This is David, tall, black, handsome, male, strong, impressive, Deaf.
Meet the exceptional new cast of What Am I Worth?
This is David, tall, black, handsome, male, strong, impressive, Deaf.
Dancer, actor and film producer David Ellington is recognisable across the country for his multiple television appearances, including his ground-breaking in-vision signer role for the Channel 4 Rio 2016 Paralympic Games trailer. He has performed in multiple productions with Graeae, won best actor for his performance in DEF at the ‘Deaf Oscars’ Award Ceremony, and was also part of the London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony. David is profoundly Deaf and a British Sign language user, who since being in Extraordinary Bodies has developed aerial circus skills to add to his bag of tricks.
“I am proud to be part of such a diverse cast, representative of society. Regardless of disability, class, race, age or sexual identification, we all bring unique talent to the stage. It’s so exciting being part of a company that is so willing to learn and share in order to break down the stigma of deaf and disabled artists. It is really beneficial to ask ourselves ‘What Am I Worth? In order to understand how valuable and respectable we are in today’s society.”
Billy Alwen is co-founder and Artistic Director of Cirque Bijou, a leader in the field of innovative outdoor arts, circus and street theatre. After a career in politics and public relations, Billy started his circus life as an aerialist, performing all over the world and forming Cirque Bijou in 1999 with Julian Bracey. Since then Cirque Bijou have made thousands of shows across the globe for audiences of 50 to 50,000. In 2012 they made Battle for the Winds to launch the London 2012 Olympic Sailing events in Weymouth, which brought Cirque Bijou into partnership with Diverse City for the first time. A year later, the first Extraordinary Bodies show, Weighting, was made with an exceptional company of disabled and non-disabled artists. Since that first commission in 2013 Extraordinary Bodies has grown and developed into a national and international circus project, working with the National Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, and Circus Oz in Melbourne.
“It is very rare as an artist that you get an opportunity to reinvent an art form, but that is what I feel I am doing with Extraordinary Bodies. We are not only making a fundamental change to circus, we are making impact that goes beyond art, placing on stage the positive inclusive world we want to see in society. The best circus crosses so many art forms. It tells stories to people of all ages and backgrounds and it can surprise, shock and make you cry all at once. That is the kind of circus I aspire to make with Extraordinary Bodies.”
Claire Hodgson is a theatre/dance director and artist. Claire is founder and Chief Executive of Diverse City. In 2012 Diverse City created Breathe an international project that brought together 64 young disabled people to perform at the opening celebrations of the Olympic sailing events, to an audience of 10,000. After the Olympics Claire co-created Extraordinary Bodies with Billy Alwen, Cirque Bijou. Claire was a Clore Fellow in 2012 and writes for The Guardian online. She is the former head of Performing Arts at London Metropolitan University and was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list 2016 for services to inclusion in the performing arts. Together with Jamie Beddard, Claire won the Clore Duffield 50th Anniversary prize, which was used to tour Extraordinary Bodies Weighting in 2015/16.
“From the beginning Billy and I said that Extraordinary Bodies should be radical, joyous and bold. I want to change who is seen and to include all people in artistic work onstage and in the audience. I learn from this project everyday it stretches my mind and humbles me. I meet incredible people through our participatory work and work with amazing performers and collaborators. We are changing a corner of the world and the ripples from this work go far. I learn more about being a human and the power of empathy. This is the work I always wanted to be doing.”
Hattie Naylor is an award-winning dramatist, and writer of Extraordinary Bodies’ 2015-16 tour of Weighting. Other credits include Ivan And The Dogs, The Night Watch, Going Dark, As the Crow Flies, and Bluebeard. Ivan and the Dogs (Soho Theatre and ATC) was nominated in the Olivier Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre, won the Tinniswood Award in 2010, and has been internationally acclaimed. Her work as a librettist includes Picard in Spacewith Will Gregory (Goldfrapp) directed by Jude Kelly, for the Electronica Festival at the Southbank 2012. She has also written extensively for BBC Radio 4 and teaches scriptwriting and Sheffield Hallam University.
As well as working on What am I Worth? other current projects include Yana and the Yeti with Pickled Image and As the Crow Flies, Pentabus and Salisbury Playhouse.
“Extraordinary Bodies sits across the disciplines of theatre and circus, combining music and movement and text. The work therefore challenges and breaks form and traditional notions of performance whilst maintaining a fundamental principle of accessibility. The challenge of creating such expansive work within a company that recognises and incorporates voices frequently silenced and artists that are individually challenged in areas of disability is truly awe-inspiring.”
