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2065 - Frozen Light Interview - Amber Onat Gregory and Lucy Garland

Since I started this blog back in 2019 I've been fortunate enough to enjoy many pieces of fantastic theatre but a recent visit to see Frozen Light's 2065 was a real stand-out moment. You can read my 5-star review of the piece here.

The show is aimed at people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and is a beautifully inclusive experience with no barrier between performer and audience as props and interactivity are at the heart of the show. 

Matt Heslop, Iona Johnson and Lil Davis in 2065. Photo by JMA Photography.

I was fortunate enough to sit down speak to Frozen Light founders and co-artistic directors Amber Onat Gregory and Lucy Garland about the show.

We began by discussing the piece and the inspiration behind it with Garland explaining "2065 is our 5th touring theatre production for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. It's a dystopian tale set in the future that is run by an oppressive regime, and our story follows a group of rebels that keep music alive."

Gregory said "It was really interesting actually because we started devising the piece pre-pandemic and it's actually a show and story that feels that it fits with the world we're all coming back into post-pandemic. But when we create work we really start from the multi-sensory, so we look at what is the environment of the show, what does the show look like, feel like and do some world building of the show and our last show was set in nature. We also had used bits of technology, at the start of this show we were looking at what is unnatural in terms of the sensory, what can feel cool and different and explore through your senses but actually, it's not a stone or sand, low-fi tech and how it is used for world-building. In the first or second week of research and development, we went to an arcade and we were really inspired by the neon lights. We used the terminology low-fi props but hi-fi impact. When we got into the narrative of it, we were looking at oppressive leaders, there's always an oppressive leader, they all feel too real right now." 

Garland added, "it very much started with us wanting to explore that aesthetics of 80s sci-fi, the 80s version of the future. We were referencing films like Blade Runner, Tron, Hackers, Ready Player One, that kind of thing"

I asked with the show being set in the future does it allow for more creative freedom in the world-building. Garland agreed "it enables us to build our own world, so the world that can be a really sensory world that you can put things into." Gregory expressed "I'd said all of our work is set in another world so there are obviously recognisable features, it's not completely fantasy but the world doesn't quite feel like the one that we live in and that feeling of it being another world allows you to push things."

Talk turned to the origins of Frozen Light, which next year will celebrate its 10 birthday. Garland said "even before that, myself and Amber were doing really small scale storytelling in special schools, so starting Frozen Light was a step up that we were moving the work into theatres. Over the past 10 years, our work has developed in terms of production values and what we have been able to achieve. The theatre itself is quite a sensory place with music and light and we can add things to smell and touch and those up-close interactions. Our methodologies have stayed very similar to even how it was when we worked a long time ago in school, the real importance of that up close audience and performer interaction has always been the crux of our work and always will be because that is the audiences access into the world."

Gregory added further "myself and Lucy are both regular passionate and avid theatregoers, we are able to go to the theatre however many times a week and we really want people with profound and multiple learning disabilities to have that same opportunity we have, to go to the theatre and see something that is really high quality."

I expressed how touching I found the moment in 2065 when the performers sang a song that included names of members of the audience and how uplifting a moment it felt. Gregory explained "we always have a name song in all of our pieces. It's a different song depending on the context of the show but singing someone's name is a moment that someone with profound and multiple learning difficulties seems to always have a response to. Whether that response is a movement or a look it's a sensory moment that seems to want to speak to most people."

Iona Johnson, Lil Davis and Matt Heslop. Photo by JMA Photography

With interactivity at the heart of the piece, I asked inevitably if the show had been affected by the COVID pandemic. Garland said "what we've added is that the performers wear masks when they do the up-close interactions. We use, like in the jellies and the beans, we use separate ones for everybody whereas before we would have shared that but following a lot of research that seems to be saying it's not living on surfaces that is the best thing that could happen. That was one of our biggest concerns in sensory theatre where everything gets touched and smelt and everything. Because we made the show pre-pandemic it was very difficult to adapt it very differently. We have an outdoor show called Night Out in Nature which we made during the pandemic and with that, we built in a lot of COVID safety so that is a very different show and that very much looks at the performer-audience interaction it's about facilitating really fun sensory interactions between audience and their carer or family member."

Gregory added "the whole way through the pandemic it has been about looking at where COVID is now and adapting along with it. We have an audience panel of eight people with PMLD and their carers and we've been speaking to them throughout the pandemic. We're really led by that panel how that the PMLD community is feeling during this time."

The central theme of 2065 is hope and strength. I asked what the pair wanted audiences to take away from seeing the show. Garland said "I think our shows we're quite drawn to telling quite dark stories but them feeling very joyful and I think the sensory moments always feel quite joyful and who doesn't love a happy ending. We just want people to take away having a great time, having shared some experiences with the performers, having done something new, and just going to a piece of theatre that is genuinely accessible to them. Where they feel they come and they've been noticed, they've been seen, they've been looked after and they've been able to have fun like everybody else can."

I ended the interview with 5 more personable quickfire questions for the pair beginning with what was the first piece of theatre that they remember seeing. Gregory said hers was "The Mousetrap" with  Garland's being "The Wind in the Willows at the National with the revolving stage - blew my mind!".

Next up I asked what the best piece of theatre they'd both seen was. Gregory chose "Matilda" and Garland "Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man".

I asked what would be one thing on the ladies' bucket lists. Garland said that she'd love to "travel more and see the world" with Gregory agreeing and adding "to make theatre all over the world".

The next question was asking if they could have dinner with any 3 guests, dead or alive, who would they invite. Garland expressed "she thinks about this a lot but she can never make a decision" but chose "Dave Grohl, I think he always seems like a lovely man and he'd have some stories to tell, Augusto Boal and my favourite vegan chef would do the cooking Isa Chandra Moskowitz." Gregory said she'd "do hers all cooking choosing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Anna Jones and Lee Watson". Garland added, "as you can see Frozen Light spends a lot of time thinking about food!"

The final quickfire question saw me ask what has been the best piece of advice that either had been given. Gregory "treat others how you want to be treated" and Garland taking inspiration from my Rocky Horror poster in the background chose "don't dream it... be it". 

Wrapping up the interview I asked simply why should audiences come and see 2065 or any of Frozen Light's future work. Garland "because you'll have a really engaging, fun, sensory hour of something you've probably never experienced before."

2065 is touring venues currently with dates booking through until June 2022. Visit for full touring details. 

Lil Davis, Matt Heslop and Iona Johnson in 2065. Photo by JMA Photography

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