Mysterious & visceral. Interactive theatre meets mini-break
as audiences play detective in the bedrooms & corridors of a real hotel.
As I gained some critical distance from the original production, something became clear to me. In our haste to get the show ready during the initial production period in 2008, we had failed to do justice to our original concept for the pivotal scene in the show – known to us as ‘Jo’s Room’.
For us, ‘Jo’ is a blind-seer (in the manner of Tiresias from Greek myth), he ‘sees’ everything that happens in the hotel. He is profoundly blind and perceives no light, and therefore suffers from a genuine medical condition known as ‘free-running’. He also represents for us the ‘anti-hotel’: chaos, disorder, timelessness. Where the hotel is ordered, timetabled, obsessive-compulsive.
For the remount of Black Tonic in 2015 we have re-designed this scene, using interactive electronics that allow our audiences to experience a glimpse of what its like to be 'Jo' as they play a simple collaborative card game together. I am so pleased we’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with Watershed in Bristol on the re- development of this scene, and have really enjoyed working with their Creative Technologist David Haylock to make this idea a reality.
I'm really proud of this 2015 version of Black Tonic, and believe it can inspire, challenge and entertain our audiences. I hope you discover a sense of Black Tonic on this website.
Black Tonic features a card game in which the table automatically plays audio tracks as the
cards are placed around the clock-face felt surface. Try clicking on the card places on the Chrome desktop browser.
WHY RE-MAKE A PERFECTLY GOOD SCENE?
I’ve been working towards bringing Black Tonic back almost since we finished the first run of shows back in 2009. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited that we’ve finally made that happen in 2015.
As the years ticked by, and I gained some critical distance from the original production, something became clear to me. In our haste to get the show ready during the initial devising and rehearsal period, coupled with a lack of technical knowledge and very limited resources, we had failed to do justice to our original concept for the pivotal scene in the show - known to us as ‘Jo’s Room’. More...
DEVELOPING THE GAME AT THE HEART OF THE RE-WORKED SCENE
Some discussions with the show’s writer Clare Duffy helped to clarify our intentions for this re-worked scene: how we want the characters to be read; how we want the audience to feel; where the scene needs to get us to by the end.
Now we needed to find or create a suitable game mechanic to shape the audience’s interaction with the soundscape. I called on the services of games designer, and general genius, Holly Gramazio, to help us work out an elegant solution. More...
TIME FOR THE TECH
With the basic game mechanic selected for the re-worked scene, we were able to move onto how to technically realise this.
The task is to build a system that will sense the placement of a playing card onto the table at one of the points of the clock face, and trigger the playing of an appropriate sound file. To tie in with the game mechanic, we only want the sounds to play when the numbered playing cards are placed in their correct position on the clock face (so a 3 of diamonds at 3 o’clock, for example), rather than just anywhere. More...
Alison Belbin - Alison has worked as an actress with many companies in the region and beyond including Birmingham Rep, Women & Theatre, Foursight, Something and Nothing, Croydon Warehouse, Big Brum, Hearth Centre, DDArts, Gazebo, Theatre Absolute, Next Page Prodns, Moby Duck, MAC, Theatre Centre, Pentabus and Red Ladder. Radio credits include The Archers and Ambridge Extra (Donna Horobin) and many radio plays. Her TV work includes playing Maggie Lynch on ‘Doctors’, ‘Switch’ and ‘Teachers’. She has directed productions for Women & Theatre, Hearth Centre, The Drum and Wolverhampton Art Gallery and co-written three shows for Women & Theatre (‘Cervical Monologues’, ‘Woman First’and ‘Marks’).
Co-founder of theatre companies ‘glory what glory’, Stan’s Cafe and The Resurrectionists; Graeme is a performer and theatre-maker who has also collaborated with companies including Bodies in Flight, Dancing Brick, Imitating the Dog, Insomniac, Kali Theatre, KILN, Red Shift, Talking Birds, Untied Artists, Vamos and Various People Inc. (Adelaide). Recent productions include My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding (Kali Theatre), The Cardinals (Stan’s Cafe), Jekyll & Hyde (Chung Ying / Red Shift) and The Furies (KILN). He has directed devising modules at the Universities of Birmingham, Bristol and Hull and has toured with The Modified Toy Orchestra.
Rochi has recently returned from an international tour, performing in Stan's Cafe’s The Cardinals, which included New York's Under The Radar Festival, Toronto’s World Stage and Adelaide Festival. She has also worked with Foursight Theatre, Sonia Sabri Company, Rasa, Oxfordshire Theatre Company, Women & Theatre, Kali, Midland Creative Projects and Little Earthquake. She has written and scripted theatre projects for Birmingham Literature Festival, Black Country Touring and Birmingham Rep.
Angela is an Associate Artist with Improbable and Chris Goode & Company. Recently she performed in How Was It For You (Brighton Dome), Monkey Bars (Fringe First, Traverse, UK tour), Panic (Barbican, Sydney Opera House, UK tour) and Early Days (of a Better Nation) Coney, UK tour. Other theatre includes shows at National Theatre, Old Vic, Young Vic, Almeida, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Birmingham Rep, Edinburgh Festival. TV includes : Dr Who, Humans, Holby City, EastEnders. Last year Angela's company Clerkinworks co-produced The Bear with Improbable which toured UK and she is currently developing a new show The Secret Keeper.
