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IMG_1706eleven pieces of theatre

Brainstorm
Islington Community Theatre @ Park Theatre, National Theatre, iPlayer
Because I couldn’t love anyone who didn’t love this.

Learning How To Die
Luca Rutherford @ Ovalhouse
Because of how she stood up to her grief.

Some People Talk About Violence
Barrel Organ @ New Diorama, CPT
Because they’re really a band.

Men In The Cities
Chris Goode @ Royal Court
Because of the ferocity, and the ending (and not just because I’m in it).

Life Raft
Fin Kennedy & Melly Still, Bristol Old Vic Youth Theatre
Because it made me itch with suspense, and brilliant young people.

The Gospel According To Jesus, Queen Of Heaven
Jo Clifford @ Summerhall
Because it left me in a place where I had the loveliest conversation with a friend.

People Places & Things
Duncan Macmillan, Headlong & NT
Because of the pivot on ’Lucy’, and Denise Gough.

Lanark (acts 2 and 3)
David Greig, EIF @ Royal Lyceum
Despite almost walking out after Act 1, and because Sandy Grierson.

The Beanfield
Breach Theatre @ C Venues
Because smartest political theatre (and not just because how the internet got me a ticket).

Like You Were Before
Deborah Pearson @ BAC
Because it was transcendent.

Me & Mr C
Gary Kitching, Greyscale @ Oval House
Because it made me laugh hard (and not just because my worst job ever ended up as Gary working in Pigworld).

a gig

Sufjan Stevens
Colston Hall
Just because.

a game

Precariat!
Harry Giles and Adam Dixon @ Coney HQ
Because it was the most fun playing I have had in an aeon.

an unclassifiable

Russell Brand
@ The Proud Archivist
Because I got in by serendipity, and he happened to read me the most important thing I have learnt in decades.

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…some play I’ve loved this year, in roughly chronological order (including 5 seen in the same week). Lots of stuff I missed. But a very good year.

Don Quixote – Frankland & Cooper
Enfant – Boris Charmatz
I’d Rather Goya Robbed Me… – The Gate
Judgment (from The Venus Labyrinth) – Cantabile 2
A View From The Bridge – Young Vic
Adler & Gibb – Tim Crouch
Mr Burns – The Almeida
This Is How We Die – Christopher Brett Bailey
My Body Is A Barrel Of Gunpowder – twowomenmachineshow
Idomeneus – The Gate
The Boy Who Climbed Out His Face – Shunt
Bring The Happy – Invisible Flock
Oh, I Can’t Be Bothered – RashDash
Am I Dead Yet? – Unlimited Theatre
Nothing – Barrel Organ
Kentucky Route Zero (Act 3) – Cardboard Computer

…some play I helped make

Adventure 1
Codename: REMOTE
Solo Two

and on the hush-hush I also helped make this

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[A short piece made and performed on Sunday 28 September at Transmute in the Brighton Digital Festival]

01five

This is a collage of material from Solo Two, a show I was performing on Tuesday Friday and Saturday last week. Together with some other thoughts provoked during the week. A bit like a 7 inch remix, put together today on the rail replacement bus to Brighton.

Solo Two started with an introduction. As does this. So I’d invite you to get into groups of 6 and introduce yourselves to each other. And then see if you can find the most interesting thing that all of you in your group of 6 have in common.

[they discuss and then their commonalities shared to the room]

02emptychairs

So in Solo Two, all the audience is seated on chairs scattered around the room. And all the words I speak are printed on sheets, and dealt to the audience who give them back to me. It’s a piece made up of small pieces which the audience connect up for themselves. Here’s one of those small pieces.

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Here we all are gathered in a room.

How many of us are there? I’m going to do a head count.

Take a look around while I do. And perhaps say hello with your eyes to the other people here.

I make it N people.

It’s a little miracle. This gathering of all of us and only us together in a room. The chance is practically zero that all of us and only us will be gathered again in a room before the end of the world, whenever that might be.

I’ve an empty chair here. There’s a Jewish tradition of leaving a chair empty at the feast, for someone who is not there but you wish that they were.

