Disabled and non-disabled dancers combine for tale of loss at Chichester Festival Theatre

Stopgap Dance - Enormous Room- David Toole
Stopgap Dance - Enormous Room- David Toole

The latest production from Stopgap Dance Company follows a father and daughter gradually coming to terms with the loss of Jackie, their wife and mother.

The Enormous Room, delivered by a mix of disabled and non-disabled dancers, plays in Chichester’s Minerva Theatre from December 13-15, promising a mix of exquisite detail in movement and evocative text and design: a thoughtful, moving and uplifting show about saying goodbye and moving on.

And in a way, the company won’t be too sad to be moving on from the show itself. Not that they haven’t loved it. But it seems to have attracted more than its fair share of bad luck.

“The show has been touring for quite a while on and off,” says disabled dancer David Toole, “but we have had a few issues along the way. We are calling it the cursed show at the moment.”

There have been bereavements within the company: “We have had our set stolen, and only yesterday our stage manager dislocated her knee. It is all starting to feel a bit much! We are looking forward to it ending…. Nothing to do with the show itself, but we have never known anything like it. But we are quite a resilient company. We have dealt with it all quite well, but one of the hardest things was having our set stolen. It was stored in a van which was parked up, and they stole the van. We have never found the van or the set again. We have had a new one built, but that took three or four weeks, and we did lose a couple of performances unfortunately.”

At least it is a show they all very much believe in: “It is a show that basically deals with grief and loss. It is about a guy Dave – that will be me! – who has lost his wife and lives with his daughter Sam who has obviously lost her mother. He locks himself in a room and keeps remembering all the good times and doesn’t want to move on from there. Sam’s role is to try to get him to come out of that space and move on. We have got dancers that represent the wife and the mother. They come out and they are reflections of her.

“The fact that it deals with grief means that it has got a certain weight to it, but there are lighter moments, and in the second half, the whole set gets swept away. It is more open stage, and it is more about the daughter resolving the situation.

“For me, dancing is about telling stories and trying to express things in a way that people will understand. Sometimes dance can be really abstract and people can’t connect with it, but if you can find something the audience can connect with, it makes it interesting for everybody.”

David is in a wheelchair: “But I get around on my hands quite a bit in the show. I was born with legs that were never going to work, so they amputated them. They tried artificial legs for many years, but I just found that restrictive.

“But none of our shows are about disability. We strive to make interesting shows about subjects that we are interested in. It is not disability driven. But we are not naïve. We know we are a disability company, but our narrative and our drive are not about disability. If we push the disability, it is much more about education.”

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