Charlene has done something terrible. Lots of people saw her, and they’re not happy.
The Interrogation, a new project by Access All Areas Theatre, explores how being “different” can be dangerous.
Access All Areas are known for their alternative style of theatre and The Interrogation is no exception. The production takes place off stage, along the streets of London, Canterbury, Manchester and Bristol, where the audience, with the help of their smartphone, follow a GPS guided tour to discover what happened to Charlene.
The story is based in part on the lived experiences of Charlene Salter, The Interrogation’s co-writer and lead performer. As a learning disabled person, Salter has often faced situations in which she has felt misunderstood in public for behaving in a manner others consider to be “different”.
Salter also drew artistic inspiration from hearing accounts of other learning disabled people who had experienced similar frustrations:
“I saw a news post about an autistic teenage boy who was non-verbal and struggling to communicate in school. He was trying so hard to ask for help, but the head of the school saw him as a threat and called the police to escort him out. This angered me. Everybody must have their communication needs met in order to work well”.
The immersive nature of The Interrogation allows the audience to consider how they would react if they saw someone acting ‘differently’: would they walk away or try to help?
In the process of doing so, the production questions the ableism of language and the feelings of being judged by society. It problematizes the reality that many people are misunderstood, and can even be criminalised, simply for acting different.
As well as regularly facilitating workshops with Access All Areas, Salter is also co-chair of the board, and praises the theatre company’s endeavors to break down barriers in the arts: “they are brave, they are risk-taking, they make everything accessible, never excluding anyone because of their disability.”
According to Salter, one of the production’s main aims is to encourage the audience to acknowledge that different individuals have a variety of different communication needs. As a society, we must become better at understanding and accommodating these needs.
Ultimately, when asked what main message the audience should take from The Interrogation, Salter said: “Sometimes just because someone may look odd or do something odd, people think they are a threat. I want people to acknowledge that we are not a threat -we just need a bit of help and guidance to communicate.”
The Interrogation runs 28 Sept – 3 Oct. Tickets are all Pay What You Can (suggested price £10) via bac.org.uk.