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Wilbur the Optical Whale creative development

From a creative development to a spot at the Adelaide Fringe Festival (14 Feb – 15 Mar 2020), indelabilityarts’ new show is off to a great start.


Wilbur the Optical Whale is an immersive, interactive and accessible performance for children, which celebrates differences and explores the themes of bullying and acceptance.

Based on the book of the same name by Karen Lee Roberts, indelabilityarts collaborated with key creatives including Flipside Circus creatives and performers (physical story telling), Clint Bolster (clown, mask and slapstick skills) and Elise Greig (story telling development) to bring the story to life through a creative development process.

Incorporating circus tricks, digital and visual imagery, tactile sensory play, music, and spoken word, Wilbur the Optical Whale was presented to test audiences including peers, stakeholders and potential presenters and friends and family at Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Arts (JWCoCA) to positive reviews and feedback.

With feedback from the creative development, indelabilityarts continued to refine the performance, integrating further elements to ensure the performance is accessible for all. Wilbur the Optical Whale premiered at the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2020.

indelabilityarts is an inclusive theatre company that provides professional artistic and training opportunities for artists and community members who identify as having a disability. Through its inclusive practice the company aims to foster acceptance and understanding for those who usually feel marginalised, discriminated against, or excluded from arts practice.


When and where

Development: March to August 2019, JWCoCA, Brisbane


Key stats

  • 1 new work
  • 20 Queensland artists
  • 90 attendees and participants


Arts Queensland contribution

$73,040 support ($40,000 cash support/in kind venue and equipment support valued at $33,040) through the Queensland Arts Showcase Program – Arts Ignite – JWCoCA to support creative development projects of up to four weeks’ duration, and a further optional showing or short performance season at JWCoCA in Brisbane.  




  • The creative development supported indelabilityarts to explore different and alternative story telling methods including digital and circus.
  • Collaborations with Flipside Circus, and artists Clint Bolster and Elise Greig supported indelabilityarts to strengthen their skills across different arts disciplines including circus, music and story development.
  • The development has supported employment opportunities for artists with disability, with further opportunities expected as the performance tours.
  • The work was presented at the arTour Showcase as well as part of the Arts ABLAZE conference in October 2019. Interest was expressed in the production by audience members at each of the events.
  • indelabilityarts was one of 12 successful grant recipients of the Adelaide Fringe Artists Fund Grant in 2019 to support the presentation of Wilbur the Optical Whale at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2020.
  • indelabilityarts premiered the show at the 2020 Adelaide Fringe Festival. Wilbur the Optical Whale was awarded both the Adelaide Fringe 2020 Access Award and the John Chataway Innovation Award (Week 3).


Learnings and reflections

indelabilityarts staff had the following reflections about the creative development:

One of the most beneficial elements of this process was having four separate creative development weeks. This meant we could go away between each week and build skills, further develop scripting ideas and give the work and our artists time and space between each development week.

We are quite often faced with small obstacles that mean we have to change the way we work - we learnt very early on with our ensemble that we need to be flexible and cater to their physical, mental and emotional states.


Feedback and reviews

Our clients (all non-verbal wheelchair users) were engaged for the entire show - lots of smiles and they enjoyed the visual elements - (Emma Workman - Carers Qld Carer).

I think this should travel all over the world (Sebastian 'Basha', 14 years).

Lots of immersive and interactive ideas, it was fun to watch. (Zante, 13 years).

Very excited to see the direction of the show - interactive media is beautiful and set the scene very well - my 3 year old was engaged by the pre-show state and was with the characters from beginning to end (Hana Tow - QT)



Tips for others

Flexibility is key - adapting when things aren't working is a must or moving along with the process if things are moving more quickly than expected.

Check in with your team regularly - make sure you have a producer/production manager who has an eye over all aspects and can report back as required.

Keep good visual and written records of your work - this is great for a) feedback/reviewing and reporting b) future promotion.


What next

A regional tour of Wilbur the Optical Whale in Queensland during 2021 has been confirmed. Several international producers have expressed interest in curating Wilbur the Optical Whale for 2021-2022. 


For further information

indelabilityarts website

Wilbur the Optical Whale promo video 

Wilbur the Optical Whale creative development

Image on Case Study main page: Wilbur and Cecil in Wilbur the Optical Whale, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Photo: Nick Morrissey