So we can do this too. If you like, and no worries if you’d rather not, please take out your phone. Open up your phonebook of contacts. Start scrolling through the names. If you don’t have a phone, you can imagine an address book and start leafing through that. And perhaps surprise yourself in picking someone who is dear to you but who hasn’t been in your mind for a little while.

When you’ve chosen someone, imagine them sitting here in this chair. And just let your mind dream out of this room towards whichever room you imagine this person sitting in the chair might actually be.

And whenever you see this chair, you can imagine your friend sitting here.

03einvolksfeind

So on Thursday I went to see An Enemy Of The People at the Barbican. It’s the Ibsen play repurposed by German director Thomas Ostermeier and his team. ‘Enemy Of The People’ translates as Volksfeind in German.

In the original play, Dr Stockmann is the Enemy Of The People. He’s discovered that the water in the town’s spa baths has been poisoned by waste from a factory. But these baths give the town its wealth, and there are too many individuals with vested interest to let this simple truth be told. But Stockmann refuses to shut up. And he calls a meeting in which he addresses the whole town. He’s the individual speaking up against the majority. And he goes very far indeed.

In Ostermeier’s production, we the audience play the town.

We’re addressed by Stockmann. And he goes much further than we expect, not just talking about the poisoned water but a poison he perceives in the minds of everyone in the town.

And Ostermeier puts into Stockmann’s mouth some words from the manifesto The Coming Insurrection, written in 2007 by a radical group The Invisible Committee. The poison in our minds is the creed of individualism. Expressed in an advertising slogan – I AM WHAT I AM

I AM WHAT I AM. My body belongs to me. I am me, you are you, and it’s not going too well. Mass personalization. Individualization of all conditions – of life, work, misery.

I AM WHAT I AM is not just a simple lie, a simple advertising campaign, but a military campaign, a war-cry directed against everything there is between people, against everything that circulates indistinctly, everything that ties them invisibly together, everything that puts an obstacle in the way of perfect desolation, against everything that makes it so we exist and the world doesn’t just look like one big highway everywhere, an amusement park or one of the new cities: pure boredom; passionless, but well-ordered; empty, frozen space where nothing moves besides the duly registered bodies, the automobile molecules and the ideal commodities.

Before cutting back into Ibsen.

The majority never has right on its side. Never, I say! That is one of these social lies against which an independent, intelligent man must wage war. Who is it that constitutes the majority of the population in a country? Is it the clever folk, or the stupid?

And when the discussion is opened up to the floor, for us the audience to make our voice heard, it’s true that we don’t do very well. We’ve been set up to fail. We’re too many voices, we haven’t been scripted, we only have the slogans and clichés and truisms and gags that spring to mind when we’re a crowd straining to make ourselves heard.

A friend of mine criticized Ostermeier for being politically confused. Stockmann is speaking for the individual against the majority, so how can the poison of the majority he rails against be individualism?

But I think Ostermeier was spot on in this juxtaposition.

We’re in an era where a majority is created through a market of individual self-interests, where we are encouraged to speak and vote and purchase on behalf of our own personal freedom, and assured that other people will look after themselves. We’re billions of atomised individuals scrunched up to make a majority, a crowd puppeteered by globalised systems of capital and control. And trying to break step by yourself isn’t impossible, it’s irrelevant.

Back to The Coming Insurrection.

It’s dizzying to see Reebok’s “I AM WHAT I AM” enthroned atop a Shanghai skyscraper. The West is advancing everywhere, with its favorite Trojan horse: the murderous opposition between the “I” and the world, the individual and the group, between attachment and freedom.

Freedom isn’t the gesture of liberation from attachments, but the practical capacity to operate upon them, to move around in them, to establish or cut them off. The freedom to tear oneself out has always been the mere phantom of liberty. We won’t get free of what’s holding us back without losing at the same time that which our strength could be exercised on.

04veronicafriends

Back to Solo Two. For part of it, I was telling the story of someone called Veronica. Someone who is very much herself (although she can’t help but reflect a little bit of her author). One of Veronica’s peculiarities is the way she thinks about friends. Here’s the bit of her story about that.