Magda has been working in theatre for over 17 years, starting from mime courses and later working for 10 years as an actress and workshops leader with Warsaw-based theatre group Studium Teatralne. In 2006, she graduated from the Warsaw Theatre Academy (MA), and the following year received my Actor's Diploma from ZASP. Since 2008 she's been living and working in London and has: toured with The Other Way Works; worked with Slovenian troupe Via Negativa on various international projects; received a scholarship from the Polish Ministry of Culture to develop Cold Feet(Alive Alive-O!); and received scholarship from Visegrad Foundation to develop new project Webcam Girls of the Apocalypse. In 2013 Magda co-founded art Warsaw/London company Ja Ja Ja Ne Ne Ne.
Katie Day is Artistic Director of The Other Way Works. She develops original concepts for new projects and productions, and leads multidisciplinary teams in the practical realisation of these. Her particular area of interest is the emerging frontier where theatre meets new technologies. She is always on a quest to provide magical and bespoke experiences for ever more sophisticated audiences. She was the winner of the Hello Culture Award in 2014.
Mark is a Sheffield based composer, specialising in soundscape for contemporary theatre. His work builds on the interaction of performed music, spoken word, and electronic manipulation. Mark is also a jazz pianist, performing solo and with his band. Website
Clare is a co-founder of Unlimited Theatre. She moved to Edinburgh in 2004 and is also a freelance writer. She has co-written most of Unlimited’s touring work including The Noise, The Giant and The Bear, Mission to Mars, The Moon The Moon, Tangle, Ethics Of Progress and Zero Degrees and Drifting. She teaches Writing For Performance at Glasgow University. She is currently Artist In Residence at Summerhall Arts Centre in Edinburgh and an associate playwright at Playwrights Studio Scotland.
CARD GAME DESIGNER
Holly is a game designer. She likes writing and talking about games, making work for public spaces, and exploring the intersection of game design and other cultural forms. Some of her games are events or temporary installations, and some of them are ongoing. Website
Photographer and Film Maker Chris Keenan works internationally on a diverse range of self initiated and commissioned projects, including repeated trips to New Orleans, originally documenting the city’s underground music scene then the effects of Hurricane Katrina. His photographic work has been published in Dazed and Confused, Vice, Blowback and Fused magazines. Chris was awarded a prestigious 4Talent award, established by Channel 4, in 2007. Website
SCENOGRAPHER (2008 PRODUCTION)
Xristina works internationally as a designer for theatre and performance, arts director and performance maker. She is currently artistic director of the aswespeakproject. Training: University of the Arts, London (Central Saint Martins, MA Scenography); Aristotle University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Thessaloniki, Greece. Website
WATERSHED (DAVID HAYLOCK)
David is a Creative Technologist at Watershed. His responsibilities include providing technical advice and expertise for the Pervasive Media Studio’s staff and residents, as well as identifying new technologies that could be used within Watershed's practice. He has a mixed background in the visual arts, working in design, technical and academic roles.
Thomas became an independent theatre producer in 2012, before which he was General Manager & Producer at Foursight Theatre; Director of The Y theatre in Leicester; and worked in marketing roles at Derby Dance and Nottingham Playhouse. He works with a range of independent companies including The Other Way Works.
Pictures from the show and from behind the scenes.
Black Tonic at the Grand Hotel in Broad Street is as immersive as theatre gets.
Disorientating, thrilling and remarkably real - as paying hotel guests and staff carried on their normal lives around us - Black Tonic will live long in the memory.
...a maverick example of subtly subversive theatre continually unsettling the audience without recourse to hyperbolic shock tactics or patronising political rhetoric. As with one conclusion to the narrative, Black Tonic prove that to affect change you don’t necessarily need to invent something new, you just need to exploit the existing cracks and then sit back to watch events unfold.
Broken body clocks and sleep problems
Body clocks can also be disturbed by rapid shifts in time as experienced following travel across time zones or by rotating shift workers. Steve and Anna have flown across time zones; Sonia is a shift worker. Symptoms of disrupted clocks are poor night sleep, daytime napping, reduced alertness, fatigue, and reduced ability to perform during waking hours that may predispose a person to accidents and risk. The long term consequences of repeated clock disruptions are just beginning to be studied with epidemiological studies showing increased cardiovascular and cancer risk in night shift workers.
How to treat and correct disturbed clocks is an important research area. Currently there are two recognised treatments, melatonin tablets and light exposure (especially light enriched with the colour blue). These treatments can directly speed up or slow down the body clock so that it more quickly becomes synchronised to the new time zone or the new work shift schedule. Appropriately timed melatonin and light (and avoidance of light at some times) can be used to alleviate the symptoms of jetlag or shift work. For example, Anna’s “jet lag pack” includes melatonin pills, a Lightbox, an eye mask, sunglasses and a chart showing when to use these for maximum effect. Melatonin is also currently the treatment of choice for cyclic sleep/wake disorder experienced by totally blind people. Melatonin has been shown to correct the underlying clock problem in the blind as well as improve night sleep and reduce daytime napping.
2015 Tour funded by: Arts Council England, The Sir Barry Jackson Trust, and our Kickstarter backers.
Supported by: Birmingham Repertory Theatre; Theatre in the Mill, Bradford; and Watershed, Bristol.
Official 2015 hotel partners: Radisson Blu, Birmingham; The Grand Hotel, Bristol; The Bradford Hotel
Original production: commissioned by Camden People’s Theatre, and funded by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, Arts Council England,
Birmingham City Council and the Sir Barry Jackson Trust, with support from Contact Theatre, CPT and mac birmingham.