‘We ask these questions of everybody’

Computer generated drawing of a woman‘We Ask These Questions of Everybody’: Hera‘s Digital Opera by Amble Skuse & Toria Banks, plus a Q&A.

We Ask These Questions of Everybody is a digital opera, performed by an exceptional cross-genre, all-disabled ensemble. Made remotely by artists shielding at home during the COVID pandemic, its both by and for people who cannot attend theatre or music in person. Includes creative captioning and integrated audio description. The pre-recorded performance was followed by a live discussion chaired by Together! 2012 Artistic Director Dr Ju Gosling (video above).

Hannah needs help. She meets Lynn. Lynn works for a company that works for the Department of Work and Pensions. An assessment takes place. And then something else.

The 50-minute audio experience transforms the transcript of a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefits interview with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). An encounter between two women, a listener at home, and a riotous chorus of disabled voices, it shares disabled peoples experiences under austerity in the UK, as well as radical, surprising and utopian perspectives on self, society and the body. The work is fully digital. It is pre-recorded, but it is not a record of a live event happening elsewhere. It is an intimate audio experience, culminating in a shared moment of (real or imaginary) dance. 

Composer & Sound Designer: Amble Skuse
Writer & Director:
Toria Banks
Creative Captioner:
Laura Spark
Cast: Victoria Oruwari, Steph West
Players: Steph West, Dr Sonia Allori, Clarence Adoo MBE
Chorus (Interviewees):  Anonymous; Ricky Buchanan; Professor Fiona A Kumari Campbell; Laura Cantliff; Cat Dafydd; Miro Griffiths; Daisy Mai Higman; Sophie Meekings; Clare Johnston; F R Kesby; Ben Lunn; Nabil Shaban; Vickery Stamp; Simon Startin; Sheri Wells-Jensen; Libby Welsh.

View the trailer (1m 30 secs) here: https://bit.ly/3z5BLFZ

Reviews, Sound Festival 2021

Politically important and an artistic triumphAstonishing: elegant, enraging, restlessly inventive

Skuses music has a complex, absorbing geometry. Its delicate tunes are wound into fidgety fugues and counterpoint, the tension and bludgeoning repetitiveness of the central encounter vibrating through every phrase.

The i    ★★★★★

HERAs powerful and timely exposé of systemic ableism There is horror and fury, but also beauty, wisdom and resilience.

The Stage   ★★★★

Profoundly articulates the lived physical and emotional nuance surrounding disabilityNew meaning and mood is continuously developed with a stirring musicality.

A Younger Theatre   ★★★★

With staggering urgency and grace writer-director Toria Banks and composer Amble Skuse have managed a careful balance A uniquely disabled narrative, baring itself bravely and honestly in the face of government austerity We Ask These Questions of Everybody is an insistent reminder that this years wave of digital theatre offers more than Zoom puppet shows and Youtube bootlegs. It has found, or rather created, a transposable form of theatre that is profoundly relevant to the digital lives we lead now, where words can question the institutions built to suppress us, form resilient communities out of neglected individuals, and even incite the re-evaluation of the lifestyles we take for granted, and which may harm or exclude others.”

Theatre Weekly   ★★★★

Draws out something poetic from seemingly ordinary conversations that collectively send a powerful message about the vital importance of acceptance and expression. A unique and touching production that should be viewed widely.

The Upcoming  ★★★★

A compelling piece of drama, told very inventivelyHighly recommended – much praise to all involved: this needs to be seen!

London Theatre 1   ★★★★

Some Audience Comments

thank you for such an amazing opera. this was a story that so deeply needed telling. it really made me feel seen and validated me and my disability. thank you.

This is brilliant – thank you for making it freely available. I have Long Covid and a chronic pain condition. It made me cry. X

Oooof! That was extraordinary. Uplifting. Arresting. Delicate. Damming. Thanks.

hello! Loved the performance! So informative and poignant. Hope to see more of this kind of art in the future.

Not a fan of opera but using this mixed media to tell a story about benefits and the assessment process is great. I hope it reaches a wide audience. I notice that filmmakers screen their films in Parliament, so perhaps this should do the same.

thank you. that was shattering and so full of insight.

Beautiful, emotional, something completely new

Incredible piece of work, hard and painful to watch, but everyone should.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful work with us!!! We are really pleased we could watch the premiere from so far away online 🙂 It is great to hear work that brings together these voices and to have this complexity of different experiences expressed artistically. It is also just so very beautiful.

Thank you so much for creating this. I can’t fully put into words how incredible, powerful and vital this is. Congratulations to everyone involved in making this – it’s an amazing piece of art. Thank you.

This has given a different space to be in, to listen in, to participate in. Thank you all.

Brilliant. Thank you ALL for your voices.

All Festival events include BSL interpretation and live captions.
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Together! 2021 Disability History Month Festival. 11 November-9 December 2021. www.together2012.org.uk A Month of inclusive Dance, Drama, Exhibitions, Family Activities, Films, Poetry and conversations, all free and from the comfort of your own home. Including the international Together! 2021 Disability Film Festival. Supported by the National Lottery Community Fund and Arts Council England.