Sound Symphony

Platform, The Bridge, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

four stars

INCLUSIVITY is such a hopeful word. In truth, however, most children and young people with profound autism probably won’t be among the audiences at everyday concerts or theatre performances. Sound Symphony is like a welcoming hug to those children. Produced by Independent Arts Projects in association with Edinburgh’s Capital Theatres, it’s an inspirational piece of merry, joyous, inter-active music-making that Ellie Griffiths and her team have fashioned with the spectrum of diverse sensory issues in mind.

Each episode, from the pre-show warm-up – cue percussive rattlings of plastic ice-cream spoons, the rhythmic tearing of theatre tickets – to the orchestral playing by Greg Sinclair (cello), Sonia Allori (clarinet/bassoon) and Shiori Usui (marimba/percussion) cunningly morphs passive listening into active participation.

There’s never any pressure on the youngsters to join in, but any impromptu vocalisings from the audience are readily incorporated, by the musicians, into their own performances. It’s a dialogue of fun and yes, inclusivity.

On-stage, professional ‘platform’ clothes for the opening classical sequences give way to glam informality when the Symphony shifts into free-form mode and the likes of popping bubble-wrap, snapping-shut staplers, scrunched-up sheet music and clicketty-clacketty high heels proclaim that simple objects can offer up fascinating sounds. It is, in fact, a hugely sophisticated operation underpinned by serious research, nicely tangential thinking and a wonderfully accommodating approach to ‘stage invasions’.

When a little lad wandered on, sat down beside Sinclair – who acknowledged him, then kept on playing – nobody turned a panicked hair. Because this whole production has ‘hands-on’ connections as an essential dynamic. Usui wheels her marimba between the rows of seats and gives its hammers to a delighted child. Sinclair’s cello sings out, and little hands ‘touch’ the sounds vibrating through the wood. Whoosh! a fan swirls rose petals high into the air and Sound Symphony ends with its audience in among the flurries, experiencing something magical... and totally in their own terms.