Tag Archives: Sophie Bullivant

Sound – A Post-Show Analysis

Phone Call Gameshow Transcript

Phone Call Gameshow Transcript

The use of live sound was highly important to our performance, and was played through headphones to each audience member. The work of Optik, a theatre company based in London, also focuses on sound in performance. Their work during the 1980s gradually incorporated technologies, such as computers, enabling “layering and juxtaposition” (Edwards and Jarlett, 2011, p. 128), which sets contemporary performance apart from other dramatic practices. Furthermore, Proto-Type Theater collaborated with the Manchester Metropolitan University Laptop Ensemble for their performance of The Good, the God and the Guillotine (2013). The performance purposely exposed the use of technology, with the laptops forming part of the set and the wires being fully visible to the audience.

It can be argued that the use of headphones in our performance of 33 Minutes helped to enhance the performance as an ‘event’/spectacle. For example, the sound becomes amplified and the notion of our performance as being an ‘exhibition’ is highlighted, since headphones are often worn by visitors at art exhibitions, used as an audio tour guide.Furthermore, the headphones provided the audience with a unique experience, as they could feel more involved, being submerged in the sound, but also created an individual experience. Each audience member became isolated, “withdrawn or separated from the public body” (Steyn, 1989, p. 51) even though they were in a communal space. The group believed that the sense of lonesomeness being created through the use of headphones was important to our performance, since we were experimenting with the notions of the public and the private. Our aim was for each audience member to react to the sounds and the aesthetics without any influence from other audience members. As a result, the audience could leave with individual opinions of what they saw and heard, and will have experienced something unique.

In relation to individual responses of an audience, the fact that our performance is set in a piece of installation art is highly significant. An “installation prompts conscious and unconscious associations in the beholder” (Bishop, 2005, p. 16), which suggests that each audience member gains meaning from their own previous thoughts and experiences. Also, throughout the performance we were slightly visible to the audience, which seems absurd, as surely headphones are not needed with sound being created live? However, we were masked by the dog leads and white paper installation, which represented a cocoon, and helped to create a sense of detachment between us and the sounds that we were creating.

'The Cocoon' Set of 33 Minutes

‘The Cocoon’ Set of 33 Minutes

The notion of concealment is influenced by the performance of Whisper (2013) by Proto-Type Theater, where a mesh screen was hung between the performers and the audience, with the audience wearing headphones. It provided a boundary for the audience, but still enabled them to watch the silhouettes being created on stage. Similarly, Proto-Type also used a gauze in The Good, the God and the Guillotine. The division was aesthetically beautiful, as it enabled animations and lighting effects to be projected, and allowing the performers to still be visible. We were experimenting with how we can create sounds that are raw and do not require any accompaniment. The process of making the soundscape was challenging at first, as we began to explore our voices. In The Good, the God and the Guillotine, the performers created the sound of a dog barking, purely from using their voices. Parts of our soundscape consisted of vocal sound effects, such as the ‘City Soundscape’ and the ‘Daily Routine Soundscape’. These sounds were largely spontaneous during the performance, meaning that the sounds had not been decided in any strict order. For example, the group had rehearsed a range of sounds that represent a busy city, such as vehicle noises, muffled voices of passers-by and pedestrian crossing sounds. The spontaneity that resonated within our performance is influenced by Proto-Type Theater’s About Silence (2003), which has been performed numerously by many different performers. During a workshop led by Dan Hunt, three class members performed About Silence, and were instructed to read the text, without having previously rehearsed it, and could not discuss who says what and at what time. The effect of the spontaneity evoked a plethora of responses from the rest of the class, who became the audience. We discussed how the pace changed naturally and how certain words or phrases became comical, as they were based on personal issues, “from love to death, from sex to intimacy” (Proto-Type Theater, 2013), or simply by the way that they were spoken.