They say that the Eskimos have 50 words for snow, and that the words don’t just help reflect how they see the white world around them but also shape the way they see it. It always puzzles Veronica then that there are so few words for relationships – if not family then usually fluttering around friend or pal or chum which all mean the same, then flitting towards the bunch of words hanging around lovers. But friends are all different, ones you watch football with, ones you walk home with, the one you call to shout at whenever you have something to shout about – so why do you use much the same word?

Veronica makes new words for all her relationships. You’re my Betty, she says to another girl at school, which puzzles the girl at first because her name is Julie but then pleases her because she thinks Veronica is saying she’s her bestie. But she’s not. She means that the relationship she cherishes with Julie makes her uniquely her Betty. If you asked her what she meant, she’d shrug and say, y’know a Betty.

Sometimes the words are born inside of her. A boy called Ola who has a crush on Veronica aged 15 is disheartened and bewildered when she announces that he is her Puddenglimp. Dan is The Whiskery Cardinal, Jackson her Gingery Tom, while Emily Frost is confusingly her Emily, but this cannot be said of her relationships with Emily Dixon, Emily Frankland, or Emily Goode – who are respectively Huggy, The Solveig, and My Imaginator.

05monkey

Today I was remembering the TV show Monkey. Or Mon-kayyyyy!

It’s something I loved when I was a kid. A Japanese TV show based on the Chinese novel Journey to the West, filled with chopsocky action and delicious over-acting.

Monkey and friends were on a never-ending quest for Buddha.

Not so much a superhero team as a motley gang of friends.

06fivefriends

But they all had superpowers for me.

Monkey is someone who reminded me to be brave.

Tripitaka is someone who reminded me to take good care.

Pigsy is someone who made me laugh.

Sandy is someone who reminded me to think clearly.

Horse is someone who might carry me if I needed carrying.

So, you can probably see where this is going…

Remember your friend who’s sitting here.

I wonder if they were one of Monkey’s gang for you, which one would they be?

Monkey? Tripitaka? Pigsy? Sandy? Or Horse?

Just like Veronica called her friend her Betty, which of these five names might you choose to describe your friend sitting here?

Monkey, Tripitaka, Pigsy, Sandy, or Horse?

For the reasons I suggested, or for your own reasons?

And now, here are 4 more empty chairs. Perhaps you can fill more of these.

IMG_9891

If you take out your phone again, I wonder if you might scroll through and find any more friends to dub with any of the remaining titles? Can you even edit their contact details so you add Monkey Tripitaka Pigsy Sandy or Horse to their names?

You can do this by yourself or rejoin your group or other friends and tell them about the friends you’re choosing and why.

Finally. This is only the beginning.

This is a number for you. If you like, text HELLO.

And over the coming days you’ll receive a series of text messages, each with a small challenge you might choose to take.

You can stop at any time. But I hope that you will continue. Wherever this goes.

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ACT 1

During Act 1, people are invited to tweet the view of wherever they are in that moment. These are read out at intervals to everyone in the room.

MONDAY 22

@kieranlucas

ByJ7bt_IMAAAS_t

@thederminator Soundtrack to my view – new Aphex Twin: http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Syro/9847481 … #solotwo – live from Brum…

@thederminator My view

ByJ_ERdIgAAlDzx

@ADatMill Front room, hidden beer

ByKEF7_IYAAB_v2

@georgiecannon My view: @glyncannon at rest…

ByKBi9VIcAED2Eo

@patrickashe A hot and sweaty victoria line carriage heading to Brixton, a man practicing his handwritten lines.

@dandysocpic

@jasonjcrouch This is what I can see now

ByJ5cTiIIAAcRXj (1)

TUESDAY 23

@fionamcgeown plum pie

ByPeU5dIAAA_crl

@katecraddock right now snug on a sofa and breast feeding my beautiful baby boy

ByPRUk_IEAAi_1U

@alhimself Provo, Utah. Mormons and Mountains. No booze. No caffeine. How to sleep/wake?

