Creative Captioning

My first blog for CRIPtic was on audio description and how it can be used as a creative tool; I left feeling energised and inspired to create work which truly integrates audio description, which treats accessibility as a consideration of equal importance to plot, language, and form. I felt similarly after the creative captioning workshop – I’ve always been interested in form, in disrupting audience expectations, in work that is surprising and captivating in new ways. I love the idea of captions which enhance a performance, rather than just describing it. 

Politically, I feel strongly that accessibility should be much more integrated into all performances; but even aside from any moral questions about making sure our work can be accessed and enjoyed by as many people as possible, audio description and captioning are such exciting creative tools. Some of the shows that have stayed with me the most are those which make innovative use of audio and visual tools – Simon McBurney’s The Encounter and Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance are both plays which use narration of events which may or may not be happening onstage to create immersive stories made up of multiple strands, performances which are truly alive and almost impossible to describe because of their innovation and creativity.

Another of my favourite plays is 4.48 Psychosis – a student production of it started me on a lengthy love affair with Sarah Kane and her work. I particularly love her approach to form – a kind of blow it up and sift through the wreckage attitude which speaks to my interest in subversion, in treading along boundaries, testing them, crossing them. 4.48 Psychosis is made up of fragmented, unidentifiable voices – there’s no clear plot, no progression, no rise and fall. It’s the kind of work which lends itself to innovative stagings, so I wasn’t surprised to see screenshots of performances of it in the presentation in this workshop – it’s a play which, consisting of voices which speak over and contradict one another, is ripe for experimentation with creative captioning, fragments of text being broken up and scattered over the set.

Samuel Dore, the facilitator, gave us so many ideas for different ways to incorporate captions which reflect, support, or even subvert performances. As a writer, I’m something of a control freak – I spend a lot of time thinking about staging, the look and feel of a performance, the intricate dance of the actors. I’ve thought about ways I might use captioning before, but I’m so excited to experiment with some of the new ideas Samuel shared with us in this session – I’m particular about my work because I want to be sure that it does what I want it to, that the audience is left feeling the way I want them to feel, and I can’t wait to bring captions and audio description into my writing, as much a part of the work as the stage directions and casting notes.

by Nicky Watkinson

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