Ted Barnes is multi-instrumentalist, composer and performer best known for his work with Beth Orton. He has also formed the band Clayhill and released three solo albums. Ted now writes for film, theatre, circus and dance, whilst continuing to work with songwriters. Ted has been part of Extraordinary Bodies from the beginning, he co-wrote the music and performed in the first Extraordinary Bodies show Weighting, alongside Dom Coyote. Together they found a way of fusing their two worlds of musical language, and this became integral to the development of the show.
This time Ted is composing alone and the process demands that he immerses himself fully in the development of the show, the cast and the crew in order to write.
“There is unbelievable amount of things to take into account with this show and writing for this specific brief is both exciting and challenging. The main body of the composition will be a soundtrack to the story and action with additional live sections as some of the cast are musicians. As there will be some live and pre-recorded dialogue, the overall feel will be that of a radio show. Although I will not be performing in the show I hope that the music will come across as a personal reaction to the subject matters raised.”
Jo Paul is an artist and a scenographer for theatre and dance, she has an MA in Scenography from Trinity Laban Conservatoire. Her art work has been exhibited all over the UK in various galleries and her designs for theatre and dance have been seen in shows from Edinburgh Fringe to the Royal Opera House. She has worked with Candoco, Graeae, Fingersmiths, Spare Tyre Theatre Co, Shed Films (‘Cabbage’ – Bafta Nominated Short Film) and East London Dance, to name a few.
As well as designing the costumes for What Am I Worth? working alongside costume seamstress Jacqui Livingston at Jellyfish Arts, current projects include a Europe wide programme of work exploring the digital in theatre with Emergency Exit Arts and a number of European Theatre Companies, a book chapter contributing to a publication looking at Art and the Maternal and a personal exhibition investigating the Collar and Status.
“What Am I Worth? explores issues relevant to a variety of disenfranchised groups, both in the UK and world citizens. It looks at the personal judgements we make about ourselves and each other daily, as well as ingrained societal, corporate and governmental discrimination. As a woman, as an artist and as a disabled person the themes of this piece and the work of Extraordinary bodies resonates with me on a deep level.”
Will Datson has been designing & making sets and equipment for circus & theatre for over a decade, as well as creating large-scale artwork in the public realm.
Will has created numerous performance structures for Cirque Bijou including Vera, a human powered travelling machine for Battle for the Winds celebrating the 2012 Olympic sailing events in Weymouth. He also created the rotating centrepiece known as ‘The Bridge’ for the first Extraordinary Bodies show Weighting, and has designed and built the exciting, transformative set known as ‘Rose’ for our new show What Am I Worth?.
Jacqui Beckford has worked extensively as a British Sign Language translator/interpreter in Disability theatre and the arts. In the late 1990’s she toured nationally in three productions with Graeae Theatre Company as an Interpreter/performer. To date Jacqui is a freelance BSL interpreter working across many domains from the arts (theatres/museums/galleries] television broadcast (BBC news 24, Cbeebies, CBBC & other channels), film, medical, mental health and legal. Jacqui worked with Extraordinary Bodies as part of the Weighting 2015 tour performing on stage as a creative BSL interpreter.
Jacqui is a member of The National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind people and the Association of Sign Language Interpreters and Equity.
Participation Director & Audio describer
Eilís is a facilitator, director and theatre maker. She is an inclusive movement specialist bringing together people of all abilities to participate in creative processes. Eilís graduated from the European Theatre Arts programme at Rose Bruford College in 2011. She now combines theatre with her extensive knowledge in creative support and is focused on developing theatre-training practice for young people with access needs.
Eilís is the Artistic Director of Diverse City’s youth company, Extraordinary Bodies Young Artists.
“To me Extraordinary Bodies is a movement that brings people together to explore the world and the lived human experience. In a time where it feels like we are being told to be scared of people who are different from ourselves: Extraordinary Bodies tells us to dive right in to those meetings, explore what we find and take risks.
I find this in our participation work and the amazing individuals I have encountered along this journey we are on, people I could never have met otherwise: Amazing, Brave and fiercely kind individuals. I love it because it’s an act of resistance. It’s magical and mighty. It embodies what the world should look like – communities coming together, new stories being heard and unlikely people centre stage. I love it because whilst we are at it, we invite the rest of the world to watch us, in this act of change.”