ByPOZ5yCUAAvS3f

@iamfinlay Amongst actors preparing for the first preview of David Hare’s The Vertical Hour.

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@followellie In a cosy Bristol sitting room, digitally connected to @battersea_arts

ByPYdM4IIAAM-KT

@BPMonkey Looking out over a wild and wet west yorkshire. The first day of autumn…

ByPIgL3IEAAuMVD

@BPMonkey …only half an hour ago I was toasting marshmellows around a fire.

ByPI-AUIUAArWo9

@afreenaazaria My view

ByPOC_VIcAA8uy3

@Fergus_Evans still at work and wishing I was at the theatre with you!

ByOlVnWIYAATd4M

FRIDAY 26

@hannahsibai Back in Leeds and avec curry

ByemccTCIAEn6H6

@KelseaWoods an American coffee shop… all the way down in Columbia, South Carolina

ByeqhWJIAAA3-Oa

@peckhamshell in a dark room settling the kids

@shiponhighseas sitting in one corner of bed. Cupboard is slightly open with a table lamp switched on inside.

@alexrowse on a crowded, sweaty train leaving London. Have a seat.

ByemaXHIcAA_OsY

@moongolfer I’m on a 432 to Crystal Palace top deck. man in front of me has nice tartan hoodie

@ammonite a messy study in fading light. Need to switch the light on.

@davidfinig out the window of a housing estate in battersea, 15 mins down the hill from all you charming ppl right now.

ByelUHlIUAAAJDF

SATURDAY 27

@hannahnicklin

Byj3c3fIEAEPC5F

@judecchristian – Inching through Piccadilly. Night, breeze, quietly chatting strangers all around (serenity, London-style).

Byj3wUbCcAAm7fD

@matttrueman

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@wilhelminapitfa NYC subway. Floor view. Now.

Byj5PWPIcAIWHc8

@shysecretagent Lisbon, hotel Alif, my room.

Byj6rodIYAAlBai

@gregwohead Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. Walking towards lunch.

Byj28N0IAAEmhxK

@TobyPeach watching the football over someone’s shoulder

ByjuWpxIQAAk5xP

@StewartLegere driving to the airport

ByjvLPLIEAE8HL9

@jasonjcrouch

Byjy8F7IQAA_mTF

@alexrowse tonight, Tassos, I’m watching my aunt cook all my favourite Malaysian food.

ByjykwcCIAANSJ0

@BPMonkey The view from the tech gallery. I mean of course where I am now, not at #solotwo :)

BykGsJaIQAETibT

@iamfinlay

866937908

 

ACT 2

During Act 2, the audience in the room at Battersea talk amongst themselves answering a set of questions. Audience online on Facebook talk amongst themselves answering the same questions. Some answers are shared between the theatre and online.

Here are the audience in Battersea smiling and waving to the online audience.

MONDAY 22: to Iain in Bradford, Laura in Birmingham, Phoebe in Canterbury, Hilary in Dublin.

photo(8)

TUESDAY 23: to Ivan in Bradford, Astrid in Bristol, Dee in Dublin, Ellie in Bristol, Ramona in Bradford, Kate in Newcastle, Sophie in Dublin.

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FRIDAY 26: to Ellie in Leeds, Hannah in Leeds.

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SATURDAY 27: to Jamie and friends in Newcastle.

Act2BatterseaSat

 

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I return to playing Solo Two this week at Battersea Arts Centre (thank you, Shelley Hastings). This will be the 4th stretch of time I’ve spent on it, and the first outside Theatre in the Mill where I developed it from March 2013. It feels like it might be very close to finished.

solotwodance
[Me and Dan, reflected in a dance studio]

I spent a brilliant day in Bristol a month ago with Dan Canham working through the dancing again from first principles and properly nailing it dramaturgically (I hope) – he gave me one of my favourite notes “I don’t believe you’re really out of breath”, looking exactly like this as he did. But it’s a very new format for the dancing, and I’m even more nervous than usual to do it for an audience because it’s clearly the big selling point down here in London.

