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Guest Blog: Graeae's Amit Sharma on Prometheus Awakes

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Amit Sharma is associate director at Graeae, the UK's foremost disabled-led theatre company. Along with Pera Tantiñá, artistic director of Barcelona-based company La Fura dels Baus, he is the director of Prometheus Awakes, an interpretation of the Greek myth about the man who stole fire from the gods.

Here Amit tells us about the outdoor spectacular, which is taking place on 22 June outside the National Maritime Museum as part of the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival and on 2 August on Stockton High Street as part of the Stockton International Riverside Festival.

Mass choreography…a 24ft puppet walking in front of Queen's House…people swinging 30ft in the air above the audience’s heads…

What is the lowdown on Graeae’s new large-scale outdoor production, the first in this country to be artistically led and performed by disabled artists? Well, I’ve given most of it away but one thing I can guarantee is that it’s going to be an experience not to be missed, and it’s a free event.

Prometheus Awakes (photo: Tia Lomas)
Things were very different 12 years ago when I was at university studying to be a director in TV, dreaming of wearing a baseball cap and telling people what to do. That was until I heard about Graeae’s Missing Piece. The course was designed to cater to deaf and disabled actors who weren’t able to get into drama schools – access and attitudes were creating a ‘lost generation’ of artists.

‘I had to apply’, I thought, and before I knew it I was doing all the things non-disabled performing art students do with voice, movement, Shakespeare etc in what turned out to be a hugely significant stage in my professional career.

After completing Missing Piece I was working here, there and everywhere until – fast forward to last summer – I was offered the position of associate director at Graeae while our artistic director, the one and only Ms Jenny Sealey (the single biggest influence on my career), was off to co-direct the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.

Not long after I started as associate director, Bradley Hemmings, artistic director of Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (and co-artistic director of the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony with Jenny), asked us if we would be interested in presenting a reinterpretation of the Prometheus myth with La Fura Dels Baus.

I hadn’t heard of La Fura before but quickly got to know their amazing large-scale outdoor work through the internet. Our first meeting took place in Barcelona with Pera Tantiñá from La Fura, who is a bear of a man with the heart of a puppy. He has incredible enthusiasm which is so hard not to be affected by. We quickly understood that both companies had their specific areas of expertise and that the common thread was that we both create and tell stories in inventive ways. I was also really conscious throughout the conversations then and since that Graeae is building on the brilliant outdoor theatre work created by Jenny over the last few years.

What we are hoping is that the show will be a real spectacle which will of course have a high standard of access incorporated in and around the production. Our 'aesthetic of access' is in our DNA. We believe access doesn’t have to be staid or functional. It can be fun, atmospheric, artistic and clever so that the same audience can get information at different times. At our heart is the idea that anyone can turn up to our shows and not have to worry about whether it’s a signed performance or an audio-described performance or whether they have any other access requirements.

All we ask our audience to do is turn up and enjoy. Better yet we want you to leave thinking: amazing theatre, amazing theatre, amazing theatre.


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