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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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Be of Good Voice - An Ode To Education Baz style

Freddy at a particularly busy General meeting (Queen at Wembley, '86)

Freddy at a particularly busy General meeting (Queen at Wembley, '86)

Well Hello to all the Bazzed (translation: our version of ‘the faithful’…we know, we’re really cute) Or Baz-ed, as the case may be! Yes that’s right – it’s a blog that’s an inadvertent pat on the back as well as a call to arms to get physical (not in an Olivia Newton John way, don’t worry) and how we’ve brought our performance and theatre skills to workshops up and down the country, from schools to offices, town halls to lecture halls. This is a blog about our methods of play, our mission statements and ideals, mixed in with our technique, will make your talk/class/exam feel like Wembley ’86./

/ not actual disclaimer

But in all seriousness, we’ve worked hard to make education one of the pillars that Baz is founded on – our mission statement we made many moons ago spoke of the things any theatre company would want for their success: viable and memorable productions, compelling and challenging theatre, equal representation – and education, to us, is the common denominator for all of it – when we rehearse, we include play, we study, we use and dissect verse and we perform. We think these are skills that no-one should be without.

Our work takes place through TeachFirst – an excellent group who are dedicated to adapting and updating modern teaching techniques in schools. We are not offering nor do we seek to provide a drama class to confuse GCSE Drama students – believe us, we’ve been there – but rather to fit in and sit alongside studies and exams. More than this, we specifically work to Key Stage 2,3,4,5 as well Edexcel and AQA specifications. You know, so there. We’re legit, as the kids would say (sorry)

But enough of the what, more of the how: our practitioners are not teachers, but professionals: actors, facilitators, directors, writers and performers. We train our speakers to hit specific learning objectives, but beyond that we bring the skill of the practitioner to proceedings, for example, our work with Shakespeare, and say, our production of Macbeth in St Andrew’s Crypt allowed us to use our skill and understanding of verse and pentameter. Our production of Prophesy, based on the classical Greek canon allowed us to perfect our way and method of devising, and our most recent production of Strindberg’s dreamplay used improvisation to connect with our audiences – often directly – and further cement our ‘house style’. These tools of play, study, devising and improvisation are all skills we bring to our bespoke workshops: to help you understand your school text, prepare your lesson plans, lead a lecture, or give your presentation.

We don’t only limit ourselves to study and learning, we like to get you active, and give you ‘life hacks’ to help with delivery and performance, and a favourite we like to reference often is Amy Cuddy’s excellent TED (above -and go Amy, 11 million plus views! She don't play around) talk on something as simple as posture, eyeline, and meditation all providing proven benefits and support. We’ve been to all corners of the UK, from Southend to Blackpool, using a pool of creatives we’ve worked with as well as some we haven’t – but all of whom we implicitly trust to deliver Baz’s message, on point, as the kids would say. But why is it so important to us – as a BazPerson, you’ll have spoken at talks at Universities, Schools, Centres for Learning and offices. Too often we feel, the arts are perceived as an ivory tower that is not worth trying to get into unless you go on X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. Education, getting kids excited about the Three Witches, freeing it from the classroom, and hopefully, letting all the good stuff like confidence, inspiration and opportunity rush out with the flow. And the responses we’ve been lucky to get are enough  to melt even our stony hearts (be prepared to get cuddled tho)

 

We take the education side of what we do very seriously, not ‘as well as’ not ‘supporting’ our work, but there as an entity in it’s own right – when we welcomed a BSL interpreter to The Vaults we learned so much from her interpretations and techniques – when we invited young, aspiring directors to a workshop, again at the Vaults, we valued their feedback and responses as much as any review – our dedication to making more able, confident and skilled adults, ready for anything, whether a student, teacher, worker, or sufferer – we know our lives were changed for the better for theatre and performance and we hope yours can be too – new talent, new perspective, a new idea on why Medea is misunderstood, why The Apothacary is the unannounced villain of Romeo and Juliet, standing up in class/the pub/in the lecture hall and saying so – well to Baz, that’s all that matters. Stand up, speak out. Goodness knows we need that more than ever. Onwards!

Much love,

Baz x

Baz Education is dedicated to provide trained staff to offer bespoke and one on one sessions as well as our group Teach First workshops. Details to be found under the ‘Baz Education’ header of the website or email us for details.

 

 

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