Sarah Houbolt



Circus and Physical Theatre Performer

As a performer, I look for opportunities to grow artistically  in my craft. For me, learning comes through working collaboratively and continually making work. But deep learning comes from joining workshops by and for your tribe, investigating together how we culturally pioneer innovative practice and make work that reflects our process, not just our stories. The work that Jenny Sealey has done with Graeae Theatre holds global (and personal) significance at a time where we desperately need role models and best practice frameworks in Australia. I want to be around other performers who understand the deeper layers of our cultural offering, in a contribution space that is safe and respectful. For Perth International Arts Festival to provide such a space of connection, possibility and professional development is a rare gift.

I first heard of Graeae in 2011, when I lived in New Zealand and was doing research  for a physical theatre creative development. An inquiry to find out about those who had gone before me in order to solidify my practice led to the discovery that Graeae had worked with actors who have the same access requirements as me. There are very few of us in the world who have reached a professional level of physical performance, there is such a gap in opportunity to contribute our authentic selves. With the knowledge of those who have gone before, I was able to keep going. My practice includes principal and lead roles in feature films, guest spots on TV, circus, theatre and dance company work, independent productions, entertainment work, freakshow, and my own full length solo show.

Although I’m very thankful for all of the creative opportunities and jobs I have undertaken so far, in all honesty, it has also been a very lonely and heart breaking journey at times with collaborators, employers and industry absolutely failing to understand who I am, my potential, processes and vulnerabilities. The attitudinal and physical set backs that I’ve experienced as an artist with disability cut deeper than the average actor rejection. So much so, that the majority of my arts career has been spent dismissing and hiding the nuances and needs that I have in relation to my disability in order to escape this, or defending the value of my body’s image and existence. Many pathways are now not worth investing in, however, taking forward all of the experiences that I’ve had so far, I stand before a new pathway. A pathway that leads to acknowledging my vulnerabilities and how access tools like audio description, verbal narrative, and binaural audio will enhance my experience and honour who I intrinsically am.

To get to this point of being ready to acknowledge the positive impact of having full access to a creative development or workshop space, and to articulate it without fear of retaliation, blame, scapegoating, abuse or rejection, I need to experience this rare thing of full access. I need to experience it, and ensure that it happens, over and over again, so that it becomes the norm. I crave it. In my arts career, the very first time I experienced full access in creative development was with Extraordinary Bodies in December 2016. For the first time, I worked on a project with company members who not only understood the skill of audio description on the floor, but who were actually also partially sighted. I’m on a mission to keep the inquiry alive for myself, to stay curious about the form it takes, and to find enriching experiences that are nurturing.

I hope that the Jenny Sealey masterclass offers such an opportunity to expand my practice, be in the room with exceptional peers, and explore together the most exciting territory of the access of aesthetics.


Performance Show reel

SBS The Feed interview for Festival of Dangerous Ideas

SNAP Festival promo for KooKoo the Birdgirl show Nov 2016

The Guardian article on diversity on stage and screen