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Alice Christina-Corrigan - Past Life Interview

Alice Christina-Corrigan is a visually impaired Midlands artist who is currently touring her one-person show PAST LIFE.

PAST LIFE is a show that questions the normalisation of sexual assault whilst simultaneously intertwining creative captions, audio descriptions and sound design to elevate the creative access of the production.

Alice is bringing PAST LIFE to Camden People's Theatre (16th and 17th May), Unity Theatre in Liverpool (19th May) and Curve in Leicester (26th May). Tickets are available through Alice's website

I sat down with Alice to discuss the show.

What inspired you to want to create PAST LIFE?

I always knew I wanted to write, but honestly… I could never find the motivation to sit and write, it can be quite daunting! But whilst studying for my MA, we had to create a thesis and a performance. I questioned how I could make a piece of theatre accessible for Blind and Deaf audiences. With that, saw the early days of a 20-minute version of Past Life. I knew I wanted to create something I could continue to work on post-grad. I received a DYCP focusing on my accessible storytelling practice, with that and support from CRIPtic and GRAEAE Beyond PAST LIFE was born.

The show questions the normalisation of sexual assault in relationships, positively broadcasting survivors and what life looks like post-trauma. I wanted to diminish the dramatization of sexual assault which can often seem very stereotypical in the landscape of theatre. Past Life aims to show the mundanity, the anti-climax, the way grief sits in us and how we are far more than our abuse. I want to validate an audience to find strength in their truth, their experience and their world.

Photo by Andrew Ab Photography

How did you approach the themes that are discussed within the show?

I wanted to ensure a safe boundary between writer, performer and story. Using theatre to ‘trauma dump’ can be very problematic for a number of reasons so with that, I spent two weeks R&D’ing the early days of the project, to find the universal undertones women can relate to- even if that story is different to theirs. I spent 1 week focusing on text and the other, focusing on the creative access side of things,
looking at projection, captioning and integrating a deep level of audio description.

What do you want an audience member to take away from seeing the show?

For me there are two key things. The first, leaving feeling validated, empowered and heard by the story, a story that ‘is for everybody, made to feel like just another body.’ 

The second, is centered around creative access. PAST LIFE offers a compelling, harrowing and insightful story underpinned by a deep level of creative access- without that fundamentally being linked to the story. The access of the show strives to answer a larger question at hand, a question centered around the subconscious subgenre of accessible theatre. PAST LIFE displays how a mainstream show can intertwine creative access without negating away from the story at hand. I want the audience to leave having enjoyed the technological landscape, vibrant colours, music and captions of the show, with an interest in wanting to learn more about it.

Photo by Andrew Ab Photography

As a visually impaired artist, you intertwine captions, audio description and sound design to elevate the creative access of the production. How have you approached this?

In all honesty, the way in which I approached creative access, in particular the captions and sound design came from a place of well…. Knowing nothing. I taught myself how to make both, owing pretty much all I know down to YouTube video tutorials!

Creative access is still a massive grey area, a non-unionised area of theatre, an area we are all still learning in, and with that came my own way of making accessible work. I made all of the access in the early days with no budget and just by myself, showing that if a working-class visually impaired woman can make a 75-minute show with integrated access on no budget, those in the industry with budgets, creative teams and years of experience can.

Now I use systems such as Q Lab, which has changed the freedom of the piece which is incredibly exciting. What I have learnt about creative access during this project has changed the trajectory of my artistry and is something I am incredibly proud of. I hope to continue to share what I have learnt with as many artists as possible to help pave the way of changing the landscape of accessible theatre for good.

How does being a visually impaired artist in 2023 feel? (ie is there enough support for you and the work you create)

It is an incredibly exciting time to be a part of the disabled movement in art and society. Disability activism is vital in making sectional changes for future generations.

When it comes to the Blind community, it feels we still have a long, long way to go in order for our needs, our stories and our identity to be understood and acknowledged to the level it should be, which can be quite frustrating, but to be a part of changing this is what strives me to continue to do what I do.

You're also an access consultant and you run workshops, including running one at Curve on Tues 23rd May. What can someone expect from these workshops?

I’ve touched upon this through the questions, but something that is incredibly important to me is providing chances for artists to learn from me, providing free, hands on experience with the process I use when approaching accessible theatre. It is, incredibly difficult to do so, but these workshops aim to give experience, discussion and a fun way to look at how we can integrate access into our toolkit of skills when making theatre.

These workshops aim to break down the elitism and gatekeeping within making theatre, there is an element of privilege that often comes with making accessible work i.e access to tech, within this I strip the process right back and show the early steps we can take when wanting to make accessible work, in particular for Deaf and Blind audiences. I love running these workshops, they are always incredibly fun and filled with such generosity!

PAST LIFE plays at Camden People's Theatre (16th and 17th May), Unity Theatre in Liverpool (19th May) and Curve in Leicester (26th May). Tickets are available through Alice's website

Photo by Andrew Ab Photography

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