Pit Lab – The Barbican

GaryDirecting, saltpeter, Tonseisha - The Man Who Abandoned The World

Tonseisha - Pit Lab

Tonseisha at the Pit Lab – Barbican

There is a pretty well kept secret in London, and it is The Pit Lab at the Barbican.

I was lucky enough, together with the saltpeter creative team to spend 5 days there last week progressing our ongoing project Tonseisha – The Man Who Abandoned The World.

The Pit Theatre Laboratory Barbican/Guildhall Creative Learning gave us the Barbican’s Pit Theatre as part of their ongoing creative learning project. The Pit is offered as a venue to artists, performers and facilitators across all art forms as an incubator for creative work, experimentation and realising of ideas.

Tonseisha, the original play, is by american playwright Erik Patterson. Composer Kim Ashton and I are working with a team from many disciplines to turn it into what I am (a little controversially) currently referring to a a semi-opera. We’ve been working on the project for more than 18 months now, and are approaching (at an indeterminate speed) a full-scale production.

I won’t waffle on too much about the past (you can find a lot of info on the saltpeter website, and if you can bear it I have rambled quite a lot elsewhere on my blog), but up to last week we have worked almost exclusively on the text, and the music/song. It was our intention for our week at The Pit to focus on the other creative elements, specifically lighting, sound, and movement. The look of the piece. The sound of the piece. The feel of the piece.

The idea behind our approach to the week was to allow the designers of sound light and visuals to have the kind of freedom normally allotted only to performers in a rehearsal process i.e. they were allowed to play for the week.

Though we wanted to end the week with some concrete ideas (hopefully decisions) about how we will stage a final production, the emphasis was on experimentation. There were games, there was silliness, there was even some rock and roll. We did make use of some text during the week, but this was secondary to everything else, the text (where we used it) was simply a tool to allow us to investigate ideas not associated directly with characters/their thoughts/their feelings.

Some highlights:

Erik Patterson Skype’ing in to observe the process from the USA
Listening to sound artist Alejandro Pelaez modulating the sound of of a slide projector
Running round plugging in, and unplugging lights at random
Playing with a Looper
Playing with multiple digital & slide projectors, utilising both their visual and sound output
An unexpected radio play
Everyone dancing their own mad dance to Underworld
Designer Satoshi Date wrapping himself and performers in fabric
Spontaneous puppetry
Soprano Philppa Boyle’s voice rising over the mayhem
The commitment of all involved in the process

Thank you Pit Lab

Images are by John Hunter at RULER, and feature Vera Chok & Austin Spangler (and my arm).