There was one more piece of writing to be done, inspired by remembering a small child dancing in a shop in Dalston, and one removed to balance it up. The text has now otherwise entered the stage of tweaking and polishing. Although the format dictates I’ll have the script in my hand, I’m trying to learn it as best I can, and wondering if it’s going to find room inside my brain what with Jimmy Stewart still haunting my hippocampus.

Tomorrow I’ve got the day with the marvellous Kieran Lucas, who is taking over the seat hotted up by Ivan Mack in Bradford and operating the lights according to a brief Ivan has drawn up, more like the rules of a game and instructions to download photographs of zen gardens.

I have the usual anxieties but remembering that my very favourite element of the whole night is the kind of interaction I try to facilitate with the audience. I described it earlier as hoping to be like an augmented version of the kind of interaction you’ll have with other people in an audience when you have a good night at the theatre. It was driven by a brilliant direction Maddy Costa gave me when I was fishing for provocations to take into the room: see if you can get the audience to remember each other as much as they remember you. This is an audience both present in the room with me, but also in other rooms all over the world, wherever they are, connected very simply online.

Which is where you come in, wherever you are. There are two ways to take a small (but meaningful, I reckon) part online.

You can take part in Act 1 via Twitter by following either @tassosstevens or @solotwotheatre for live instructions from the start of Act 1 that night.

You can take part in Act 2 via Facebook by liking a post I’ll make on the page www.facebook.com/solotwo (and friending me if we’re not already) then be alert for a message from me at the start of Act 2.

I’m doing an open dress rehearsal on Mon 22 and then three public performances on Tue 23, Fri 26, and Sat 27 from 7pm – for which you can book tickets HERE.

Mon 22
Act 1 from soon after 6.30pm, Act 2 from roughly 7.45pm.

Tue 23, Fri 26, Sat 27
Act 1 from soon after 7.00pm, Act 2 from roughly 8.15pm.

[all times are UK local time]

Thanks for being here.

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helloiris

As part of the Geohack workshop in the Fascinate Conference in Falmouth, I spent two days working aboard a ferry boat. The Tamar Belle runs the 20 minute route between Falmouth and St Mawes. It’s a little boat that dreams of adventure.

I ended up collaborating with Tiia Veneranta from the university, and two brilliant friends I’d never collaborated with before: Rich Warburton from Invisible Flock and Jason Crouch from Contact.

On our first trip, J.R. Carpenter joined us to read from her thesis “Transportation as Communication, from Tall Ships to Packet Switching”, musing amongst many other things on the analogies between the common language of digital networks and shipping networks – the maritime origins of words like router (from rudder), port, ping, for instance – no surprise perhaps when telecommunications 1000 years ago would be a messenger aboard a ship. This was a wonderful provocation firing ideas around the fluid substrate of digital communication networks.

We dreamt up a piece people could play as they took the boat from one phonebox in Falmouth docks to another lurking in an alleyway in St Mawes. At the heart of this, the character of Iris, named for the mythological messenger of the rainbow, a spirited and capricious messenger of the networks addicted to the romance of long-distance communication. And how to make something of the patchy phone reception: the ferry is a boat of routine travel, but it might daydream of drifting into uncharted water; good mobile reception exists in the routes the satellites map of where people most commonly travel, so to have patchy reception means that you’re at the edge of the map.

We spent several trips making field recordings and conversations with passengers, people and dogs: the man who crewed the tea bar and his very nervous dog, the locals ruminating on how long the oil tankers wait offshore before the prices fall, the father and son fishing for crabs using bacon as bait, the mother and daughter trying on her (you couldn’t make this up) sequinned mermaid costume.

We didn’t have time to make the piece we dreamed, but there are a few little pieces of material we scratched in no time at all for a sharing to the rest of Geohack, and which can be shared with you now.

With a UK mobile, you can follow the instruction I’m holding up top – text HELLO IRIS to 01326 702037 – to discover some of what we made.

And you can watch this film by Jason Crouch for more.

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A delivery organised with @davidfinig on behalf of CC, as part of 34 Bristols.

