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SuperSonic: A Morning at the Goldilocks Mixer

The Sam Wanamaker: a smorgasbord for acoustics.

The Sam Wanamaker: a smorgasbord for acoustics.

Hi there friends, Baz HQ here - apologies for the lack of Bloggage but we’ve been mighty busy with plans afoot that should come into place very soon. Watch this space, it’s all very exciting. *rubs hands together*. As ever, we at Baz are always in the pursuit of knowledge, and always keen to learn and experience where possible where accessible theatre could take us in the 21st Century: what it could look, feel and sound like.

That’s why we were thrilled to be invited to Felix Peckitt’s exciting, relevant and groundbreaking workshop. He titled it, very succinctly, the ‘Goldilocks Mixer’ - thankfully not a weird booze/fairytale mashup - but a mixer of the equalizer kind, like you’d have in a soundbooth. But let’s go back to the beginnings of this project, back in 2017 when the Globe hosted a ‘Remix the Globe’ event, as explained in a fab write-up on the Tourettes Hero Blog, a wonderful read we recommend you read post-haste.

The day was primarily aimed at young people with Tourettes and was a slice of what true Sonic Inclusivity could look and sound like with frank discussions on language around tics and  Tourettes, a sonic map of the Globe, a succinct report on the sounds its unique shape promotes and muffles and a chat with the team at the Globe on how to be more inclusive. By all reports, a complete success.  

Fast forward to August 2019, and Felix’s tour with his sonic workshop of sounds has been touring spaces and theatres alike, at the ‘I’m Here, Where Are You?’ disability festival and many more unique venues with a pledge to inclusivity. The Goldilock Mixer finally made its way back, after its maiden voyage to the scene of it’s beginnings and to the Sam Wanamaker. We were kindly invited to the workshop- something truly appreciated as the workshop is not for our needs - as adults without Tourettes ourselves it was very generous of Felix and the crew to allow us to be part of the conversation and take part. 

What becomes apparent immediately, is that everyone, regardless of the industry in which they work should have a go on Felix’s see-saw, addictive exercise in the two and fro, the give and take of curating shared sound - not only between ourselves, but everyone else in the space: what made us all wince, what we took no notice of. It posed great questions regarding how used one can be to the culture of silence in an artistic space: the fact a gallery is a silent appraisal of silent works, the fact that the seconds before curtain up - whether it’s the Palladium, or the Royal Opera House, the audience, every time, fall eerily quiet. It seems that in our Westernised Culture silence = respect. For Felix, and the other participants that is clearly not their truth - and they are far from being disrespectful. The census to our shared sense of disappointment and anger from the discussions at the workshop was that many adults with Tourettes in the group refrained from visiting the theatre, worried of consequences. 

That is an abhorrent truth, and worth getting impotently angry about on behalf of the Tourretes community - but Felix and the team that supported him to create this Mixer are intent instead on educating everyone on the experience of a true sonic map that is distinct to every venue. With this data Felix and his team can site evidence that backs up the fact it is the common opinion that needs to change, not the cultural habits of those with Tourettes, and offering to help in the solution. Through tech and samples of sounds, two people seek to find equilibrium in sonic harmony. First, on synched tablets, you both choose one location - these can range from a beach to a cafe - and then you are presented with a selection of sounds you can turn up or down with a swipe of your finger. Some of these sounds are background, like indistinct chatter, the sound of a coffee machine whirring into life, or the soft swell of the sea. Others are foreground, such as a baby crying, someone telling a story around a campfire, the train pulling into a station. It is up to your twosome to find a balance, something that is not too overbearing, and yet remains an honest depiction of how noisy life can be. The baby, Felix pointed out, often gets muted, but as a group, across the board, nobody chose to drown out the sound of someone’s tics. 

Onstage at the Sam Wanamaker, with the sonic patterns bouncing off the columns and the shapes these curated soundtracks ensured the space felt more alive, more relevant and more real. The frank discussion held afterwards with the participants was at times humbling and sad, on behalf of such ostracism of the Tourettes community and at other times inspiring. There is something, always, about hearing the truths told by affected parties, and it's something everyone must hear. 

What Felix manages with his talent for tech and his excellent hosting skills is something that is, on the surface, presented as a fun task - it soon became desirous to be one of the two ‘mixing’ -  and the easy familiarity of tablets and swiping contribute to make it feel quite game-like - but you never lose the drift of the thing; and that is sound is its own animal - it will crash and whisper, attack and caress - and it is unstoppable. The sounds of tics should be accepted and normalised in our theatre spaces. The fact that we uphold silence in the pursuit of art is a practice that actively hurts accessibility and inclusion. It certainly gave us here at Baz a lot to think about in terms of inclusivity and what kind of atmosphere we’d like to promote in the spaces we put on work. The sway of attitudes today would dictate that theatre goers in particular may be ‘put off’ or even annoyed by the tics of a person with Tourettes. Well for every one of those people - attend the Goldilocks Mixer - you might find yourself across from a Tourettes Hero as you work together to make something not so quiet, not so staid, but something real, a true reflection of the sonic intricacies we are taught to block out, to reject even. Together, you’ll equalize until you find something just right.

