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Photo by Prudence Upton

Midnight Feast presents, CHRYSALIS,  a self-devised work, written by Stephen Sewell, Emily Dash and Warwick Allsopp, in The Studio, at the Sydney Opera House. Thursday, November 16 and Friday, November 17, 2017.

CHRYSALIS is a work devised from the stories and world of a group of actors with disabilities. The Company, Midnight Feast, was inspired by Glenn Turnbull, a profoundly physically disabled man, and his interest in why ‘people routinely ignore him’ and by ‘a social media video posted by Glenn’s sister Hayley expressing her heartbreak and frustration after a doctor questioned the sense in undertaking a medical procedure, which Glenn needed desperately, citing his current ‘quality of life’.

Glenn, then, appears on stage, and we are taken into an imaginary journey that he has, whilst passing through difficult treatment in a world of reality, and another world of his own invention. This includes a ‘bully’ paramedic, nursing staff and doctors, as well as cockroaches, maggots, flies, a tarantula, Guardian Angels, an Angel of Death, an Angel of Peace, and even a sexy pole dancer! (She had brunette hair which was especially pleasing to Glenn, it seemed!) These ‘characters’ are created by a group of actors of varying disability shadowed by a group of enabled actors who support and coach throughout the action of Glenn’s dream/nightmare world, seamlessly.

The production is Directed by Kylie Harris (also Artistic Director of the Company), assisted by Nick Lewis, with an imaginative, colourful and witty set of Designs (especially costume) by Lisa Mimmochi (assistance: Annie Winter and Brianna Harris),  enhanced by the Lighting Design of Christopher Page. There is a vivid Musical support, as well, Composed by Robin Gist, played live.

Most of the principal writing originates from one of the performers, Emily Dash (who delivers a simply moving poem towards the end of the play), and has been co-ordinated by Warwick Allsopp (clearly, a driving energy of the project), with input from Stephen Sewell. The effect of the performance is astonishing in its inspiration and requires no condescension to rate as a wonderful hour or so spent in the theatre. The dedication, commitment and skill of all involved has been thoughtfully integrated into creating an absorbing entry for an audience to ‘see’ the world through the experience of some truly remarkable people, through Glenn’a eyes.

I thought it important to record in my Theatre Diary the other artists involved: Sarah Armstrong, Frankie Bouchier, Jude Bowler, Georgia Cooper, Mark Defy, Nick Gell, Erica Halvorsen, Mark Inwood, Odile Le Clezio, Nick Lewis, Emily Marks, Robert Mockler, Paul Mulgrew, Heath Ramsay, Nina Salece and Jess Vandrempt, and also to acknowledge, to quote from the program, “The most EPIC personal care support team EVER: Enola Valencia, Tina Watson, Lena Mafoa and Kate Walker.

‘MIDNIGHT FEAST – theatre that unites, exists for the sole purpose of creating new opportunities for performance artists living with significant disabilities to train and work as artists in a professional capacity.’

Important to know.