The Evolution of (L)able

Chickenshed Young Company’s focus this February has been on (L)able, a youth-led piece that explores the effect and power of labels, stereotypes and preconceptions.

Back in September 2018 one of our Young Producers, Ellie Morton, put together a steering group of Young Company members and began developing ideas around the reasons why we are labelled by society and how that affects us and those close to us.

(L)able first emerged as an idea during the Summer Scratch in 2017 when members were discussing why it is that people often do not talk about disability openly. This conversation sparked a wider discussion around other aspects of life that are sometimes focused on negatively, such as sexuality, race and gender. (L)able was first performed as part of the New Routes Festival in July 2018 and after receiving valuable feedback and learning from the process, the Young Company felt that the piece should be further developed. Ellie Morton, the Young Producer on this project, gives her perspective on how (L)able has progressed.

(L)able has been in development for a long time now. The initial performance we did as part of the New Routes Festival gave us a solid foundation to build upon. The most important thing for us was to find a cast that could tell their stories and feel connected to the topics we’d be discussing. We managed to do this, and once we did, everything started to fall in to place. The cast needed to show a whole spectrum of difference, and I’m so glad we managed to achieve this as it’s created some really beautiful work. 

The steering group who worked on (L)able had big ideas for the piece, and our meetings were exciting as we saw all the opportunities it could bring. At first, there were some struggles - creating and devising as a group isn’t easy. There were moments when we felt a bit lost and like we didn’t have all the content we needed, but by arranging extra meetings and splitting into smaller groups, we finally had a structure and plan that we wanted to take into our full cast workshops.

It was important to us that (L)able was devised by a combination of people, and there was no ‘one’ director. We allocated certain sections to certain people, whether they were members of the cast, steering group or staff. We knew that this was going to be a Young Company piece, and heavily youth-led, but sometimes a bit of staff input was needed to gain fresh insight into what we were creating. Having the guidance of Chickenshed Staff meant that less pressure was put on the Young Company and everything felt like it was going to get done. 

This week it’s all about pulling together and finding the show as a whole. As of right now, I would say we have the strong foundations of a production, and now I’m excited to build around this and put on the best version of (L)able that we possibly can.

After the run of performances at Chickenshed (L)able will be performed at the Battersea Arts Centre as part of the Occupy Festival in March and as part of the International Youth Arts Festival in July. Thanks to funding from London Youth as part of their YouthLeads programme, the project will also be going into schools in the cast members’ local communities.

Natalie Ibu, artistic director of Tiata Fahodzi, recently talked about the term ‘diversity’ having lost its meaning in an interview with The Stage. She said ‘We’re just talking about difference. If we could think about diversity as just difference, and actually try to get the most varied group of people in the room[...]having a range of voices will result in better work: it’s that simple.’ This is true of Chickenshed's artistic process and is something that the Young Company always seeks out to do when creating new work. (L)able demonstrates this beautifully and we look forward to continuing the conversation it has started.