Ice Age is a life-affirming show celebrating and bringing much-needed visibility to what disabled people can achieve as performers on stage despite being confined to a wheelchair. Choreographed by visually-impaired Taiwanese Chung-an Chang of Resident Island Dance Theatre and disabled co-choreographer and dancer Maylis Arrabit, mentored by Morag Deyes with support from Jih-Wen Yeh from Step Out Arts, it explores the physical and emotional stresses of being confined to a wheelchair and the intimate relationship with two carers (standing dancers), who may also suffer equal stress and which at times leads to abuse.
Bringing much-needed visibility to what disabled people can achieve as performers
Yu-Cheng Cheng is adept at suggesting the boredom of how to fill an average day, once he’s tidied his room and sits twiddling his fingers. He then suffers the undignified and painful manhandling by his carers, performed by dancers, Shih-yun Fang and Yi-chen Juan, as they administer medicine and physiotherapy before he can relax again twiddling his fingers. He speaks to the audience in Taiwanese, his words translated into English on a screen at the back. Meanwhile Maylis Arrabit who speaks in French, again translated on the screen, only thinks about the plane tree outside her window. It is a skilful balance of volubility and the taciturn.
At first we feel sympathy for the carers whose life is so confined and can understand, though not condone, how they torment Yu-cheng Cheng, the male wheelchair user, pulling his hair until the female carer loses her self-control and strikes Arrabit, the woman at her mercy. The honesty of including this shocking and sad reality is to be commended.
The use of space by the circling wheelchair users, their skill in whizzing round or letting the chairs lean back (with the help of the carers/dancers) is impressive. Light and shadow play a great part in creating the atmosphere as does the music composed by Thomas William Hill.
Developed via zoom during Covid, the show also expresses the isolation caused by lockdown, mirroring the experience of life as a disabled person but also the joy of reunion now that the company can meet in the flesh. This joy is also mirrored in the disabled couple’s eventual romantic relationship. Watching the rising sun together is a lovely, uplifting end to the performance.
It does go on a little too long but it is ultimately a moving show and will speak to anyone in a similar situation.