Eve Leigh: ‘I created a virtual body to bring a very private experience to the public’

Experimental playwright Eve Leigh: the digital body offers a virtual experience for anyone whose body can't make it to the performance© JOHAN PERSSON

Tonight I am not going to the theatre.
I’ve been looking forward to the show I’m supposed to be seeing for ages – years, actually, since I first heard about it on Twitter. It’s by an emerging Manchester-based artist with whom I’ve collaborated – I was crossing my fingers that she’d get the funding to bring the show to London.
Nothing less than being unable to get out of bed could stop me going. But, well, here we are.
I am a theatremaker who is legally blind due to a neurodivergence, and have a connective tissue disorder which is associated with neurodivergence as well. I love the immediacy and liveness of theatre, but I can’t always rely on my body to get me there.
There are experiments around access to theatre – hinging around the overlap of disability, poverty, and caring responsibilities – taking place across the industry. ARC Stockton has led the industry with a pay-what-you-decide option for all their theatre performances, which has resulted in a huge uptick in audience numbers and engagement. Slunglow, another Northeast-based company, flyers in car parks and makes enormous interactive shows that can be seen from all over town – including, presumably, from well-situated beds. As I write, the Bunker Theatre in London has a livestream up of Natalie Mitchell’s play Germ Free Adolescent, accessible from home.
My play Midnight Movie, which is about using the internet as a distraction from pain in the night, will be on at the Royal Court from 27th November-21st December – if you can physically make it there. But even if you can’t (or even if you can, but you want more), we’ve come up with something else
that we think will help more people with “unreliable bodies” like mine experience something parallel. The show involves a fantasy of a “digital body,” frictionless, pain-free, and without any access barriers. So the show itself has a digital body, which you can sign up to here. It is not a livestream, instead, it’s entirely new content, a combination of essay and creepy story, which will hit your inbox at odd times of the day and night. To our knowledge, this is the first time this particular access tool has been used to reach people with disabilities and chronic illness, so it feels important to spread the word and let people know this is an option.
It’s been an interesting challenge to write a play, and in parallel, create an experience which brings the essence of the play to people who will not see it, whilst being fun and enriching for people who have seen it. We’ve done this, essentially, because we didn’t want to leave anybody out. That’s also why the show has integrated BSL, spoken English, audio description, and every performance is relaxed. I wrote Midnight Movie to bring a very private experience to the public. The show’s digital body makes the realm of the show simultaneously private and global.

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