On the Tracks
23 September 2017
Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham
Reviewed by Yvette Priestley, DASH Trustee
On the Tracks is a piece of work looking at how people live in country towns. It was created by visually impaired playwright Lucy Hayward, whilst completing her Master of Philosophy in Playwriting Studies at Birmingham University. Lucy finds that while attending the theatre can be an interesting experience, audio description can be useful but does not always allow her to interact with the play.
She was able to develop her work further with Jemma Kennedy at the National Theatre, and Da Da Fest have provided funding to support this performance in order to obtain feedback.
Lucy was offered support from one of the directors at Birmingham Rep to develop this piece further, and intends to take it on tour in the next year.
On the Tracks is a thirty minute stage play that uncovers the lives of two men who work in a country railway station at night.
DASH Trustee Yvette Priestley attended the performance to give her perspective as a visually impaired person.
âOn the Tracks is a 30 minute performance which is currently in its research and development phase. The playwright, Lucy Hayward intends to take the play on tour in 2018. She is visually impaired and is using this opportunity to integrate accessibility into the performance itself rather than have an extra layer of audio description. The main themes of the play provide the base for a powerful emotional performance, so this should not be attended by the faint-hearted.
Prior to the performance an audio programme was provided containing information regarding the cast, props and costumes. This could be refined for the final production with a brief description about the opening five minutes. If a printed programme is to be produced, then it would also be helpful if an electronic version of the programme is made available.
Directly before the performance a touch tour was given to visually impaired audience members. However, the minimalist nature of the play means this is a nice to have feature rather than entirely necessary, so long as the description of the items is in the programme. Minor modifications to the final production would definitely achieve the aim of integrating access into the performance. It would be important to reassure visually impaired audience members that access is integrated in order to minimise anxiety about attending.
Characters and themes
Ted and Robert are the two characters in this play who command our attention from start to finish. They are both night shift workers on the railway, but that is where their similarities end. Robert is a young family man who is outgoing and is comfortable with technology. Ted is older and is marginalised.
As the play progresses we are drawn into the issues in Ted's life and it starts to become more apparent that there is something not quite right about his story. The intense emotional performance is stunning. The pace of the production is also managed well by the actors, which is helped along by the urgency of the ringing phone.
Overall, the play would be appreciated by a mainstream audience or by visually impaired people attending the performance. The interesting exploration of family difficulties means that anyone can engage with the play even if the scenario presented is unique.â