Without Walls TALKS: Look Mum, Let’s Talk About Disability by Daryl & Co

7 March 2024

Daryl & Co is a Disabled-led children’s theatre company where collaboration and co-creation meet mischief and merriment. Continuously making accessible theatre to delight young audiences and families, they tour both in the UK and internationally. Access and inclusion are at the start and heart of everything they do, from the creative to the administrative. They don’t want there to be anyone left behind.

Daryl & Co’s vision is a world where Disabled artists and young people have unrestricted choices in creative experiences and careers.

They have also been part of the Without Walls 2023 Programme with their show Look Mum, No Hands!

In 2021 we were supported by Without Walls on the creation of a new show Look Mum, No Hands! which is a co-production with Mimbre, a female-led producing company, creating acrobatic theatre for outdoor and unusual settings, touring nationally and internationally, with a strong digital presence.

Look Mum, No Hands! is a tender tale of friendship and growing up. It explores a coming-of-age story about two friends testing their own boundaries. In the show one of the performers is a wheelchair user, which leads to exciting acrobatic shapes and unexpected choreography. 

The show has been touring for a few years now, which means we work with several Disabled performers, who each use a wheelchair and each in a different way. 

After we’ve performed the show, we’ve often had to field many honest questions from young people in the audience who are curious to know what it means to be disabled and a wheelchair user. 

‘The question that started this whole process off was one that myself and some of our performers get asked a lot… “Why do you use a wheelchair if you can walk?’ 

Two performers are dancing on a stage one is in a wheelchair looking at the face of the other who is in a one-handed handstand using the other arm to gain support for the wheelchair.

Inspired by this experience, we decided to look for ways to allow us to answer these young people’s questions in meaningful and creative ways: some form of resource we could direct audiences to, a toolkit for discussions that supported and extended the live audience’s experience.

So, in partnership with Mimbre we created our digital project ‘Look, Mum, Let’s Talk About Disability’ inspired by the show and commissioned by The Space.

Through the commission, we’ve created 6 short films for social media, none lasting more than 90 seconds and each responding to common questions around disability with the aim of raising awareness of the Social Model of Disability in a playful and fun way. 

Aimed at young audiences but accessible to everyone!

Each film answers a direct question from a young person, and we have worked with our Disabled artists to explore the most creative and personal ways to answer them using humour, theatre and choreography supported by their honest personal stories.

The question that started this whole process off was one that myself and some of our performers get asked a lot… “Why do you use a wheelchair if you can walk?” 

Most people aren’t aware that out of all wheelchair users in the UK, about a third are ambulant wheelchair users. The term ambulant wheelchair user refers to individuals who are disabled and use wheelchairs but are capable of walking in some circumstances, like myself and some of our Look Mum, No Hands! performers.

We knew that this was the question that we wanted to answer the most and was the first one we storyboarded and filmed. It can be a hard concept to get across when placed in our current social context of disability benefit cuts and negative representation of “disability scroungers” in the media.

Yet our performers summed it up so succinctly: “I use a wheelchair because walking can be difficult.”

So for this film we ran with that phrase and unpacked the myth that all wheelchair users are “bound” to their chair. The film uses dance, storytelling and acrobatics to explain this often misunderstood concept.

Alongside the 6 films we have created a learning resource page which supports grown-ups and young people to talk about disability. It’s there to support and enhance engagement and understanding of the questions raised in the films and offers a variety of activities all aimed at bringing the questions to life. 

You can watch all the films and see activities on our website.

When we started making our outdoor show back in 2021, we knew it would have a longer lifespan than just one tour. Creating the show outdoors has opened up new ways for us to present the work. It’s toured into schools and libraries and now its essence has evolved into a digital format, which in turn supports the live show when it’s touring.

As a Disabled-led company creating work for young audiences, we are very aware of the lack of Disabled-led content for young audiences online. We want this commission to give young people, their families and their friends the opportunity and the tools to have discussions about what it means to be Disabled, a subject which is often not spoken about for fear of getting it wrong or not knowing where to start.

Images credits:

All image credits © Mimbre