Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sound and Sight

An essential aspect of our performance is the notion of the senses, how they can be manipulated, and what they are subjected to. During our most recent group meeting, we became highly interested in creating an exhibition-style setting. Since we are performing in a studio, the setting offers a blank canvas and bleakness, which we hope will give our performance more impact. For example, at this moment in time we have designed the studio space to have various objects and boxes located in the room. The audience will be free to roam the space during the performance, and choose what they wish to focus on and when. In order to give the sense of the setting being blank and clinical, like the contemporary museums that society are used to,  we will display artefacts on pillars and boxes. We also wish to display objects from the ceiling, which will give the setting another perspective for the audience.

An artefact that we are particularly interested in is a dog lead. In an ordinary world, a dog lead is a fairly uninteresting object and is purely used to keep an owner attached to their dog on a walk. However, we wish to subvert aspects of everyday life and will present the dog lead as a form of torture and tool for keeping a human imprisoned. We hope that the audience will gradually understand how we are destabilising everyday life during the performance. Our idea restates the work of Tim Etchells and as he does with language, our performance will be “demolishing sense, attacking […] charges to the earth and to sanity” (Etchells 1999, p. 98). Thus, the codes of life and semiotics of performance will be warped, in order to present the cruel world of entrapment.

Another aspect of the performance is that we will be hidden inside boxes. The three boxes will be closed and positioned in the exhibition setting, without any deliberate attention given to their presence. The boxes represent the theme of being trapped. Also, the fact that they are posed as inanimate objects to the audience will also suggest the way in which the young women that were held hostage for over a decade in their own neighbourhood were undetected by the local community, who were unaware that the women were so close by.

The boxes will enable us to experiment with sound. For example, they provide a division between us (the performers) and the audience. The idea is similar to Etchell’s account of voices through walls, where he states that “language [is] reduced to its raw shapes, where listening, you do not know the words but you can guess what is being spoken of” (1999, p. 103). As a result, the wooden walls of the box will achieve a muffled effect on our voices, which effectively deconstructs language, and instead an audience must work to rebuild what they hear.

The use of film in our performance will exaggerate our theme of entrapment and present the world from a fragmented perspective. We aim to blur the sense of reality by combining pre-recorded footage of typical aspects of life, with live clips of the three of us inside the boxes. Again, Etchells presents the blurring in Certain Fragments. Etchells states that writing in performance can involve “mixing, matching, cutting, pasting. Conscious, strategic and sometimes unconscious, out of control” (1999, p. 101). Of course, here he is discussing writing in performance, yet the system applies to our confused presentation of the live and the pre-recorded film.

Overall, the ideas that we have discussed so far are centred on how society sees life, and how the performance can subvert an audience’s understanding. Our performance consists of hypermedia, since the recorded sounds scapes and live/non-live films are essential to conveying our theme. With a combination of sound and the layering of film, “a new energy is released, which directly, that is to say, physically affects a shock experience” (Kattenbelt 2008, p. 26) Furthermore, the audience will be subjected and the manipulation metaphorically suggests a sense of torture, since we are in control of their senses.

By Sophie Bullivant


Works Cited:

Etchells, T. (1999) Certain Fragments, London: Routledge.

Kattenbelt, C. (2008) ‘Intermediality in Theatre and Performance: Definitions, Perceptions and Medial Relationships’, Culture, Language and Representation, 6 (2008) pp. 19-29.


An Experience

The notion of a performance as an experience and event in its own right is becoming a demand in contemporary society. Marina Abramovic states that “the public always, until now, have had this role of being voyeurs, of not actually participating” (Kaye 1996, p. 187) and I am personally very interested in how theatre can be a unique experience for each individual audience member, and the techniques that help to create that outcome. Punchdrunk and the National Theatre are currently staging The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, at Temple Studios in London. The promenade piece is an example of how performance can be immersive, rather than a typical theatre setting, which can be seen as a passive experience for an audience. The performance enables the audience to make choices about which room they should enter and when. Consequently, every audience member sees a different perspective of the performance, depending on what they chose to see, chose to miss, and the order that they took that journey. Furthermore, the performance expresses the idea that Your curiosity is key. The more you explore, the richer your experience will be. Delve in, be bold, and immerse yourself” (National Theatre 2013). The idea reiterates the importance of a contemporary audiences’ own reaction to a performance, and how an audience can gain more simply by ‘letting themselves go’.

