Wilson (2019)

Interactive Play Website Team
Website Developer Callum Gamble, KreativeInc
Filmmaker Minttu Mantynen
Musical Director Greg Sinclair
Performers Sonia Allori, Jethro Flowerdew, George Panda, Coery Nicolson, Greg Sinclair, Robyn Steward & Shiori Usui
Movement Director Hannah Venet
Sound Recordists Ali Murray & Pete Smith

Tours Producer, Oily Cart Alison Garratt
Executive Director, Oily Cart Zoë Lally
Assistant Producer Andrew Jeffrey (2019)
Producer Mhari Robinson

Creative Consultant Coery Nicholson (2019)
Evaluator Max Alexander (2019)

With thanks to young people from St Crispin’s School and Action for Children, Edinburgh.

2019 Production presented in association with Capital Theatres and supported by Creative Scotland and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

2022

9-12 May, French Institute as part of Edinburgh International Children’s Festival
31 May, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
4-5 June, Brixton House, London
9-10 June, Gulbenkian Arts Centre, Canterbury
15-16 June, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
21 June, The Civic, Barnsley

Completed runs:

2019
3-7 May, The Studio, Edinburgh
11 May, The Joan Knight Studio, Perth Theatre
13 May, Platform, Glasgow
15 May, Town Hall, Johnstone
17 May, The Barn, Banchory
20 May, The Byre Theatre, St Andrews
22 May, Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy
24 May, Lyth Arts Centre, nr Wick

Audience Response

“Seldom have I been so moved by a performance in a theatre let alone one for autistic young people. Tears trickled down my cheeks as among others, 3 of our students from Linn Moor Residential School sat bewitched and enthralled for 50 minutes, glued to their seats as they listened to/participated in a musical performance like no other I have ever witnessed. Wow, wow and triple wow!!! They absolutely loved what they were watching and involved in. An absolute must for anyone to enjoy let alone autistic young people.”

“He absolutely loved it – perfect.”

“The fact that the show began in a relaxed way, gradually drawing the audience into the theatre, helped to break down the barriers of formality normally associated with a theatre performance. The sensory aspects of the show were perfect for [my son], just the sort of thing that really captivate him. The actors were warm and engaging and clearly understood the needs and interests of their audience.”

“We loved it and wanted to come again.”

“I thought it was incredible. Every child engaged and participated in their own way. The children were encouraged to be themselves through the whole performance, it was very emotional at times.”

“We would definitely recommend it to other autistic young people.”

“(My son) really loved it…calling it a magic show…thanks so much to all involved”

“My daughter and I had the most fabulous afternoon at this show today. Conventional instruments played softly but close enough to feel the vibrations, singing echoing the vocalisations of the audience members, a wheelchair running over bubble wrap with satisfying little pops, an amazing shimmering, rattling spoon cape, crinkly paper to pull and rip and, my favourite, shoes attached to staplers which click, click, clicked around the stage. Add in some amazing surround sound effects and fans blowing hundreds of rose petals like tiny butterflies and it all adds up to an amazing, immersive piece of theatre.”

The Creative Idea

“The audience take their seats, the musicians start to play, the symphony begins…'”

Bit by bit disruption creeps into this comically pompous concert hall. The world maestro musicians warm up their instruments, and the symphony begins. Bit by bit disruption creeps into this perfectly coiffured world… the wrong notes start to feel right, objects inject intriguing new sounds into the arrangement. As each musician is gradually tempted away from the score, they become explorers in a world of noises and surprising new ways of making music. By the end of the symphony it is not even clear who are the musicians and who are the audience. This show is totally responsive to the preferences and needs of each audience member. The performers balance highly choreographed content with improvised sequences so that no two performances are the same.

“This is a show for the sound seekers”

This idea originally came from Ellie’s observations of how many autistic young people relate to sound. Even when music was underscoring the main action, she would repeatedly see many audience members fixated on the sound source, be it instrument, object or human. This was then further informed by the PhD of collaborator Joe Wright whose research focused on autism and sonic play. The piece is structured to gently tip the natural hierarchy so that the audience is given greater control of the content, becoming co-composers of their own distinct symphony, where every sound is celebrated.