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Lunchtime talk write-up
Posted on Mon 20 Mar 2017


SUPERNOVA: Using the space as an Instrument

Sleepdogs is a collaboration between director / producer Tanuja Amarasuriya and writer / composer Tim X Atack. They make fictions for theatre, screen and audio; mixing and matching influences and processes across different…

Speaker

Tanuja Amarasuriya

Director / dramaturg / sound designer | co-Artistic Director of Sleepdogs, a wide-ranging collaboration with Timothy X Atack | sci-fi fan | human woman

Sleepdogs is a collaboration between director / producer Tanuja Amarasuriya and writer / composer Tim X Atack. They make fictions for theatre, screen and audio; mixing and matching influences and processes across different forms. 

During this lunchtime talk Sleepdogs introduced SUPERNOVA: first presented as part of the Sense programme at Mayfest 2013. The piece is a sci-fi tale of light, how we use it, and the problems it causes. Using the heat of close-up stage lighting and an all-enveloping soundtrack made from manipulated NASA recordings to create a very sensory experience for a single audience member.

The intensive nature of the show, both on the actor and the technical team, means that SUPERNOVA in it’s current form can only accommodate a very small amount of people in a day. They’re hoping that they can find the solution in new technologies.

My headlines are:

- Rather than the traditional method with which theatre makers often turn to tech near the end of the development process. Sleepdogs introduce technology right from the start of the ideas process, so that their use of it influences the form and content of a piece.

-  They’re currently working on a project A Million Tiny Glitches which among other things will makes use captioning technology. Knowing the show will be captioned from the start actually has a dramatic influence on the sound design of the show because they realised that not everything the performers say has to be fully audible to the audience. As a result this allows Tim to apply effects to the live sound such as extreme pitching, massive reverbs or mixing the vocals super low. The use of sound in this way then feeds back to the actors resulting in different performance styles to what they might otherwise had.

- Sleepdogs were very pleased with the reception of SUPERNOVA and widely different reactions from the audience of the sensory experience. What excites them is how powerful some of these reactions can be, a friend who came to the performance refused to talk to Tim and Tanuja for nearly 4 days after seeing the show! A big challenge here is how can they recreate the show, perhaps without such key elements such as a performer, without loosing the core power behind the central performance. The sense of a physical element in the space with you, the heat from the lights the bass. It's the physicality of their current work that they feel really adds to the audiences experience of The Uncanny in their works.

- Tim talked about, at what points you let people know the technology you’re using can be really important. For him shows that are too quick to highlight their use of technology take audiences further from the feeling of something being special or even magical. In case of Sheepdogs they often don’t reveal the inner workings so as to build upon the feelings of the unknown, that they try to create.

- How do you create these types of sensory experiences without overloading people. For Tanuja and Tim the journey in and out is really important and with SUPERNOVA and all their works they try to think a lot about the introduction.  Contextualising what people are about it see and what to expect (without spoiling it) and making it clear that if you become uncomfortable someone will help you. This is always going to be difficult as people have such different thresholds to an experience. But managing how people are brought into the show and then back into the real world can have huge impacts on making these intense experiences positive for the audience.