Welcome to Paradise Fields: going beneath and behind urban transformation in Access All Areas’ Madhouse Re: Exit

  • Dave Calvert (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Madhouse Re:Exit is an immersive promenade performance by UK-based Access All Areas, a company which creates devised performance with professional learning disabled actors. Taking place in the usually hidden underground spaces beneath old buildings, the production has been presented at Shoreditch Town Hall in London, and at Barton Arcade in Manchester. Each of these areas have been subject to different forms of urban transformation in the past two decades. Following a major bomb attack by the IRA in 1996, Manchester city centre has been substantially redeveloped, while Shoreditch has been undergoing gradual gentrification over the same period.

Locating itself in invisible spaces beneath the facades of the city, Madhouse Re:Exit comments on the historical tendency for people with learning disabilities to be obscured by, and excluded from, urban spaces. It also deals with the urban tendency to present itself as eternally renewable, recognising a paradox within such urban regeneration: it is through its capacity for infinite transformation that the urban presents itself as indestructible. Vacillating between a contemporary sense of the urban as corporate, technological and progressive and its historical, industrial past, Madhouse Re:Exit opens up the lines of continuity that are obscured by the palimpsestuous activities of urbanism.

Spectators at the performance are initially invited on a tour of Paradise Fields, a new hi-tech, residential facility for learning disabled “service users”. The corporate presentation is soon subverted by supernatural interference, and the spectators are abandoned to find their own way around the facility where, in a series of abstract performances, they encounter the ghosts of former asylum residents. Encompassing the comic, the tragic, the grotesque, the beautiful, the beguiling and the disturbing, these scenes draw attention to the consistency with which urban renewal in a liberal society sets aside alternative spaces for people with learning disabilities.
Period9 Jul 2019
Event titleInternational Federation of Theatre Research 2019 : Theatre, Performance and Urbanism
Event typeConference
OrganiserInternational Federation of Theatre Research
LocationShanghai, ChinaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational