Tonseisha at RFO

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

I am currently rehearsing another excerpt from Tonseisha – The Man Who Abandoned The World, this time for Rough For Opera at The Cockpit London on October 15th (there are apparently still tickets available). Tonseisha is a long term project I am undertaking with saltpeter.

Tonseisha, the play, is by american playwright Erik Patterson, and composer Kim Ashton and I are working with a team from many disciplines to turn it into an opera.

This is the third time that we will have performed an excerpt (you can read more about previous versions, and the process so far in other posts here), and each time we have convened as a group we have collectively tried to extend the complexity of piece as we move towards creating a full-scale production.

The origins of the beginning of this process, and why we are trying to turn a play into an opera, are now shrouded in the mists of time (well the mists of 18 months anyway), but essentially at some point the question “why don’t we turn this play into an opera?” was answered in the positive and here we are. Composer Kim Ashton is working with me, along with a plethora of talented co-conspirators to create something we hope to stage full-scale some time next year. It has to be said that the debate about whether we should call this an ‘opera, a ‘semi-opera’, or a piece of ‘musical theatre’ still rages (well we’re discussing the issue on and off). This is not a huge issue for me (I’m not big on labels), but there is the valid view that you do not want to disappoint by claiming you are producing something that does not meet people’s basic expectations.

I spent sunday with the composer Kim, and performers Sean Patterson (no relation), and Vera Chok. We were working on a Karaoke song that will feature in one of the scenes. This was joyous, and re-enforced my belief in the piece. In particular I increasingly believe that we should abandon the normal divisions between musicians, singers and actors. This means (at times) musicians performing without instruments, singers taking on the demands of spoken text, and actors singing. I have a very strong image of a space filled with characters and the sound of (only) layered voices.

I have stated elsewhere (and not only in the pub, but here in this blog) my desire to stage a version of the rather brilliant film Synecdoche, New York (if you haven’t seen it find a copy asap – if only for Emily Watson’s superb performance), and though I am specifically not staging a version of the film, in an oblique way I feel a connection with the film in the work we are doing. It is the play that the central character directs for many, many years within the film that interests me most. There is huge complexity, reality, and at the same time other-worldliness to the play within the film that I find irresistible and inspiring. However all this talk about Synecdoche NY is a secret just between you and me.

There is now a real sense that we are on a roll with this project. There is no fixed date yet for a full staging, we still have other creative collaborators to find, and there is much to explore. However I think we are all beginning to share a sense (not least because of the feedback we have received from previous excerpt stagings) that we are building something that might prove quite special.

You can read about the team working on Tonseisha here>>>