This is John, white, short dark hair, with a curl. Eyes that flicker blue, belted into a wheelchair, his hands, turned away, delicate.
Disability and Human Rights Campaigner John Kelly is a self-taught musician and singer/songwriter. He has performed all over the world from Brazil to Estonia, playing for audiences of thousands. Most memorably he performed for 200,000 as part of an anti-austerity protest in Parliament Square, and for 80,000 in the Olympic Stadium as part of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony. He has played rock n roll in Memphis and Nashville, and has sang with the Blockheads, but his favourite gigs have been in the smallest of pubs back home in Ireland ‘with close family, friends, a packet of Taytos and a pint of the black stuff!’
“Extraordinary Bodies is all about bringing about a choice to change. A choice to make change in perceptions, attitudes, a more inclusive accessible environment. It’s about looking at what really matters and is important, what we value, and as a musician that’s what I write and sing about!”
This is Alfa, thin, mixed-race, muscular, small, limbs as fluid as running water.
Alfa Marks is a highly skilled circus artist who has performed across the globe specialising in solo aerial rope. With a background in contemporary dance, Alfa started her circus career as an apprentice with Gerry Cottle’s Circus and has since performed for companies such as No Fit State, Upswing, Cirque Bijou and Incandecense.
“Exploring circus, movement and the human body from different perspectives beyond my own is really exciting. I also love being able to incorporate all of my skills and mix circus with dance and acting in order to tell a story. Extraordinary Bodies has taught me that anyone can do anything if we support one another. Amazing things can be created when we don’t concentrate on the things that make us different.”
This is Amelia, small, white, a bob with pink ends. Blind. She spies the future with vivid choice.
Amelia Cavallo is an American born, blind performer who first came to the UK to study at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Working across multiple performance disciplines including acting, music, circus and dance, her most enjoyable professional achievements have been performing as an aerialist as part of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, as well as creating her own outdoor pieces I Breathe and Sailing Through the Dark.
“Extraordinary Bodies excites me because I get to do interesting and exciting things with circus that I’ve never done before. I get to work with such a wonderful diverse cast, for a company that puts Deaf and disabled people at the forefront of contemporary circus. I have the chance to create something that is bespoke to a specific group of people, using a lot of the different skills I have spent my life honing. It’s a unique thing we get to create, and that’s exciting!”
This is Dergin, dark curly hair tied back, masculine, focused, in a wheelchair, deep dark eyes. Turkish. German.
Dergin Tokmak is a highly accomplished German acrobat and dancer on crutches, who not only made it to the finals of Germany’s Got Talent, but has also toured the world with Cirque Du Soliel. Now, as a member of Extraordinary Bodies, he has achieved a new dream of working alongside other disabled artists on stage.
“Extraordinary Bodies are the best example of ‘there are no limits if you break boundaries’. We are creating a show to prove to society that you can take advantage of your disadvantage. I have been working as professional artist for almost 30 years and this is my first big project working alongside other artists with disabilities. The cast on stage gives you another perspective of possibilities, it’s a truly unique project that is accessible to everyone.”
This is Aislinn, slender, white, female, unknowable strength. Blue eyes and long brown hair.
Aislinn Mulligan is a performer, writer and producer specialising in aerial circus. She trained at Northwestern University and with Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, and has worked all over the world on a variety of Theatre, Circus, Film, Fashion, Dance and Photography projects. In 2014 Aislinn co-founded international performance collective Circumference, and in 2015 joined Extraordinary Bodies as part of Weighting. She is now also Associate Director of Extraordinary Bodies.
And this is Johnny, muscular, white, large brown eyes, thick eyelashes, tall. Wheelchair.
Jonny Leitch is an extraordinary disabled drummer, who drums, performs and composes for circus and theatre shows. He has worked for companies such as Graeae, Cirque Bijou and Diverse City, so it was only natural that he would be cast for the new Extraordinary Bodies show. Since being a member of the company he has expanded his practice into dance and movement, both in and out of his wheelchair.
“It’s great to be in such a creative group with everyone bringing a completely different perspective to the world, that not only pushes me as an artist but as a person with a disability. A lot of change happened in my life in 2017 and I really feel the show helped me understand everything that happened. That I am worth access, happiness and that disability doesn’t set back the lives of others, but can enlighten and give joy to their lives.”