Hijinx Theatre Pods

The founders of Hijinx Theatre Company won a much-deserved Special Recognition Award at the recent Theatre Critics of Wales Awards. It marked over three decades spent creating high-quality small-scale theatre inclusive of performers and audiences with learning disabilities and hearing impairments. Nevertheless, they are having to cope with a challenging funding environment.

In response to this, they have created a number of “pods”, which they recently showcased at Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre. These are five one-act comic performance pieces, between 20 and 50 minutes in length. They are designed to be available on a “pick and mix” basis, to be toured to community, corporate, street or studio theatre environments. Each piece features a mixture of performers with and without learning difficulties, and involves a degree of audience participation.

First up in the showcase was Snooks Brothers Bank, presenting a day in the life of a cyber-punk styled financial institution, where two mostly trouserless bankers give audience members the runaround whilst indulging in various tangled communications.

Snoutology For Beginners takes the form of a seminar in which dogs instruct the audience in the science of canine communication, in the interests of domestic harmony and world peace. Containing skilfully integrated high-tech elements such as animation and video feeds, it's the only dialogue-based piece.

In Flossie and Jet, two women in masks roam the performance area (in this case, the capacious Chapter café), in search of somewhere to have their picnic. On finding a safe place, they dream of their ideal homes.

Snooks Brothers Aquatic sees the pair, this time in Victorian bathing costumes, audition audience members to perform a synchronised swimming routine in a cleverly contrived pool, whilst indulging in Three Stooges-style comedy violence.

The Waiting Room explores the ways in which we imitate and are irritated by the vagaries of our fellow humans in the scenario of the title. Unfortunately, I missed the end of this piece, since I was amongst those awkwardly called up on stage to participate.

The collection as a whole is clever, funny and imaginative, although inevitably somewhat overwhelming when presented en masse. For those with programming gaps to fill, Hijinx Pods are well worth investigating. Details are available on its web site.