Who We Are
Collar & Cuffs Co is a multi award-winning multisensory musical theatre company. Founded in 2016, the company produces work for early years children (0-7s) and those with special needs, and primarily explores themes around mental health, emotional development and wellbeing. Visit the company's website here: Collar & Cuffs Co
Introduction: Be Not Afeard
Building on our work over the past two years, we're now looking towards developing our 2019 production. From listening to children, parents, carers, early years professionals and teachers whilst out on tour, we have heard many times that there is a need to offer an experience that unpacks how to cope with the types of fears and anxieties that can prevent children from trying new things, exploring their world confidently, and from being able to manage through sudden or unexpected sensory occurrences - especially loud noises.
The phrase that kept coming back to us as we thought and felt our way around these themes was from the mouth of Caliban, the 'monster' from Shakespeare's The Tempest:
"Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises. Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices that, if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me sleep again. And then, in dreaming, the clouds methought would open and show riches
ready to drop upon me, that when I waked I cried to dream again."
This beautiful speech, and the character's link to the route of the word 'monster - which derives from 'demonstrate', meaning to show - seemed to us to be a perfect way to engage with our audience's needs.
Our core methodology is centred on making work that is multi-sensory, musical, signed and built from low cost/no cost and recycled materials. The works of William Shakespeare are filled with wonderful songs, language, characters, food, and, where The Tempest is concerned, a good deal of magic! What could be more ripe and ready for a sensory explosion?
There have been some versions of Shakespeare's plays interpreted for young children, notably CBeebies versions of A Midsummer's Night's Dream and also The Tempest - however, while these were very beautiful, high quality and wonderful experiences, they really did not reach very young children as well as they could; this is from observation of early years children and those with special needs during and after watching recordings. The early years resources developed for Shakespeare400, the 400th anniversary of his death, were also disappointing and inappropriate for use with the target audience.
In 2017, Julia got down to the final two practitioners at a Royal Shakespeare Company interview to deliver a Research and Development programme for early years children. Using The Tempest as her starting point, Julia devised a six week project that would offer a sensory exploration of the play, its characters, music and themes. Ultimately, Julia was unsuccessful as the RSC felt the programme was too well-formed and did not require research and development time! The project eventually chosen by the RSC used storytelling based on contemporary children's story books - so nothing to do with Shakespeare - instead, which was very disappointing indeed.
The foundation work in place to offer a sensory telling of The Tempest is therefore in place, is sound in its practice and methodology, and ready to go!
The aim of this project is to develop a Sensory Tempest ready to premiere at Brighton Fringe Festival in May 2019; this will be Collar & Cuffs Co's fifth consecutive year at the festival, and we wanted to offer something really special. Following this premiere, the production will appear at a range of festivals and venues, including the International Youth Arts Festival, for a 10 - 12 date tour; virtually all festivals and venues are now confirmed.
Afterwards, the piece will be available as an 'on call' production, alongside our other work - Little Meerkat's Big Panic and Crabby - for schools, early years settings, theatres, festivals or other venues as need and demand arises. Training for early years settings and schools will also be available to offer strategies for growing children's confidence, security, and for helping children through fears.
We are also interested in ongoing development of a Sensory Shakespeare project for early years children and those with special needs, possibly by building up to a trilogy of plays e.g. also producing As You Like It, and Twelfth Night. This strategy would help to grow an innovative strand of work around Shakespeare, introducing the stories in meaningful, accessible and fun ways to our youngest and/or most vulnerable children. We hope this may go a way towards reducing the negative associations some young people can have when they encounter Shakespeare in their studies later on, particularly their difficulties accessing, understanding and analysing the language of his plays and sonnets, as well as showing that Shakespeare's work is truly accessible and relevant to all, irrespective of age, ability, or method of engaging with the world.
We are intending to apply for funding from Arts Council England (ACE) to support this project (sub £15k strand), and in order to improve our prospects of a successful application we need to show that we can contribute funding from other sources. All our work is not-for-profit already, so any surpluses from performances from January 2019 - May 2019 will be invested into the project (surpluses from September 2018 - December 2018 are already committed to fully fund our Christmas production), however an amount of crowdfunding is also really important not only to offset funding from ACE, but to show support and enthusiasm for our work from people who are or represent our main beneficiaries.
We were able to crowdfund 2018's new production, Crabby, with £500 of crowdfunding plus a grant of £300 from Andrew Lloyd Webber's RUG Charities. With that funding we not only created an award-winning production - Best Children and Family Show at the International Youth Arts Festival - but a production that has huge potential and impact for children; this is evidenced by the feedback from children, parents and carers following each performance. Crabby's lifespan is only just beginning, and we hope in time that it will achieve the same level of reach our first production - Little Meerkat's Big Panic - continues to create; over 4000 children in just over two years, and counting.
We are aiming to submit our bid to ACE by November 2018, with a view to starting developing the production from January 2019. Premiere will be in May 2019.