Wednesday 24 June 2009

Rehearsing Lonely Creatures

There were two main issues confronting us during the rehearsals for Lonely Creatures at Manchester the Green Room. The first was that the disparate pieces making up the performance would form some greater whole. The second was that the sound balance would allow the voices on the various film soundtracks be discernable over the live music.

When preparing the six individual films for the performance, Howard Walmsley had stripped off the original sound design and musical accompaniment, leaving only the voice reading my text. As none of the readers were professionals, having been chosen for the natural quality of their voice and delivery alone, there was a real danger that the music and electronic sounds would make them less effective. I wasn’t worried so much about the three new live texts I was reading – ‘Alien Metal’, ‘I Am the Uniform’ and ‘The Promise’ – as the audience would clearly see their delivery. When the voice is coming out of speaker stack and bears no apparent connection to the visuals on the screen, it becomes a slightly more complex issue.

The stage had been arranged so that Howard Walmsley and Graham Massey would be playing on the right side of the stage while Dave and Luke of Hot Bone would be directly opposite them on the left. I had my lectern set up in the far right-hand corner of the stage area, with two female singers opposite me on the left. Together we formed three walls of a box, leaving the fourth open to the audience so they had clear access to the screen to watch the films while we performed.

What made Lonely Creatures such a fascinating piece to work on was that most of its constituent parts had been turned inside out. The performance area had been hollowed out leaving their performers on the outside edge of the space. The films, which already felt as if their content had been inverted due to the deliberate lack of coordinated audiovisual action at their core, had been hollowed out even further, having been reduced to sequences of images and texts and nothing else. The abrupt changes of change and mood, content and delivery, also meant that the piece had no discernable continuity whatsoever: were we rehearsing a film show, a theatre piece or a concert? Hybrid forms such as this have to establish their own parameters. The transition from rehearsals to the actual performance is entirely about this process.

Pictured above: Howard Walmsley tunes up; Graham Massey gets wired; my lectern in the far right corner of the stage; Howard Walmsley responds to the lighting test

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