Archive for May, 2008


May 28, 2008


by Aoife Mannix

Clouds of mist hang over the pool,
smoke dreams of low didgeridoo vibrations.
The eyes of mirrors
wink red light bulbs
as glitter balls massage the water.
Drums beat purple gold bubble jewels
crowned with sponge treasures.
Saved by liquid rafts,
the white umbrellas offer shelter
from the souls of feet.

The ship sails yellow
with a single lighthouse.
The silent stillness
of suspended glass droplets,
gong frozen.
The ritual of magic gamelan wishes,
the music of silver reflections
holding the echo of ourselves.
Pure theatre of the ocean
pouring through our hands.


One more week to go

May 24, 2008

We’ve just come to the end of the fourth week of the research and rehearsals for POOL PIECE and the whole production is becoming a lot clearer. Just as well too when next week, the last week, will no doubt be dominated by technical matters. Will we be able to get a decent black-out? Will the new-fangled dimmer switches on the pool and pool-side lighting work? Can we really form a bank of haze over the pool? Most importantly will the pool at Livity School (already out of action for one day last week) survive for another week without the attention of the pool engineer. Weston, the school keeper has his doubts, but it will be a challenge to do the final technical and dress rehearsals for a hydropool show if we have to imagine the water.

In his blog, Griff, our Company Stage Manager, has written about the great help that everyone in Livity School has given us. Actually I think the production would have been impossible, or at least completely differerent without the close school involvement. The bargain we struck with Geraldine Lee, the Livity Head, was that we would get to rehearse in the hydropool for several hours per day over a period of four weeks, and in return, we would work with up to four of the school students on each day.

I believe that these sessions with the school students have been fruitful for them and the staff. We’ve certainly seen any number of smiles on the faces of both staff and students, as well as encountering those completely amazingly unexpected reactions, those astonishing moments of transformation,  that the water work will suddenly draw from the most impassive, or apparently distracted, students. So I hope that the Livity team feel that they have benefited from the bargain. It’s certainly been invaluable for me.

Although I’ve directed 3 national tours of hydropool shows before  this, and been involved in any number of other watery skirmishes, it has taken the actual sessions in the water with the Livity students to refocus me and bring home the  realities of  pool work with young people with  Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD) or an Autistic  Spectrum Disorder (ASD.)

It’s very easy to sit at your desk, or swan around the Oily rehearsal room conjuring up visions of a gilded dhow gliding out of a bank of perfumed mist towards a pool-side  lined with the gleaming gongs of a gamelan orchestra. Well, in case you’re interested, we’ll probably still have that bit. (The design team led by the one-and-only Claire de Loon has created any number of wonders, and Max Reinhardt has produced a magical score for the piece using authentic Indonesian instruments and the beautiful singing voices of the cast.)

But our rehearsal sessions in the water with the young people have reminded me again and again, that at it’s best, this is a theatre of close-ups. It’s theatre that’s  most effective when we are only a matter of centimeters from our audience. One of the great benefits of working in water, apart from it’s warm, supporting gravity-defying embrace, so important to people who use wheelchairs, or have otherwise limited mobility, is that it enables us to work one the same level as the participants, rather than towering over them in a school hall.

I’ve also been reminded over and over that is  also theatre of continuous adaptation to the interests and  requirements of each participant. Very often this means that in the early stages of a session can seem quite fragmented, with the two performers trying to engage with the behaviour and the (mostly non-verbal) language of two participants who may have very little in common (apart from the fact that they are labelled PMLD or ASD or sometimes both.) What has been astonishing, even at this early stage of the project, is how often, after just 30 minutes together in the water, everyone does come together in a genuine group experience.

Perhaps most importantly, over these past few weeks in the pool, I’ve seen that what really connects and engages with our young participants, much more than  verbal expression or  splendid visuals. It’s the visceral, and the vibrational. It’s the feel of water on the back of the hand or the neck. It’s Mark Foster or Sjaak van der Bent’s rich bass-baritone, not so much heard as felt, sending their vibrations through the participants’ feet, up through the legs and the spine, until their whole body is singing the low, low song. Or it’s Nicole Worrica and Kathy Toy taking the young people on the Winding Water Dance, carrying them so that their bodies,  so often denied a range of movement, undulate and sway through the water – another kind of whole body massage. This theatre must be one that engages all the senses. The senses of seeing and hearing which have primacy in standard issue, neurotypical theatre, are, as often as not of only secondary interest here. We need to engage the sense of touch and smell, and the kinaesthetic sense, which enables the body to locate it’s position in space.