Photo: Google Images – The Good, the God and the Guillotine by Proto-Type Theater [accessed 10 December 2013]

The script that we created for 33 Minutes was largely made up of ‘fragmented text’, inspired by the work of Tim Etchells. We used a range of texts, including well-known transcript, Dada-style poetry or song lyrics, and subverted the emotions that would be associated with them. For example, the final segment of our soundscape is the transcript of the phone call that Amanda Berry, one of the kidnap victims, made to the police when she escaped from the home of Ariel Castro (see transcript above). We were aware that contemporary performance should steer away from naturalism and any vulgar representation of events. Therefore, we transformed the transcript into a ‘game show’. For example, inflections and emphasis on certain words enabled us to change the emotion that the transcript evokes. The questions that the police officer asks Amanda Berry were subverted into questions from a quizmaster to a contestant. The upbeat, recognisable style that we created enabled us to use the phone call, but in a detached, sensitive way.

Metaphorically, 33 Minutes presented us, as performers, being trapped in the cocoon, yet we had a sense of freedom through our voices.

By Sophie Bullivant


Works Cited:

Bishop, Claire (2005) Installation Art: A Critical History, London: Tate Publishing.

Edwards, Barry and Jarlett, Ben (2011) Body Waves Sound Waves: Optik Live Sound and Performance. In: Susan Broadhurst and Josephine Machoon (eds.) (2011) Performance and Technology: Practices of Virtual Embodiment and Interactivity, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 127-140.

Proto-Type Theater (2013) Proto-Type Theater: About Silence. [online] Proto-Type Theater. Available from  http://proto-type.org/archive/about-silence/ [Accessed 27 November 2013].

Steyn, Juliet (1989) Chapter Five: Public and Private. In: Malcolm Miles (ed.) Art for Public Places: Critical Essays, Winchester: Winchester School of Art Press, pp. 51-58.


Movement – A Response to the MA Workshop

I took part in the MA ‘Choreography for Non-dancers’ Workshop on Tuesday 26th November, which deconstructed the perceptions surrounding movement, and explored the awareness of each individual movement that we make as performers. Personally, the workshop aroused an enquiry into what shapes societies perception of choreography and the limitations that affect body movement in general. Similarly, Peter Merriman has raised the question of “how (and to what extent) are human agents’ actions and movements choreographed, codified, entrained or constrained by ‘outside’ agents, structures, architectures and discursive regimes?” (2010, p. 428). I feel that this question is central to our understanding of choreography and its relation to contemporary performance.

Our performance of 33 Minutes will be sound-driven. However, in order to emphasise our theme of entrapment further, we are limiting our ability to move naturally, by tangling our bodies in the ‘dog lead sculpture’ installation. Therefore, our inability to move freely has caused us to think more abstractly about physicality, and how to present movement in a distorted state. For example, jerking hand or arm movements might help to indicate that our bodies, in the performance, are seeking freedom. In the warm-up, during the workshop, Hannah taught us to stretch every inch of our bodies and work every muscle to its limit. The restraints that we will have during the performance will, in effect, set us a challenge physically. We will be using our strength to push the boundaries that are caused by us being tied up, and help us to perform as rigorously as possible.

Libby Soper exploring small spaces

Libby Soper exploring small spaces

During the Contemporary Experimental Performance workshops, led by Dan Hunt, we have experimented with the use of our bodies, and how we are faced with limitations in particular spaces or settings. As a group, we have explored the different ways of responding to these spaces and the new choreography that they create. In a recent workshop, based on one-to-one performance, a number of class members inhabited small spaces around the LPAC. For example, the space underneath a table was occupied by Libby Soper, who invited a single audience member under the table, for a discussion. The work of Richard Schechner “overcame a sense of place in order to create a malleable space that the actors and audience could share” (Govan et al, 2007, p. 107), suggesting a need for intimacy in the audience-performer relationship. The workshop based on one-to-one performances also highlighted how the solo audience member and the performer can feel at one with the space, since there is a genuine closeness that develops within that setting.