Photo: Google Images - The Drowned Man by Punchdrunk and National Theatre [accessed

Photo: Google Images – The Drowned Man by Punchdrunk and the National Theatre [accessed 30 October 2013]

It could be argued that there must be a principle of subtlety when creating a unique, personal experience for a contemporary audience, as their own life experiences and knowledge of the theme should help them to shape their own meanings. For example, Emily, Libby and I have been influenced by the story of the Cleveland hostages, in Ohio, United States of America, where three young women were kidnapped and held captive for over ten years in Ariel Castro’s home. The story is particularly pertinent to us, since we are a group of three females, and we feel that this significance can help to portray the story more effectively. However, we are steering away from the idea of a naturalistic depiction, as we feel that the themes of imprisonment and abuse would be more effective when dealt with in a subtler manner.

The fact that The Drowned Man is being performed in Temple Studios is also highly significant, as the location was a famous film studio during the 1950s. The performance alludes to themes of glitz and glamour and the cutthroat world of stardom, which is evermore resonant within the setting and evokes a sense of fascination for the audience. Furthermore, Punchdrunk are known for their creation of “sensory theatrical worlds” (Punchdrunk 2013), thus reverberating this notion of the audience being an essential part of the performance. In relation to our performance ideas, we will obviously be unable to use a realistic location, but we are hoping to create a sense of violence and captivity through symbolic installations in a studio setting. For example, to hang a dog lead from the ceiling would suggest the brutality that the young women faced, but still remains eerily understated for the audience, who can then imagine for themselves. We understand that the topic must be dealt with sensitively, and these symbolic allusions to the hostage story enable us to deal with the topic from an unobtrusive perspective.

By Sophie Bullivant


Works Cited:

Kaye, Nick (1996) Art into theatre: performance interviews and documents. London: Routledge.

National Theatre (2013) The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable. [online] National Theatre. Available from [Accessed 18 October 2013].

Punchdrunk (2013) Punchdrunk: Company. [online] Punchdrunk. Available from [Accessed 24 October 2013].


Intermediality in Performance

“One contributing factor to the change in paradigm might be that our contemporary culture has become a media culture” (Kattenbelt 2008, p.20).

Something we have experimented with in the contemporary performance module is the use of sound media. Preliminary ideas within my performance group were to create a sound scape using only the voice to produce various atmospheres, whether it was singing different notes or simply using our breath to make certain tempos and rhythms.

From our initial thoughts we have decided to follow a stimulus: the feeling of entrapment. Within this we have researched a number of news reports which involved people being trapped, starting with the recent Kenyan Mall Massacre in which the victims were imprisoned by 4 gunmen in their local shopping centre. We would like to explore and experiment with this notion of being trapped, whether it is us that feels trapped, or our audience.

After watching a recording of Whisper (2008) by Proto-type Theater, it gave us the inspiration to continue with the same idea of creating a sound scape. The company used microphones on stage to produce their own sound effects throughout the piece. The actors would speak all their lines into the microphones but also used various objects, for example a plastic bottle getting crushed to make the sound of rain. This added another layer to the acoustically focused performance creating a suggestive atmosphere which engaged the imagination.


(Photo: Proto-type Theater Website, Whisper. Accessed 25/10/2013)


“We like to experiment with different media and forms.” (Proto-type Theater 2013). Whilst we watched the performance we were each given a set of headphones to listen through. This was an interesting way to engage the audience, which turned my thoughts to how relevant it could be to our piece. Although we were all watching the recording of the performance together, the headphones somewhat separated us from each other, as we couldn’t talk or communicate, making me feel quite isolated from everyone else. This might be interesting to experiment with our audience. The use of microphones and headphones would displace our voices so that we could not be directly connected to them. This would therefore deny the audience access to us through direct sound and not betray the sense of our entrapment. Not only this but it would isolate each audience member and separate them from each other, encapsulating and trapping them within the space.

Another Proto-type Theater production I saw performed live was The Good, the God, and the Guillotine. The use of various media types was physically evident as their set consisted of different platforms with all their technical equipment exposed. They used laptops, two projectors, televisions, microphones and square lights which were hung from the ceiling and swung across the stage. It was a very impressive set but what I found more intriguing was that they made it into an opera. They used some speech but the majority of the narrative was told through song. They again divided the audience and performer, although this time it was created with a physical barrier by hanging a mesh material at the front of the stage. This added an interesting layer when they used projection, but also established a sense of separation. This has pushed us further to experiment with creating sound effects or song in our performance, and using techniques to create divisions with our audience.



Works Cited

 Proto-type Theater (2013) Proto-type Theater, Online: [Accessed 25 October 2013].

Kattenbelt, C (2008) ‘Intermediality in Theatre and Performance: Definitions, Perceptions and Medial Relationships’, Culture, Language and Representation VOL VI \ 2008, 19-29.