This is already such an exciting project with such a brilliant team – and we have barely begun. The most innovative aspect of this particular POOL PIECE is that we will spending six days in each of the four schools involved, and we will be working, as far as possible with the same 16 young people in each school. As Griff said in his blog, this will really give us the young people – and the adults – the chance to to really get used to us, get to  know us, and get the most out of the transformations that we will bring to their school pools. Of course it will also give the Oily team to build our understanding of the young people – and the adults –  and develop our relationship with them.

I’ve often felt that previous Oily Cart PMLD/ASD shows have been far too abrupt. It seems to me that if you have  a PMLD or ASD audience,  then a 45-55 minute performance, the common form of many a previous Oily show, could seem more like a multi-sensory mugging, than a genuine opportunity for engagement. (On the other hand I’m well aware that there is such a colossal demand for this work that next year and beyond, we must find a form that will be able to involve a far greater number of young people and their families, their schools, and the staff.)

In two of the schools, the effectct of our performances in the short and medium term will be documented & analyzed by Suzanne Zeedyk of Dundee University – but more of that later.

Tim Webb

artistic director, Oily Cart

What Are Bubbles Made Of?

May 24, 2008

What Are Bubbles Made Of?

by Aoife Mannix

Bubbles are made from fairy wings
and lots of other funny things.

Like sugar rainbows stolen from puddles,
like elastic white rabbits longing for cuddles,
like the silliest laugh from a circus clown,
like the song of a trapeze artist who won’t come down.

Like top hats and clean dishes,
like the sum of three magic wishes,
like the dust from a shooting star,
like the hum of a grand prix racing car.

Like the lightness of ladybirds’ tap dancing,
like the shock of a hundred unicorns prancing,
like the very first smile of a new born baby,
like the surprising taste of soapy green gravy.

Like you and me playing on a sunny afternoon,
like the sadness that it all has to end so soon.

Rehearsal Day – Wednesday, May 21st – Diary Entry from Aoife

May 24, 2008

Today we’re back rehearsing in Oily Cart’s studio.  The room is filled with mist.  Sponge practices lifting the treasure chest to reveal the treasures of the pool.  Tim, the director, decides it would be more effective to have Sponge emerging from the mist, magically summoning up the treasure chest and for it to open to reveal that the treasures are a collection of sponges.  Sponge takes these out to gently massage the children. He will squeeze water on their hands and a little bit over their heads if they like it. Everything about him is slow and dignified and he speaks in a very deep, low voice.

Over lunch Tim, Joe and myself have a chat about how the scratch days might work.  We hope to use some of the poems written for this blog as inspiration for the scratch performances.  Tim and Max, the music director, show us photos from Oily Cart’s early days – it’s interesting to see how the company has evolved without losing any of their zany sense of humour!

Back in the rehearsal studio, there is much discussion on the art of bubble making.  The room is full of sugar bubbles that are far more resilient than simple washing up liquid bubbles.    One of the bubble shooters makes too much noise so Tim decides they should use the other one.  There is a giant umbrella with silver lapels inside and covered on the outside in white reflective material that catches the light giving the impression of tiny light bulbs.  Gong, with her sweet high voice and floating gongs, introduces children to the sounds of the pool.  She will also have a ship that accompanies her.  Bubbles has a pitcher of bubbles that she carries and introduces herself by popping bubbles.  She is always bubbly, singing and very friendly.  It seems to me that the characters of the show are by now very firmly established and all the magical effects fit perfectly with the character they’re associated with.  There are large sheets on the wall that list the main actions of each character’s day.  Tim talks through these and any adjustments that have been made.

For the final part of rehearsal, we go outside to rehearse the bus busk.  Sponge and Lights sport their water backpacks.  Lights spells out his name with his powerful water spray while Sponge can shower water over us.  There are long pipes that are moved in and out of large buckets of water to create an impressive whistle drumming effect.  Feet are also splashed in rhythm while each character sings their goodbye song.   It’s a high energy celebration that should be really good fun for the students when they’re leaving at the end of their school day.  Jesus, the production manager, comes out with some special bubble mixture to help Bubbles practice making giant bubbles with a long stick and an adjustable strap.  It’s a bit tricky in the wind but when it works is very exciting!

