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Lunchtime talk write-up
Posted on Tue 13 Oct 2015


The making of Black Tonic: Where technology meets a theatre adventure in a hotel

Artistic Director of The Other Way Works and Studio resident Katie Day joined us to talk about the making of detective thriller story Black Tonic. Katie hopes it’s more “David Lynch than Cluedo”.

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Katie Day

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Katie Day

Katie Day is Artistic Director of The Other Way Works and creates playful theatre that immerses our audiences in the story. On a quest to provide magical and bespoke experiences for ever more sophisticated audiences.

Artistic Director of The Other Way Works and Studio resident Katie Day joined us to talk about the making of detective thriller story Black Tonic. Katie hopes it’s more “David Lynch than Cluedo”. Here are five things I learned about Black Tonic:

1. Black Tonic was first created and staged in 2008, and has been collecting dust in Katie’s attic ever since. This year the team have picked it up given it a shake, and redeveloped it for a tour of Birmingham, Bristol and Bradford.

2. The idea to stage a piece of theatre in a hotel was born out of Katie’s fascination with the oddness of how intimate hotel bedrooms are inhabited by a different person each night, and there’s no way of knowing what goes on behind those paper-thin walls. The juxtaposition of a building being inherently private and public at the same time felt like rich ground to make theatre and create adventure.

3. During it’s initial development, Katie and the team worked with a scientist to research the health impacts of disrupting the human body clock. They found that night shift working and regularly flying across time zones does have a significant impact on health. A hotel provided the perfect microcosm to represent characters suffering from sleep deprivation, confusion and exhibiting strange behaviour.  Black Tonic invites its audience into this world and provides an intriguing backdrop as the narrative unfolds.

4. Without giving away too many spoilers, Black Tonic invites four audience members at a time to interact with hotel staff and guests. The story is revealed gradually as you weave between the hotel foyer, bar, corridor, bedrooms and meeting room. You are invited to be curious and dig deeper to uncover secrets and unanswered questions. 

5. One of the key elements Katie has introduced during the restaging of Black Tonic is a magical card table. Working with Watershed’s Creative Technologist David Haylock and Studio resident and industrial designer Tom Metcalfe, they developed an interactive digital card game that triggers soundscapes, unlocking the doors of the hotel bedrooms one at a time. After several iterations and testing different technologies, the end result is a beautiful felt card table with a game designed by Holly Gramazio that is impossible to lose, using light sensors to trigger sounds as you place playing cards on the table.