RNIB Sense Stories at the Roundhouse
This year’s RNIB Sense Stories production is bursting at the seams with remarkable talent. The Carnegie Medal-winning author Patrick Ness, the Emmy award-winning actor Christopher Eccleston and Kate Hargreaves of immersive theatre company Gideon Reeling combine their talents for the noble cause of RNIB. The outcome is quite simply incredible.
RNIB offer support to blind and partially sighted people, and as part of their third annual “Read for RNIB Day” campaign, they are currently raising awareness about the lack of reading materials available to these individuals. “In the UK there are almost two million people who are blind or partially sighted,” explains Christopher Eccleston. “Just seven per cent of all books are fully accessible to them.” RNIB currently provides libraries nationwide with millions of books in Braille, large print or in audio book format. They strive to give those who are visually impaired the opportunity and materials to read, as a means to helping them to live independently. “Words can be experienced in more than one way, which is the whole point of the Read for RNIB Day,” says author Patrick Ness. “How can you make words do something different?”
Ness’ short story Now That You’ve Died does just that. An interactive piece of immersive theatre, the production guides its audience on a journey through the underworld. Directors Hector Harkness and Kate Hargreaves aimed to tell an inclusive tale using sound, touch, taste, but never sight. Much of the production takes place in an enclosed lift, saturated in total darkness and occasionally lurching from side to side. In the short time afforded him, Ness’ words create something truly personal. Now That You’ve Died is funny, probing and insightful – and unlike anything he’s ever written before. “I so leapt at this when they brought it to me, because it was so different,” Ness recounts. “I don’t ever want to repeat myself, and that’s scary but I really believe it’s the only way you’re ever going to do good work.”
Christopher Eccleston’s narration hits the perfect tone for this experience. In fact, Ness tells how upon hearing Eccleston’s narration for the first time he “got actual goosebumps”. The author believes that Eccleston has “a voice that you could be comfortable with, so that when it became uncomfortable, it was a surprise”. Indeed, Eccleston’s previously calm voice suddenly roaring and distorted in the pitch black elevator is unsettling to say the least. This innovative production is uncanny, insightful, extremely intense and ultimately rather emotional.
Both Eccleston and Ness are notably passionate and excited about the cause, which clearly informs their wonderful work. Following his powerful performance, Eccleston urges the audience to “open up a world of reading for blind and partially sighted people”. Meanwhile, Ness is “very, very happy to be part of it”. Remarking upon the enthusiasm of his young, visually impaired readers, he says: “All they want to do is tell you about the book, all they want to do is tell you what they think, and that’s fantastic. The idea that these readers who are just as excited as everyone else have just a fraction of books available to them as other people… that’s terrible. And that’s a solvable problem.”
Read for RNIB Day is on 11th October 2013. For further information about the RNIB and future events visit their website here.
Patrick Ness’ new novel More Than This is released on 10th September 2013.
Watch a behind-the-scenes featurette for Sense Stories here: