Tag Archives: Rationale Hip Hop Theatre

Sight Specific: visual impairment and hiphop theatre

Last year my long time collaborator the director/producer Andrew Loretto invited me to be part of a research and development project with Rationale Hiphop Theatre, as part of Right Up Our Street.

rationale 3The company were exploring issues around visual impairment at Cast in Doncaster, and with both Andrew and I being ‘viz imps’, it seemed a perfect partnership.


Over the course of three days, we explored, spoke, and moved in space, I shared a disability perspective, talked at length about disability politics, and brought work of my own and other VI artists to the studio. Andrew shaped as well and participated in the rationale 2sessions, and the artistic director, Nathan Geering, gave us tasks, too, and had us on the floor moving with the company – Nathan Geering, Sarah Grace Hobson, Torrell Ewan, and Hung Nguyen.

These remarkable few days are captured in these photos and a terrific video created by Richard Codd / Team Katalyst  which I would urge you to look at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGCgI4MVHeY#t=20

One of the most inspiring and unexpected results of the exploration, was the IMG_4099wonderful complicite developed between Sarah and I, with her responding to the first piece of disability culture I made when I was in my 20’s and recently diagnosed as having a mild visual impairment: a poem called ‘Fragments on a Fragmentary Vision’. My recorded voice, with Sarah’s choreography is part of ‘Sight Specific’, the performance Rationale continued to develop and will be performing in London next week. Tour dates follow, along with Nathan outlining the progress in this short guest blog:

Rationale Hiphop Theatre 'Sight Specific'

Rationale Hiphop Theatre ‘Sight Specific’








Nathan Geering: Rationale. Sight Specific.

Rationale have been commissioned to work on an exciting new project entitled “Sight Specific” as part of the Gi20 minutes tour funded by Remarkable Productions. For the past year Rationale have been in partnership with Right Up Our Street and have conducted a lot of research and development surrounding hiphop dance and visual impairment. This has lead to some profound discoveries and unlikely links between the two phenomenons. The company have been working closely with Visually Impaired Directors and Playwrights including Andrew Loretto and Kaite O’Reilly. The experience has been life-changing for the company and through working closely with visually impaired artists and partially sighted societies Rationale have realised that visual impairment is not just a disability but it is an exciting unique way to see the world. Kaite O’Reilly said to the company that her visual impairment has made her a better person. This is the kind of empowering message Rationale want to echo throughout our work and to bridge the gap between visually impaired and “Sighted” audiences.

The company’s latest production “Sight Specific” explores the phenomenon of Audio Description. The piece came as a direct response to many people with visual impairment saying they felt that audio description is boring and doesnt really capture the imagination. So we decided to give audio description the “Rationale Treatment” by bringing on board a beatboxer to stretch the boundaries of audio description! The piece also feautres poetry from acclaimed playwright Kaite o’Reilly and the usual high energy hiphop dance that Rationale have become so well known for.

“Sight Specific” is touring in outdoor festivals across the country summer 2015! Be sure not to miss it!!!


Stockton International Riverside Festival – 1st and 2nd August

London – 28th Blackfriar stories – Bankside between the Tate and Oxo Tower, Blackfriars.

Show Times 12:30pm and 5pm.

London – 29th August – Watermans Hounslow – Bell Square, 7-9 Staines Road, Hounslow.

Show Times 1:30pm and 5pm.

Hull – 5th and 6th September –

More info coming soon here…….

Footage from our intensive with Visually Impaired Dramaturg Andrew Loretto and Kaite O’Reilly here

When O’Reilly met Rationale: a dramaturg and Hip Hop Theatre

Nathan Geering. Photo: Tim Thumb

Nathan Geering. Photo: Tim Thumb

Andrew Loretto knows something about matchmaking. He knows about dynamics and temperaments, work ethos and attitude, about hunger and curiosity. As creative producer of Right Up My Street, Andrew knows about bringing artists together to collaborate and challenge and expand each others’ practice….Which is just what’s happened to me last month, working with Rationale in Doncaster – hip hop theatre.

Andrew put lead artist Nathan Geering and I in contact weeks before the residency, and we quickly achieved an open and engaged correspondence. The company are researching and starting to make a new piece of performance, inspired initially by visual impairment. As a viz imp myself, I sent through a lot of research material – from vlogs by visually impaired people addressing FAQs (‘how do you put make up on if you’re blind?… What do guide dogs actually do?… Do visually impaired people ‘see’ in their dreams? etc, etc), some beautiful videos about blind visual artists (that paradox in terms got brains buzzing) and also work written from within disability arts and culture about visual impairment, including my own first piece ‘Fragments on a Fragmentary Vision’, first published over twenty years ago.

Nathan Geering, Nathan Geering  Hung Nguyen, Sarah Grace Hobson, Torrell Ewan Photo: Richard Codd / Team Katalyst

Nathan Geering,Hung Nguyen,
Sarah Grace Hobson, Torrell Ewan
Photo: Richard Codd / Team Katalyst

A dramaturg’s role will change in every context, and  in this one I was initially encouraged to inform and educate the company around visual impairment and related disability issues, both culturally and politically. Andrew also has a visual impairment, so once we were in the rehearsal room together, there was embodied, lived experience available, as well as the research material I had provided.

In a very short time it became clear that what the company were exploring was not partial sight per se, but ways of seeing – different perceptions. Rationale shared some exploratory choreography with us, and Andrew and I both got excited – not just at the invention and gravity-defying moves the performers made, but from our realisation much of the work, when low on the floor,  was more readily accessible to us than other dance forms. This, combined with the company’s interest and commitment to the area shows great promise for the future – especially as Nathan wants to train and work with VI b-boys. (Would any individual or company interested in exploring this with Nathan and Rationale, please get in touch via their contacts at the end of this piece… They come highly recommended and I want to see viz imp hip-hop and street dancing!)

Rationale, O'Reilly and Andrew Loretto. Photo: Richard Codd/Team Katalyst

Rationale, O’Reilly and Andrew Loretto. Photo: Richard Codd/Team Katalyst

What I loved most about working with this passionate and open company was how they brought me immediately into the heart of the company, challenging me as much as I did them. They got me up in the space, reading ‘Fragments’ in a loop as they improvised and responded physically to the words. Hung Nguyen pushed me to dialogue with them, changing the tempo-rhythm and speed of my reading to create counter-point and resonance with their power moves. Alongside the exercises Andrew gave us, and the tasks Nathan set (‘this includes you, Andrew and Kaite –  get into the space and move!’) I spent as much time on the floor working with the dancers as I did sitting outside, being that dramaturgical ‘outside’ eye.

Another impact Hung, Nathan, Torrell Ewan and Sarah Hobson had on my work was the realisation the meter I had written ‘Fragments’ in was strong and particular and not always conducive to their rhythms and moves. So suddenly the dramaturg is wide awake in the small hours writing text for the company to explore in meter and rhyme (I DO NOT WRITE LIKE THIS! HOW EXCITING!! I kept writing in my notebook like Adrian Mole circa-1986).

O'Reilly and Sarah Hobson. Rationale. Photo: Richard Codd/Team Katalyst

O’Reilly and Sarah Hobson. Rationale. Photo: Richard Codd/Team Katalyst

At the end of the three days together, not only had the company moved on considerably from the starting place, but they had seeded some potentially exceptional work utilising the speed, precision and emotional engagement Rationale have become known for. Their work is virtuosic, their minds open and hearts full. It was a privilege to work with a company so grounded whilst their dance flies and I am grateful to Andrew Loretto for his careful steering during the workshops, and his fabulous match-making.