ABOUT BLACK TONIC

Mysterious & visceral. Interactive theatre meets mini-break
as audiences play detective in the bedrooms & corridors of a real hotel.

Black Tonic explores the chaos caused by a disrupted body clock, and we set the show in a hotel because it represents a microcosm of our increasingly 24 hour society. When we first created the show we worked closely with scientist Professor Debra Skene - a world-leader in chronobiology - whose research underpins the show’s plot, characters and situations. The effects on health of a 24 hour lifestyle - for those enjoying it, as well as those working to enable it - is only just starting to be reported in mainstream media.

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.

Katie Day

Artistic Director
CARD TABLE

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.

DEVELOPMENT BLOG

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...

CREATIVE TEAM

CAST

Alison Belbin

Marie

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’).

Graeme Rose

Steve

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 Rampal

Sonia

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 Clerkin

Anna

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 Tuka

Lena

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.

CREATIVE TEAM

KATIE DAY

DIRECTOR

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 DAY

SOUND DESIGNER

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 DUFFY

TEXT

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.

HOLLY GRAMAZIO

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

CHRIS KEENAN

VIDEO MAKER

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

XRISTINA PENNA

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)

CREATIVE TECHNOLOGIST

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 WILDISH

PRODUCER

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.

REVIEWS
Murder with a slice of lime is on the menu this September as The Other Way Works’ critically-acclaimed Black Tonic takes up residence in Birmingham’s stunning Radisson Blu hotel. The theatre thriller, set within the rooms of the Radisson, offers a glimpse into the lives of the invisible workforce whose erratic shift patterns service our round-the-clock society. Guests are invited to unravel the story as they play detective amongst the bedrooms and corridors of the hotel. Can love be bought for the price of a cocktail from the mini-bar though? Only you can figure out the truth behind this mystery.
Link

Chris Brown

Polaroids & Polar Bears
I'm hiding in the bathroom of a hotel room. Just me and Marie, the head of housekeeping. As we cower in the dark near the sink, we can hear but not see someone unknown to us riffling through papers, photographs and other assorted objects strewn across the bedroom floor.
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.
Link

Martin Booth

Bristo 24/7
Black Tonic is a production about the effects of sleep deprivation, as experienced by shift workers, the jetlagged and the totally blind for whom being unable to respond to changing light patterns can cause long-term problems. It is also a play set in a hotel and performed on repeat to audiences of four people at a time who are led around the building and told the story through witnessing events between other ‘guests’, watching CCTV footage and having the chance to ransack a room where, in amongst the bunched tights and sleeping pills, lies the answer to the mystery.
...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.
Link

Rosemary Waugh

Exeunt Magazone
FILM
THE SCIENCE

Broken body clocks and sleep problems

Within our brain is a clock which provides information about “the time of day” to our bodily functions enabling us, for example, to be awake during the day and sleep at night. This clock is synchronised to the 24 h light/dark cycle by environmental light that enters the eyes. In totally blind people (such as Jo) light transmission is impaired and is unable to synchronise the body clock thus the desynchronised clock “free runs” at its own pace. As Jo says: “I have a tick, but no light to reset my tock”. In most people a desynchronised clock free-runs at a period length of greater than 24 h. While in a desynchronised state, symptoms akin to jet lag are experienced (daytime sleepiness, poor night sleep, reduced alertness and performance during waking). This is a lifelong condition for totally blind people.
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.

Debra J. Skene

Scientific Collaborator, Centre for Chronobiology | Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences |University of Surrey | Guildford, UK
BLACK TONIC 2015 CREDITS

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.

The Other Way Works creates playful theatre that immerses our audiences in the story. The intimate scenarios we create allow our audiences to explore places and perspectives anew, provoking them to change the way they see the world. We are at the leading edge of a new wave of theatre makers re-inventing the way people engage with culture, using real world spaces and emerging technologies.
www.theotherwayworks.co.uk