The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant shifts in routines all over the world. With more people finding themselves adapting to a lifestyle they’re less used to, the latent emotional distress is unavoidable.
Flute Theatre’s team comes live on Instagram to play an interactive game called Heartbeat Hellos. Kelly Hunter MBE, artistic director of Flute Theatre, is all too familiar with the consequences of the upending of normalcy in routine. Hunter is the creator of The Hunter Heartbeat Method, a series of sensory drama games for young people with autism and their families. “It is a system I devised after I had taken some time off mainstream theatre and decided I really wanted to do something with my craft and for the community,” says Hunter.
She says, “In the technical world, the heartbeat is the first sound a child hears when it is born and the method tries to create a womb-like structure for the children and young adults. We replicate the heartbeat and use the works of Shakespeare who understood before all of us, the key element for all humans. Thus, I have combined the Iambic Pentameter and the heartbeats to create numerous games with Shakespeare fantastical texts to help all on the autistic spectrum deal with day-to-day activities easier.”
Hunter and her team are now using Flute Theatre’s Instagram page @FluteTheatre to reach out to people from the autistic spectrum in these unsettling times. The team comes live on Instagram to play one of the games, Heartbeat Hellos, devised by Hunter. A member of Flute Theatre repeatedly sings the word hello following the Iambic Pentameter while also interacting with autistic children watching the live by calling out their names.
“The children feel a sense of ease when we use this and accompanying the heartbeat action with our hand with a ‘He
llo’ helps us introduce ourselves to them without a comprehensive monologue about ourselves,” says Ninad Samaddar, Flute Theatre’s point of contact in India who also participates.
The main benefit of the live, Hunter says, “is that the kids who have been with us for years and love to play with us and be with us don’t miss out on the sessions.” She adds: “The IG Live helps to bring about a sense of regularity to the followers with ASD and we try to reach as many people as humanly possible with our Charity Flute Theatre.”
“We have some friends in the US, Spain, Romania, Japan, and of course India who tune in from time to time and make our venture even more successful than it is just in the UK,” she says. “What does create magic is when some of the kids request to join and spend the whole time loving the attention and playing with Holly and Hepzi, our dedicated singers for the (Instagram) live,” says Hunter.
Hunter’s team managed to do a 24-hour live stream of heartbeats with hosts from all around the world during World Autism week. Samaddar explains, “One member of the large and growing community of Flute Theatre took over each hour.”
But the live stream is not only for people from the autistic spectrum, “The games are attractive to whoever tunes in. Yes, they are specifically designed with and for kids and young adults on the spectrum but people with anxiety will have a strong sensation of calm. The games and the heartbeats are helpful for those with CP as well,” says Kelly.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.