Tuesday 20th May – By Joseph

May 21, 2008

On the last day of festivities at each school the show will perform what is known as a ‘bus busk’. the bus busk is a musical sending off of the children as they go from the school to the bus that will take them home. A very important part of the busk is saying goodbye to the children as well as getting them a bit wet one last time. Today the cast are trying to find the best way to say goodbye and go from quite an upbeat…

‘Goodbye to him and him
nah nah nah nah nahhhhhh nah’

which inspired the following peotic response from me…

Goodbye to him and him and him
And her
And ‘er
And them
And Us
And We
And y’all
And pool and school
And pool and school
And pool and school
and getting Wet

The cast went on to try a more bayou flavour…

‘This is how bubbles says goodbye
She can do it all night
She can do it all day
but she’ll only ever do it this way’

With each character finding their own unique way of saying goodbye. Now at this point I should mention that there are some new toys, namely Ghostbuster style backpacks filled with water and attached to various squirting contraptions. Sponge has a squirting crown, and Umbrella man has… you guessed it, a squirting Umbrella! So as you can imagine the characters goodbyes involve lots of squirting and merry making. Bubbles says goodbye with some bubblerly exclamations and a string of Bubbles and Gong has the delightfully cute ‘Hel-lo Hel-lo Hel-lo’

Katie and I were kids again who were led past these wacky characters to an imaginary bus underneath Umbrella mans Umbrella (the clear plastic – dry one) to protect us from some of the more active squirters!

During this wet run there was musical accompaniment via drums, ‘Malcolm’s pipes’ (Pipes with whistles on the end that hoot when plunged in water) and water drumming.

When the weather is hot the Bus busk is going to be a real pleasure and I won’t be surprised to hear of the odd spontaneous water fight.

Low Low Low

May 21, 2008

I sunk down into depths
With the speed of delight
Water filling my ears
Lower and lower i went
depths getting darker
Sweeter and sharper
Bubbles escape from my mouth
Because the air is lighter
A light penetrates
Shining from below
Falling like a rock
I’m shooting-star towed
Flying like an arrow
From A tsunami bow
Shot with speed
From a whales blow hole
Sinking i’m sunk
No noise
No plonk
No twinkle
No shrill
No tiddle diddle
No dum
No dee
No hey riddle riddle
Just swooshing sea
Pressure is tighter
pressing on my skin
A watery embrace
Squeezing me thinner than a thin fin
Than a PSP slim
or Ipod nano
drawn out skinnier
the the strings on a piano
Lower than a descending baritone
Rolling in Earth’s belly
Where we hear her groans
Her moans
Her mobile ring tones
Her hidden
Her secret
Her hidden secret moans.

I’m going low
Low low low

I’m sinking low
Low low low

I’m falling low
Low low low

Low’s where I go
Low low low.

By Joseph Coelho

Don’t Jump Before You Can Swim!

May 21, 2008

Standing on the top board at Putney
Looking down!
Stepping back
Looking down
Stepping back
Looking down, stepping back
Looking dooooown, stepping back
Looking dooooooooooown, stepping back.

Look Down!
The pool’s a sheet of sleety undulating water
Blue – no green
No blue green
No white bright shiny twinkerly
Like stars in the sky
I’m High-up!
Step back

Too scared
Stupid scared to jump
James Jumps
David Jumps
I don’t jump
Look down

Bodies underwater swimming
Bloated limbs
Drowned fish
Black eyed mermaids
Needle teeth
Foul fetid fishy flesh
Step back!
Step back!
Step back
Gasp! Gasp! Gasp!

Must jump
Must jump
Must jump
Must jump
Must Jump
Must Jump
Look down!
Life guard laughing in little shorts
Little brain
Big Muscles
Laughing ha ha ha ha titter titter
Grinning little lark.

Must jump
Must Jump
Must Jump
Must Jump

It’s cold
Goose pimpled
Skin drying
Knees knocking
People behind wanting to dive
Not jump
Not jump
Not jump
Leap in air
On count of five
Roll, tuck extend
And Dive!
Hands, palms, forehead
Neck, Chest and hips
Legs, knees and toes
Disappear in water
Twelve feet deep
Double the depth of death
Splat! Belly flop
Tummy popped
Guts spilled
Flotsam, Jetsam of intestine!


Queue behind longer
Faces longer
Laughter from little lifeguard louder
Not feeling bolder

Need to jump
Gotta jump
Have ta jump
Just got pushed!