CC

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Tan’kai is an ancient contest for Samurai warriors, played with two discs of razor-sharp bronze. Myself and friends – James, Ben, Rupert, Bill, and others – discovered the rules in a manuscript in the London Fields Library in 2001, and adapted for playing with frisbees.

There are two warriors and one referee. The referee is indispensable, being a conduit to the gods. The warriors each choose a disc.

The two warriors stand facing each other. They stand at a distance set by the referee, often equal to six or seven beheaded warriors laid out neck to toe, but it may be any distance. They bow to each other.

The referee stands to the side, so that the gods through their eyes can witness the entire field of play. When the gods are ready, the referee shouts ‘Tan’kai!’ and play commences.

Both warriors throw their disc at the other, both throwing as close to the same moment as is possible. They each catch the other’s thrown disc, and throw it back; play so continues.

If, in the eyes of the gods through the judgement of the referee, a warrior drops a catchable disc, or throws an uncatchable disc, then they lose the point, awarded to their opponent.

In the unusual circumstance where both discs strike each other and fall to the ground then play is briefly suspended while a goat is sacrificed* in thanks to the gods for their mercy in extending the life of the warrior destined to be the loser. No point is awarded.

The referee announces the score after each point. It is scored in the language of the gods – zero (0), ichi (1), ni (2), san (3). The warrior first to san wins. The loser is beheaded**, with a cry of Tan’kai!

*Sometimes the sacrifice is omitted, but thanks must still be given.

**Under exceptional circumstances, their life is spared and they are next to referee.

Variations

The game of Tan’kai was played, according to legend, in open ground in the space between two trees. The presence of the trees acted as a deterrent to warriors looking to throw their disc behind their opponent.

The variation of Kan’tai was played, according to legend, in open ground beside the same trees. The warriors now could choose to throw into the wind behind their opponent.

The variation of Ru’kai was invented by the warrior Ru, according to legend finding himself in the endless nights of the tundra. This variation is played in the light of a flaming torch. It may be adapted in the modern city for the pool of a street lamp.

The variation of (…)kai, some say was the original game of which Tan’kai is the variation. (…) marks a pause marking the absence of a syllable too terrible ever to be heard by human ear, therefore never uttered. (…)kai is played in pitch darkness. It is an honour for only the most enlightened to referee a game of (…)kai.

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BY5PYuwCEAAu0is.jpg_large

Here is how you can take part remotely, wherever you are, in tonight’s performance of Solo 2, while I am with the audience at Theatre in the Mill in Bradford.

You can take part in Act 1 (Twitter) or Act 2 (Facebook) or both. It’s all a big experiment.

You can take part in Act 1 via Twitter. Follow me @tassosstevens and watch my feed for “#solotwo GO”. Act 1 starts shortly after 7.35pm GMT. If you tweet at me any time after that with #solotwo plus the view of whatever you can see as you are tweeting wherever you are, there’s a good chance it (and you) will pop up live in the room.

You can take part in Act 2 via Facebook. This is likely to start around 8.35pm GMT. All you need to do to register is like this post in Facebook. I will set you up to have a short chat, with other person(s) you possibly don’t know, together to answer a question which the live Act 2 audience will also be discussing. I’ll bring your answers into the room.

Act 1, be ready for my tweet with “#solotwo GO” shortly after 7.35pm, and then over to you to tweet.

Act 2, just like this post on Facebook to say that you’ll likely be around for the short chat probably around 8.35pm.

Yeah?

 

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photo(1) BACchair
in Bradford, 2013-14; in Battersea, 2014

It’s a little miracle. This gathering of all of us and only us together in a room. The chance is practically zero that all of us and only us will be gathered again in a room before the end of the world, whenever that might be.

I’ve an empty chair here. There’s a Jewish tradition of leaving a chair empty at the feast, for someone who is not there but you wish that they were here.

So we can do this too. If you like, and no worries if you’d rather not, take out your phone. Open up your phonebook of contacts. Start scrolling through the names. And perhaps surprise yourself in picking someone who is dear to you but who hasn’t been in your mind for a little while.

