Flight Paths (Extant Online)

Now made available on a permanent basis here, Flight Paths has evolved from a stage production celebrating visually-impaired artists and traditions to a multimedia showcase.

Originally a co-production of Extant and New Earth Theatre, Flight Paths invites the viewer to put on their headphones, choose each of four paths in turn, and learn about the biwi hoshi and goze.

The stage part has transformed into a showcase of strength and resilience from two circus artists: Amelia Cavallo and Sarah Houbolt. As narrator, and in animated form, Aya Nakamura explains both myths and rituals.

Amelia Cavallo and Sarah Houbolt in Flight Paths

This is an enthralling piece of work, mixing live performance and music with archive photographs and projections. It is entirely accessible to those with visual impairment, using both captions and audio description throughout.

Written by Glen Neath, Flight Paths takes verbatim interviews to build a narrative, which is then expanded upon by director Maria Oshodi. The animated visuals created by illustrator Inko Ai Talita feel fresh and engaged with the senses of hearing, smell and touch.

The voices and music of musicians Takashi Kikuchi and Victoria Oruwari are heard in an abstract form, giving this show an ethereal edge. This experience is an immersive piece that delights.

Archive photograph from Flight Paths

The biwa hōshi, or “lute priests”, were the travelling male storytellers of Japanese history in the 13th century. To this day, their tradition endures. This element of storytelling and music is key to the mystical reading of Flight Paths.

The goze are their female equivalents, typically translated as “blind woman”. Independent, yet governed by rules, they created and performed songs across the folk tradition.

In the routines of Cavallo and Houbolt, humour and trust are as important as their skill on the silks they climb and manipulate. Along the way we hear something of the story of “Hoichi the Earless”, a biwa hōshi who was bewitched by spirits.

Flight Paths can be experienced on the Extant website. My thanks to the company for inviting me to review.