Body Hurling
Arms flaying
Legs flopping
Breath stopping
Water coming
Body faliing
Fear of hitting
Pants are fillings


Cool calming depth
Sinking depths
No dead fish
No black eyed mermaids
No queue
No laughter
Just me
Heart beating in ears
Eyes blurred blue

Depths getting darker
Surface getting lighter
Break through and
Lungs full
Lungs grateful
Wipe eyes
Look up
Queue astonished
Lifeguard concerned
James speechless (which is rare)
David smacking leg with excitement (not rare)

David’s like…
‘Dude how you do that?’

I’m like ‘Do what?’

He’s like…

you dived like a pro
on a superman trip
First twisted this way
Then went that
Got a bit hairy
You were gonna go splat
You did a roly poly
In mid-air flight
A front-forward-barrel-tuck
That gave the lifeguard a fright
You whooshed and you wowed
Like you were Iron man suit encased
We thought it was over
Then you turned with ease and grace
Skimmed the surface of the pool
With your belly
Then your bum cheeks
How did ya do it dude?
Ya must a practised for weeks’

Now James recovers from his period of non-speaking

He says…

‘Guy, thought you weren’t gonna jump
Thought you look scared
been standing there for ages
You just stared and stared
Thought you chickened it bruv
Thought you got the heebie jeebies’

I was like ‘no!’
‘I was just waiting for the ladies’

‘Seen, Seen’

‘Yeah I’ve been practising
Yeah I’m a pro
Had to stand up there and wait
building tension for the show
Gotta wait for air pressure
To be just right
Gotta plan my flight plan
To be truly outta sight
Gotta prepare each muscle
For every twist
Every spin
No room for a mistake
No room for second guessing
Gotta cream the skin
Gotta be aerodynamic
I’m a swimming pro
A diving addict
Didn’t tell you before
But I’m up for the Olympics!

‘The Olympics!’

‘Believe it’

‘Dude that’s great
When your rich yeah
Let a bro share your wealth’

‘Yeah seen, seen’

‘Dude one question
Why’s the water yellow
Did you wet yourself?’

By Joseph Coelho

Monday 19th May- By Joseph

May 20, 2008

Today I have he pleasure of being a child. We are at Casa Di Oily and there are some new toys in the room. Bubbles has a massive blue and white jug sculpture and a host of bubble making machines, Sponge has a table filled with… sponges, Gong has a metallic array strewn with bells and Umbrella man has a cloth parasol and a see thru umbrella and various squirters.

Each is asked to create a signature movement with their toys before engaging Katie, Tim and I. We stand and watch delighted as Bubbles looks for the source of her voice in her Jug, Umbrella man shuts his head in his umbrella like a vertical clam, Gong busies herself with the tinkering of the bells and Sponge is getting very messy with a can of shaving foam. These Toys all make up water features that will be the characters emblems of gushing. At the moment they are not gushing, but there are lots of well placed bowls and jugs dotted around the room so that water can be poured on to the sculptures. This set up is the plan for the first day of the show – introducing the characters without the pool. Here the characters will be somewhat aloof and the children drawn into their weird OCD worlds.

Carefully, gingerly we walk towards eh character, Tim has asked that we be very honest regarding our reactions to the sensations we are put through. We go through this process several times in the afternoon and I am struck by several things at each station. Gong Enthralls me with a game of bell and voice call and response. I tap a bell, she says something, I tap another bell she says something else. It only over too soon. At one point she gets me very interested by rubbing her stick up and down the ribbed sides of her bowl, she slaps the bowl when my head is near it, not hard, but enough to make me flinch due to a nasty memory – at school we would ask each other to listen to the table!? and once our victim lay their head upon the obscenity scarred surface we would slap it hard resulting in ear pain for them and detentions for us. I should make it clear that Gong has no such intention and is not at all brutal with the banging it is actually very low and pleasant – but instinct and memory are powerful things.

I recall being with Umbrella Man. He plays peeka Boo with me using the umbrella, starting outside of it and then snaking his head underneath – again I could be entertained by this for absolutely ages. He also creates a fantastic draft of air by wafting both parasol and umbrella up and down. With the wetness of my hands from his squirting mistifiers and super soaker! the drafts are very refreshing and quite pleasant.

Sponge fills my hands with foam and encourages me to slap them together – this is fun and feels especially naughty but I quickly want the towel to wipe my hands, trousers, face, hair, shirt etc down. Sponge proceeds to give me a comforting hand massage… well actually the first massage given is a bit uncomfortable because the sponges remind one of chewing cotton wool or the infamous nails down a black board. The second massage I have with him is very gentle with much softer sponges – it’s amazing the difference little details like this make.

