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New Dance theatre production is a Requiem to lost lives

26 Jun 2024 5 minute read

A bold new production is set to take place at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff next month which aims to honour the lives of disabled people that were lost during the Covid pandemic.

The production came to life after its creator, choreographer Karol Cysewski, came across a shocking statistic reported in the medical journal The Lancet.

According to the article, the risk of death from COVID-19 between Jan 24 and Nov 30, 2020 was nearly four times greater for people with disabilities than for those without.

Building on his existing research, Karol began to develop Requiem, a multi-sensory performance focusing on the real experience behind this shocking statistic.

Thanks to funding from Arts Council Wales, and support from Chapter and Hijinx Theatre Company, the production will premiere at Chapter Arts Centre as part of Hijinx’s Unity Festival from 4th- 6th July.

Creator of physical performances to challenge, stimulate or tickle your brain, Karol Cysewski is a Cardiff based choreographer, teacher and independent dance artist.

Karol studied at The State Ballet School in Poznan, Poland and went on to train at Laban Centre London graduating in 2001. He has since worked for several dance companies including Polish Dance Theatre, Carte Blanche Norway, and National Dance Company Wales. He teaches regularly at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

His production Wonders of the Universe, in which a trio of bearded professors attempt to dance the story of creation, accompanied by a physics lecture from Brian Cox, received four stars in The Guardian. This was followed by Homo Irrationalis which, performed by three smart yet idiotic male dancers, was a physical and funny mission to discover the true nature of humankind.

In 2024, Karol’s work takes a more serious turn with Requiem – a piece which pairs three dancers with three neurodivergent actors to explore the devastating impact of health inequality.


Karol explains this shift in tone: “With Requiem, we want to honour the loss of all the neurodivergent taken too soon both during the pandemic and more generally in society.

“We want to provoke questions such as: Why should people with disabilities have shorter lives? Why do neurodivergent people suffer poorer health care?

“Aside from nurturing tolerance and compassion, we want to give our disabled artists some agency and support to deal with a challenging and difficult topic.

“We want to show that it is possible, enriching, and necessary to explore such difficult and challenging subject matter with the experience of learning disabled people themselves at the core of the work”. 

Requiem © Kirsten McTernan

The company has created a compelling new performance work that places at its heart the devastating experience of disabled people. A

ccording to Mencap. on average, the life expectancy of women with a learning disability is eighteen years shorter for women and fourteen years shorter for men than in the general population.

Building on previous research and development, Karol and his creative team have made an immersive dance-theatre performance, evoking a multi-sensory environment with sound, light, scents, scenography, and text to question and reflect on this unfairness.

This dance-theatre requiem mourns the neurodivergent people who are prematurely taken away by death.

Requiem is part of Hijinx Unity Festival. Hijinx’s Unity Festival is one of Europe’s largest inclusive arts festivals and the only one of its kind in Wales.

It is presented by Hijinx Theatre, one of Europe’s leading inclusive theatre companies, creating outstanding performances with learning disabled and/or autistic artists on stage and on screen, for Wales and for the world. Hijinx has both an academy for training learning disabled and neurodivergent actors, and an agency for learning disabled and neurodivergent professional actors.


Producer Simon Harris explains further: “Two years ago, Karol and I, along with three dancers, worked with actors from Hijinx academy on a research and development project. 

“The aim was to test the idea of death being an inspiration for a dance work with the participation of neurodivergent performers. What came out of that research was the enormous impact that health inequality has on disabled people and their families.

“Karol has worked widely with Hijinx Academy and knew that the performers we were working with had strong opinions about our subject matter and the talent to convey them. It made us determined to place the experience of disabled people at the heart of the production.

“With more integration into the process, we could empower and enable them, benefitting their confidence, capacity, and skill development. We want to show that disabled people can have agency in creating new artistic work and be at the heart of it.

“Working with Hijinx Academy and their actors was crucial to creating Requiem. This project might be considered an outlier for the participation of neurodiverse people in dance in Wales, seeing it in a fresh light. Our longer-term hope is that voicing inequality brings debate that may lead to change.

“We hope that our show will increase awareness and allow for compassionate reflection.”

Requiem features set design from Ruby Brown, Lighting design from Sophie Moore and a soundscape from Sion Orgon, a Cardiff-based sound designer, experimental composer and multimedia artist whose career spans over two decades. A

dditional text for the production comes from Simon Harris, who as well as producing Requiem, is a respected Welsh playwright. 

Hijinx actors Andrew Tadd (Frantic Assembly), Gareth Clark and Aaron Relf are joined by dancers Harlan Rust (NDCWales, Richard Alston Dance, James Wilton Dance), Gaia Cicolani (Frantic Assembly, NDCWales, WNO) and Kseniia Fedorovykh (Totem Dance Theatre, Kyiv), who moved to Wales from Ukraine due to the Russian invasion at home.

Requiem is at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, from 4-6 July, with audio description available for blind and partially sighted audience members on 5 July.

Tickets for Requiem are available now online from, in person or by telephone.

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