Our performance featured various levels of ideas and meaning. We tried to give it a sense of humour and not to take ourselves too seriously, but having said this there was a sinister undertone which we hope lingers with our audience and prompts them to think more deeply about the virtual world they interact with everyday. One connotation that I took from the performance was that each room was representative of a different website, and the users (us) were like avatars which were transferable across the different sites for different purposes, much like real life where we have virtual identities which whilst still representing one person, have different tones, for examples a persona for work purposes vs social purposes. This explains the disparity of narrative between the various stages throughout the promenade piece.
Having said this, since we had such a vast space to work with a lot of our ideas were quite sporadic at times and I was relieved towards the end as we started to piece elements together to see that subconsciously we had managed to uphold a running thread of ideas. At one level, we had managed to turn the building into a metaphor for the internet, with the basement (with its natural connotations of hell – hence why the red (fire/hell) counters [or profiles] were chosen to go down there) representing reality, because of it’s total naked bareness in decor, in contrast to the luxurious updated rooms of the club upstairs which represented the fantasies that can be constructed online. The next step was our characters, which were influenced by online sites/games such as IMVU, World of Warcraft, or The SIMs, in that people who use these sites are encouraged to choose virtual identities, which can range from anything from any era, such as a Detective from the 1920’s or an exotic Geisha for example. This wholeheartedly embraced the idea of representing the changing identities online which are accepted to be outrageous and stereotypical. Hence why our costumes were not necessarily researched in terms of trueness to their era’s/cultures/traditions, but more based upon the westernised perception of such characters.
Setting the scene
With regards to our first scene on the staircase, we wanted to create an eery introduction to the performance and for a long time played with the idea of singing a harmonised version of Hide and Seek – by Imogen Heap.
We focused on this song because it is known for its heavily treated ‘auto tune’ sound, and as we were performing a piece that was set in the virtual world, we thought it would be nice to flip it on its head and sing it acoustically, making use of the eery acoustics of that stairwell. Also we liked the lyrics such as the first line “Where are we? What the hell is going on?” because the audience should have shared this confused statement as we were very vague in telling people exactly what our performance would incorporate; hence why we stopped blogging for a long time as we did not want our peers to know the ins and outs of our process.
In preparation for this harmonised live performance, I searched online and found this link, of the Music Transcript and assigned the girls different parts based on their vocal ranges. However the result was not as desired and I felt that it did not convey the overall theme of the piece very well. To combat this, we kept the song, but instead of us all singing it, I elected to sing it seriously like a Youtube video, whilst the others ‘commented’ on it using ‘virtual language’ such as LOL (laugh out loud) OMG (oh my god) etc. and Christy ‘posted’ a Youtube reply by singing over me. This was a good way of conveying the overarching theme of our piece, introducing our characters, but not giving too much away at such an early stage. This was also in keeping with the idea that it was a snippet view of a website, this one being of Youtube. Throughout this section we had Sorcha walking down the spiral staircase to the VIP toilets crying (because she had been hacked), whilst the audience were brought to the same level so they could see us placed at various points on the staircase which gave them time to soak in the ornate surroundings and various costumes.
Despite the fact that three of us work at Tokyo I was still impressed that we managed to get permission to use the building. However, at some points there was a breakdown in communication with the manager which led to several scares of us reducing audience size, or worrying about permissions, despite the fact that the manager had signed a contract and not brought up any issues at the time. In hindsight we knew that we should have taken a more professional approach by making a proper presentation to her about the performance and including her more in the process so that she felt comfortable with our rehearsals and marketing of the piece.
As the the tech manager of the piece it took an awful lot of preparation and thought to put everything in place and as can be expected of something so tech heavy, (with very light use of actual tech staff help – Mark Brewer helped us with a projection and ushering the audience and that was it) there were a few minor flaws that I would’ve changed had I the chance. Firstly there was the music which played in the Premium Check-In Lounge which came on too loud and drowned out some of our voices (as well as the unsuitable acoustics of the room), and was a simple case of having the volume on lower. Unfortunately I had specifically instructed Emma with this task however, because we had not had a full tech run before the day of the performance, I think she panicked and did not notice until it was too late. I kick myself about this because all I needed to do was improvise a line about how I couldn’t hear myself think and then could have amended this, however again the pressure of it being our first comprehensive run through (with water, audience, beverages, special effects etc.) I know that I could not have done more than what I did by projecting my voice louder.
Another issue we encountered was in controlling the audience and the size. I feel that we had possibly just too many audience members for them each to experience and appreciate all the finer details that we had put into the show. Having said this, with the varying sizes of the rooms, the only one which this was really an issue was in the small Premium Check-In Lounge as there was not enough champagne to go round and it was difficult to make our audience relax as we had intended for that room, to lead them into a false sense of security. Also if we had allowed more time for audience transition from one section to another, then we possibly could have improved the experience of the stragglers more, especially from the Junk-Mail Box to the main dance floor where we had foolishly pre-mixed the music and so a lot of member missed the initial ‘glitching’ which we did at the start of that room to ‘Internet Friends’ before going into the slow-motion ‘Clubbed to Death’ sequence. Regardless, there were so many visual and oral elements that I believe it may have been impossible for every audience member to have the same experience and I think that it may not have mattered if this was the case.
To aid with the juggling act of all the elements that made our piece, I had constructed a checklist the night before our performance to aid the smooth running of our tech run. See below:
As you can see I mapped out the various rooms and what tech/props were needed in each one so that we did not forget anything.
After all the hard work that we put into the finite details such as in the costume, make-up, champagne and strawberries, visuals, audio, smoke (in the main room) and with the nuances of our dialogue and characterisations, I only hope the audience enjoyed our performance as much as we enjoyed creating and performing it. I am ridiculously proud at the input of my group and feel blessed to have them as my final project team. Overall I was very pleased with the execution of the show (bar a few insignificant things as I am a perfectionist) and hope this blog demonstrates effectively the eagerness and effort of our group.