Check out Felix’s Goldilocks Mixer website on what they do and how they do it here: https://weareunlimited.org.uk/commission/felix-peckitt-the-goldilocks-mixer/

Many thanks to 

Felix Pickett

Tourettes Hero

Wil Renet

David Bellwood

Best,

Baz x

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Extant Pathways: A Showcase of A Showcase

Full house at RADA. Our favourite kind of house.

Full house at RADA. Our favourite kind of house.

Well phew, fancy seeing you here! Yes, its us again, your friendly experimental theatre company, Baz, back with another blog. Or review. Or blog review type thing. Although there’s no criticism in it - so just explaining a really blummin’ good afternoon. ⅓ of us here at Baz were invited to a showcase held and run by Extant theatre company, whose brilliant work and ethic you should check out here: http://extant.org.uk In truth, an event such as this could be firmly filed under the heading of ‘Accessability’ or ‘disabled theatre company networking event’ but it was so much more than that. Or rather adjacently, just a damn good showcase that attacked the form of so many beige showings and came out, rather embarrassingly quickly, on top.

So if you don’t mind, we’ll talk about the theology not the biology of the Pathways event held by Extant at the old drill hall at RADA. As you’ll be aware, many actors that are in stage schools, drama schools, and drama courses up and down the UK have a showing of work: it’s as regular as bread and butter: filling but not that full of nutrients. Lord knows everyone at BAZ HQ recalls a school play, or a speech at assembly, an end-of-course showing or rather memorably in one case, playing Snoopy onstage. (Yeah, that one. No, we won’t tell you who) Usually, they are quite pedestrian, if useful: the closest thing a performance can come to admin, that serves a noble purpose but has no lifeblood in it.

Well, enter Extant. The Pathways event took the idea of a showing and put it on its head. This was not only appreciated by an audience of professionals from the National Theatre, Theatre 503, the RSC and the Globe, but it was also clever: now a few days on, we here at BAZ remember vividly what we saw - an impossible feat for a form that is so used and relegated to being performed in some way to serve a purpose. That kind of thing will stick in someone’s head, and that someone may remember you come casting time. But that’s not only why they did it. It was also clearly because they wanted to perform, and well. The way a showcase (and we’ve seen many between us) usually works is much of a muchness, but here, in this afternoon, we took a closer, far more interested  note of the varied content and wide, confident ability of the actors and their choices - Sebastian from Twelth Night and a speech from Capaldi’s Doctor of Doctor Who in one set list? Yes please. We will take that.

The diversity and strength of the monologue choices and the display of talent was already high, so how to raise it? Well by being warm, and hilarious. You know how you could be at the bank and someone asking about your day makes the air shift and the conversation instantly warm up a few degrees? This cast expertly showed their personalities, wit and prowess with introducing each other, explaining astutely, humorously and yet also in detail for any visually impaired, partially or completely blind audience members - the description of an actor’s wide frame being put as also: ‘but his mother prefers to call him barrel-chested’ was a particular highlight. The monologues had transitions, the cast had props, the set was interrupted with welcome little sketches or dry observations that changed the air of the usual transactional nature of a showing to a warm hallway of portraits the actors stopped us in front of in an original, charming monologue.

There was also prestige present as the actors listed off an impressive list of thank yous that showed the real signal (and sorry, we’ll only mention it once we swear) of accessible theatre’s progress on punching down walls in the space of only a few years - the classes, opportunities and tools this cast were armed with should be available to all that are usually kept away from it, and it was another warming sign of good things to come to modern British theatre. These actors were bold, confident and able - and hilarious as the final skit saw the cast huddled in the front of the stage narrating in Attenborough voices:

Alex: Remember, the actor can’t see who this is.

Anthony: The director approaches and greets the actor, forgetting to say their name.

Dougie: The director can see the table so put the plate of sandwiches down,

Danielle: And extends their hand for a hand shake - the VI actor doesn’t notice.

Anthony: The director feels slightly awkward and pulls her hand back.

Chloe: And it’s only now that the actor notices the hand. They too now feel awkward but try and shake it off.

A chef’s kiss of perfection. Mwah.

They captured the awkwardness and the humour of the situation well, and gently explained to us the best way to approach: always say your name and what you do, and if you meet again, repeat your name. The kind of thing you could do with and for anyone, but it took the so often used option of being embarrassed and reserved as an excuse not to connect off the table without being the least bit accusatory in the process.

The whole thing was effortless, impressive, warm, and wholesome. Why can’t all showcases be like this? We’re so incredibly glad to be invited by Extant, and wish wholeheartedly that funding and resources for these projects can be poured extravagantly into projects like this and its like. At the end of the day, this was actors, acting. Well. As one actor Anthony said, “I am an actor. I just happen to be visually imparied.” For the actors, the team at Extant: Hannah. Maria and Jo and Julie - you should all be incredibly proud, of not only breaking new ground with a project like Pathways, and making truly accessible theatre the norm: but also for a bloody good showcase - one too good to be ignored by the theatre gatekeepers for sure. Bravo!

See you soon!

Love,

Baz x


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