When you’ve chosen someone, imagine them sitting here in this chair. And just let your mind dream out of this room towards whichever room you imagine this person sitting in the chair might actually be.

And whenever you see this chair, you can imagine your friend here.

A text from Solo 2.

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Here’s what I’ve made (mostly) outside Coney.

Some following in this post category.

More listed here.

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I’m developing a new solo theatre piece with the support of Theatre In The Mill in Bradford.

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I’d first presented material as a short piece in a cabaret curated by Kate Genevieve in Brighton on 21st December 2012, a night called The End Of The World for the Mayan prophecy. I called it The Ends Of The World then, so in Bradford in March 2013 it became After The Ends Of The World. I’m going back to Bradford for a week soon, and changing the title again so for now it’s Solo 2. I’ll be joined for a couple of days in Bradford by my brilliant buddy Dan Canham to help me work on it.

…a desire to continue playing in this vein, and a circling flock of fragments of ideas. I’m pretty sure it will be about interconnectedness with friends and strangers, the transient and seemingly inconsequential interactions that make up a life. I want to take the performance situation, the gathering of mostly strangers that is the audience in the room with me – a group that are together for this transient moment – as a model and see how it resonates. I’ve got… the story of Joybubbles (google him and the Radiolab episode by which I first heard his story); some social psychology including group theory and the Dunbar number; blasts and counterblasts around Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together; the moment at the end of a recent Godspeed! gig where the feedback from the instruments left on the empty stage seemed to open the roof; a feeling I had a few months ago sitting in a room with an Indonesian student in Launceston in Tasmania, telling him a story and marvelling at what had happened to bring us both together there; This Is Water by David Foster Wallace.

Tornadic. Like The Pale King. Not a linear narrative and not static but in motion, in fact I’m dancing.

Joybubbles is going and I think the protagonist now will be a female version of Holden Caulfield, far away from me. The real me still frames this.

I’d met the dancer and choreographer Flora Wellesley Wesley (thanks to her) recently at Devoted & Disgruntled, and asked her if we could spend a few hours in a studio exploring some ways for me to be in the space without me talking. We played carefully with gaze, proximity and orientation, and how those connected and might be read. This was vital to get me started. In exchange for this help, I gave her some time on something concerning her.

I asked a few people in the days just before I went for a provocation. I only asked people who’d already seen Jimmy Stewart…, and whom I was naturally coming into contact with. I explained I wanted this new piece to be same but different in its bundle of qualities from Jimmy, that if it was about any thing it was about ‘connection’, and that the real gathering of people in the room would be important.

For these provocations I received, I responded as follows.

Maddy Costa (thanks to her) said to find ways for the audience to remember each other as much as they remembered me. I asked the audience while still in the bar to find the most interesting thing in common that the most of them shared. One night had all nursed sick animals back to health, the other had all had woken from dreams while falling. I also asked them near the end of the show to discuss whether common interests or happening to be in the same time same place was more important for making friends, and left them alone for 5 minutes to discuss this.

Susanna Davies-Crook (thanks to her) said I should find an animal to be in the space, and be that animal for 5 minutes. I demonstrated the difference between cats and dogs in terms of their gaze and attention, and then when the audience were discussing the question of friends, I left them alone by being a cat.

Barney George (thanks to him) said I should make a mirror in the space to reflect the audience or myself, and that the mirror could be metaphorical. I reflected myself by distributing 25 names in the audience, names of people with whom I was once connected, and read out a short history of me with them when that name were shown to me. Those then reflected back to the audience.

Pete Cant (thanks to him) said I should kill a chicken during the week. I cheated this a bit. I ordered a lot of chicken dishes from Shilmas curry house.

Tom Frankland (thanks to him) asked me to consider social networks like Facebook and Twitter and the values we place on them, and if there were a way to make a lo-fi version of the network in the space. This became the Twitter shout-out.

I emailed Gemma Brockis (thanks to her) if she could recommend a tango track that was light on its feet. She said La Ultima Curda. I bought this and it ended up played through my phone as I tango’d (badly).

