How the art of performance can overcome language barriers

Moving in a wheel structure are two acrobatic performers, Jeni Barnard and Barney White. Since the creation of The Wheel House, a rolling acrobatic theatre show, in 2008, they have toured 12 countries around the world with their story of two lovers in search of...

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Moving in a wheel structure are two acrobatic performers, Jeni Barnard and Barney White. Since the creation of The Wheel House, a rolling acrobatic theatre show, in 2008, they have toured 12 countries around the world with their story of two lovers in search of water in a dystopian future.

What sets the show apart from other acrobatic performances is the accessible nature of it. It is performed in an outdoor setting and the story constantly evolves based on ideas that are suggested by the audience in English.

Here, Jeni shares her love of outdoor theatre and acrobatic arts, and gives advice to people about overcoming language barriers…

Where did the original concept of The Wheel House come from?

  • “The initial concept of the rolling show kind of came from Without Walls, a street art organisation. They said that if we created a piece that approached the audience rather than using a stage, they would commission it. So, we started thinking about how we could do that with a wheel structure. One day, my co-performer Barney had the idea of basing the wheel about the home – a moving home — and then the story about the two lovers came later. They are searching for water in an apocalyptic world – it’s about friendship and surviving a very difficult time.”

How does the crowd’s reaction shape the performance?

  • “The crowd definitely affects the performance! We’re travelling around the world and we get to meet a lot of people and interact and talk with the audience. We always talk to as many people as we can and every person has their own interpretation of the show. We get a lot of feedback and different ideas – the theme of the show and the environmental issue attached to it are relevant today and people all over the world can relate to it. The Wheel House is now eight years old but we’re still developing it, so every year it changes slightly and becomes more textured and detailed.”

A lot of good performers struggle with communication. How can they overcome the language barrier?

  • “It is a difficult thing to overcome when you’re touring in different countries. I think the best thing to do when trying to overcome language barriers is to try out your ideas and show your work. Performers should not feel afraid to speak up – and they will be amazed at what people throughout the globe understand. Try to find a way to communicate in a way that is true to what you are.”

In your opinion, how English language can give a lot of opportunities for artists and performers in today’s world?

  • “Being able to converse in the English language is very important – especially when you are touring and working internationally – as it gives you the ability to communicate with other artists and audiences from many cultural backgrounds.”

Check out the tour dates for The Wheel House and other performances by parent company Acrojou here

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