by Mind the Gap
Most of us are familiar with the concept of a maze, but not many of us will have tried to find our way through a maze whose walls are completely invisible. Mind the Gap were commissioned by Theatre Sandbox in 2010 to develop Sonic Maze; a project that used pervasive media to design a maze made entirely out of sound. Headphones were provided and the audience were guided by sounds which acted as invisible walls, attracting or repelling them from different locations. The sounds were designed to trigger a certain emotional or physical response; with the audience following beautiful sounds and being repelled by sirens.
Using sound as a navigation device meant that the maze emphasised the different abilities of the audience; induction loop systems gave deaf and hearing-impaired audience members an advantage while mosquito sirens (which emit a high frequency that can generally only be heard by young people) meant that younger audience members had the edge. The result was that the audience had to work together as a team, capitalising on their diverse abilities to help each other navigate their way through the maze.
The aims of the project were to encourage the audience to participate in the performance and use technology to help them discover their environment in a new way. By taking the performance outside and turning the audience into players, the project challenged notions of what theatre is, and how it should be staged. Contact Theatre worked as a close partner in the research and development process.
The project was developed by Mind the Gap and Jez Colborne, an actor and musician with a learning disability. Inspired by Jez’s piece Irresistible, a musical experience combining warning sirens and other non-traditional instruments, which will be part of the London 2012 Festival. He has a long association with the company, and has performed in a large number of their productions, including Of Mice and Men, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Pygmalion, Don Quixote, and Cyrano. Jez has also starred in On the Verge, a one man show he created with award-winning playwright Mike Kenny, and is one of the founder members of the Leading Edge network for aspiring learning disabled arts leaders.