Bubbles surrounds me with bubbles – tiny bubbles, small bubbles, big bubbles, strings of bubbles and even lets me use the bubble machines! The machines are great they are basically fans attached to bubble rings and once loaded with sugar solution can send many bubbles up into the rafters. once given the bubble makers I get to cover bubbles in bubbles which is a hoot and reminds one of the joys to be found in giving as well as receiving.

With all the wonders generated from the sculptures when dry – the mind boggles at what will be created once they’re in the pool.

Rehearsal Day – Friday, May 16th – Diary Entry from Aoife

May 19, 2008

Rehearsal Day – Friday, May 16th  – Diary Entry from Aoife

Today is Umbrella Man’s day in the pool.  He has a small black umbrella hat and an enormous white parasol that he twirls over the children’s heads.  The two children in the first group make an interesting contrast.  One boy is really excited and seems to love splashing around.  He sings along to the welcome song and is fascinated by the gongs, he even plays them a little himself.  Umbrella Man has a giant colander that he lets water pour through creating a shower effect.  The other little boy is rather intimidated by all this and looks uncertain.  But when Umbrella Man takes him slightly away from the splashing and gives him a smaller bowl to pour for himself, he starts smiling broadly and is now very happy to go under the small clear plastic umbrellas.  This seems to me a really good example of how the show can be adapted to meet different children’s needs.  There are over riding themes to the different sections of ‘Pool Piece’ but the real skill of the cast is the way they respond to their audience so that each child gets a special experience tailored specifically for them.  There is a huge amount of flexibility and openness, a sense that this is a magical world where everything is possible and nothing can go wrong, which seems to greatly appeal to children with learning difficulties who may have trouble making sense of the chaos of the real world.

After the session with the children, Katie, the choreographer, sums up what’s been the most important features of this week’s rehearsal.  This includes the need to give space between the actions, to allow for moments of silence and moments of pure water effects.  To bring things back into focus by making movements deliberate and ritualistic, to take time with the props and consider their importance as emblems.  To keep the sense of discovery and adventure, that everything is new and beautiful each time the show is performed.  With each of the character days, for the principal character whose day it is to perform with the real conviction that the day is centred on them.  Finally to always consider the group interaction, for the cast to support each other and the carers in making the experience of the show a complete coherent whole.  Tim, the director, talks about how much they are all learning from the rehearsal process.  He explains how this show, because it’s not one off performances but a connected series over six days of visits in the same school, is a wonderful opportunity for Oily Cart to really get to know the children involved.  He feels this will deepen their already considerable understanding of working with children with PMLD and ASD.  He urges everyone involved to keep a rehearsal diary and post their thoughts on this blog as this will greatly help to evaluate the work that’s being done.

For the next part of the rehearsal, Katie and myself act as students.  The cast rehearse lifting the colanders and letting water pour through them in a kind of ritual shower effect around us.  This is followed by me going under a small clear plastic umbrella that protects me from the sprays that Umbrella Man and Sponge shoot at me.  Next a giant shower under the giant white umbrella is switched on and we travel under it.  I have a sudden flashback to being a small child in a car with my father driving through pouring rain.   It feels really cosy and protected.  We then bounce in the water with the umbrellas while examining our reflections in enormous silver disk mirrors before being sunk the goodbye song with our names.  There is a lot of emphasis on using the children’s names to give them a feeling of identity and belonging.  The whole show is built around the children and what they enjoy and find stimulating.  It feels like a very beautifully choreographed slow dance through water with lots of room for improvisation!

Billy McCool

May 18, 2008

Billy McCool

by Aoife Mannix

Deep in the depths of a dark, dark pool
lives a water monster named Billy McCool.
With flourescent scales of pink candy ice
and eight octopus arms he thinks very nice.
With his giant hat sewn from a thousand umbrellas,
he considers himself quite the handsome fellow.
His tie has bright yellow stripes that glow in the dark,
he carries a cane of oyster pearls just for a lark,
his jacket is one hundred percent silver fish,
his shirt is sewn from the finest caviar dish,
his shoes are black patent seaweed with periwinkle tassle,
it takes him four hours to dress but it’s all worth the hassle,
for when he swims out from his deep dark cave,
he knows all the girls will rave –
oh Billy McCool, you rule with your shark fin bling,
oh Billy McCool you’re quite the thing with your frog spawn ring,
oh Billy McCool you’re a monster with style,
please won’t you stay with us a while.

Deep in the depths of a dark, dark pool
lives a water monster named Billy McCool