Fiona McHardy (thanks to her) had already given me the track Big Love by Matthew E White which stuck in my head as the soundtrack, and got played through my phone at points.

I rang Dan Canham (thanks to him) and asked if he could talk me through how he understood viewpoints and if he could help me devise a solo viewpoints methodology with which I could play by myself and with the audience. We talked for a while and it helped me move around the space.

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Earpiece is a live game for three players made for Coney by myself together with sound artist Tom Haines and voice Gemma Saunders. Music is by The London Snorkelling Team.

Three agents. The Controller whispering instructions in your ear.
Only one of you can win. Act accordingly.

It’s precisely 12 minutes 29 seconds long.

It was developed in two Hide & Seek Sandpits and first played in Come Out & Play in New York, operated by Chris Till and Tara Gladden. It’s since run in many places, and is very easy to send anywhere – if you’d like it, drop a line to earpiece@allplayall.net and I’ll send you links and instructions.

It’s flawed – it can leave some players frustrated without reflecting back to them why that frustration is a thing – but I’m really proud of it. I love the sustained uncertainty it creates.

Here’s the first two minutes.

 

 

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I was a guest artist in this project curated by Lorne Campbell of Northern Stage for the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013. Lorne wanted a space to talk about Scottish independence and commissioned six artists to make their own long-form border ballads. Two of these played the first half of each night. But then in the second half, an epic ballad of 20 verses composed over the course of the festival, about a foundling child discovered floating down the river Tweed the night of Scottish independence, each verse 5 years of her life and composed by a new guest artist.

I was verse 16. I saw up to verse 15 the night before and was symbolically handed the verse by that night’s guest Hannah Nicklin. I got Aly Macrae, the folk musician who’d composed the first verse and chorus, to sing the chorus down my phone outside the pub. I had 20 hours to compose my verse and I needed this to hand.

Here’s me doing my verse (all the verses are on Youtube)

This was the most beautiful gift-chain to be a link of, and a gorgeously talented chaotic ensemble to be a part of. It was joyous to watch The Deaf And Hearing Ensemble take on the baton the following night and see what they did with where I’d left them.

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After Papa Sangre, Somethin Else were approached to make a new audio game in double quick time as part of a marketing campaign for Wrigleys gum. This turned out better than it sounds…

nightjar_01

The Nightjar
is a shorter game that is more on rails than Papa Sangre, but no bad thing. It’s in space, a bit like Aliens, although these monsters were distinctly wriggly insects, a double-headed millipede-slinky. There’s a brilliant script from Neil Bennun but otherwise the same team as Papa Sangre. Benedict Cumberbatch is the voice of the potentially unreliable navigator, together with a dream cast of Finlay Robertson, Melanie Wilson, and Gemma Brockis; all of whom I got to direct.

Here reviews. It was nominated for two BAFTA’s for sound design and mobile game.

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Papa Sangre is a game played with your ears and in your imagination. It’s a world conjured entirely in sound, a land of the dead – I imagined the passage through Duat towards the Egyptian afterlife, squatted by day of the dead demons on a five-day binge. You are summoned to this kingdom of Papa Sangre to rescue the soul of someone dear to you. You follow a trail of musical notes, walking with your thumbs, but if you make a sound by tripping or stepping on chicken bones, then the monsters in this pitch-black world will hear you and run to devour you.

Entering the Palace of Bones from Papa Sangre on Vimeo.

Papa Sangre was built from a seed of a live game called Blood & Potatoes or Sangre y Patatas, which I’d run in workshops and rehearsals. I dreamed up the world and led the game design, working with a team including sound artist Nick Ryan and coder Adam Hoyle, and produced by Somethin Else; I also directed the voice actors. It was a commission by the now-deceased 4IP, Channel 4’s digital arm, to make a game which could be played by visually-impaired players as well as sighted.

Some reviews here.

Papa Sangre 2 is almost out at time of writing. I fed into the game design and tried a live design process. Neil Bennun crafted the world for this one, and Max and Ben Ringham did the sound.

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