By Sophie Bullivant


Works Cited:

Govan, Emma, Nicholson, Helen and Katie Normington (2007) Making a Performance: Devising Histories and Contemporary Practices, Oxon: Routledge.

Merriman, Peter (2010) Architecture/dance: choreographing and inhabiting spaces with Anna and Lawrence Halprin. Cultural Geographies, 17 (4) pp. 427-449.


Intimacy in Performance

Peter Franks states that intermedia is “all the areas of adventure and experiment lying in, among, and between” (Barton, 2008, p. 78) theatre as we know it. Therefore, intimacy in performance allows performers to reach out to the audience and become one, whilst creating an intensified experience. During Week Six, we explored the notions of intimacy in performance, and the effects on an audience-performer relationship. Intimacy in performances can occur where “technologically determined practices become sensuous and effective, and where the visceral is no more a purist fantasy but a contemporary reality” (Chatzichchristodoulou and Zerihan, 2012, p. 217), enabling the technological and the visceral to bond. For example, in our performance of 33 Minutes, we will manipulate the audience’s sense of time, as videos will be played of us in boxes, making it unclear whether this is live/non-live footage. Our performance will heighten the senses, as the sounds are to be played through headphones, which will clash or blend accordingly with what they see in the performance space. The very style of the performance, with the audience wearing headphones, means that the audience will individually feel that they are experiencing the performance on their own, rather than collectively. The intimacy that is created for the audience, through wearing the headphones, will also intensify the situation, and enables us to manipulate their emotions further.

The audience is also invited into the performance space, and can choose where to sit or stand. 33 Minutes is not a one-to-one experience, but can evoke unique understanding, dependent on where an audience member chooses to be, in the space. Thus, more senses are at play if an audience member was to sit on a box, as we can tap from inside the boxes, heightening what they feel physically.

The idea of the boundaries between art and life being intensified in intimate performances is directly explored in 33 Minutes, as the performance space will represent a museum. Furthermore, the glass casings and roped off spaces that protect pieces of art or artefacts in exhibitions symbolise this very division of art and life. In our performance, we are in effect inviting the audience to break those boundaries, and even become a ‘work of art’ in their own right. For example, the audience member that chooses to sit on one of the white ‘exhibitions stands’ will be aware of their significance to the performance, since we will display a plaque stating that the ‘artefact’ is a precious piece of art and must not be touched.

Intimacy in performance also questions the notion of generosity. For example, in order for the audience to feel more involved in the performance, they may sacrifice something or respond more actively. At the beginning of 33 Minutes, we will ask each audience member to donate a piece of clothing/jewellery, which will then be displayed as another exhibition piece, in a clear box. The audience will receive their items at the end of the performance, yet the fact that they are giving something up as part of experience will help to intensify their connection with the performance. It is important to note that this sacrificial element of the performance also ties in with our theme of imprisonment. During rehearsals, we discussed how the Jews had to hand over all of their possessions when entering the concentration camps, and how these artifacts are now displayed to the public, in a memorial museum at Auschwitz.

By Sophie Bullivant


Works Cited:

Barton, Bruce (2008) Subjectivity, Culture, Communications, Intermedia: A Meditation on the ‘Impure Interactions’ of Performance and the ‘in-between’ Space of Intimacy in a Wired World. Theatre Research in Canada, 29 (1) pp. 51-92.

Chatzichristodoulou, M. and Zerihan, R. (eds.) (2012) ‘A Discussion on the Subject of Intimacy in Performance, and an Afterword’ in Intimacy across Visceral and Digital Performance, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 213-221.


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 http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-drowned-man-a-hollywood-fable [Accessed 18 October 2013].

Punchdrunk (2013) Punchdrunk: Company. [online] Punchdrunk. Available from http://punchdrunk.com/company [Accessed 24 October 2013].