Parallelist premieres at Aldeburgh Festival
16th Jun 2017
Almost five years ago the sound artist Clay Gold sent me an email: “I wonder if you would be interested in this project… I have a working title - The Parallelist.” Now it is A REAL THING! Today our collaborative theatre piece “Parallelist” (we dropped the “the” like Spice Girls) premieres at the Aldeburgh Festival.
Meanwhile here’s some stuff you will and some you definitely won’t read in the programme note:
Parallelist explores the poetry embedded in neurophilosophy and consciousness theory. I play a telephone operator who has never existed outside of her booth and the entire performance takes place within an audiovisual installation, featuring a colourful, delightfully wonky cast of sound-making and communication devices. All this and the audience are encased in Sophia Clist’s beautiful sculptural design, inspired by neural architecture*. The lighting design is by the nicest genius in the business, Oliver Fenwick. Direction and dramaturgy is by the fearlessly brilliant and original Sarah Bedi. We have been very lucky to have the opportunity to develop “Parallelist” over the last two years on Snape Maltings’s Open Space scheme and huge thanks go to Rebecca Knights for her tireless support for our crazily ambitious piece. When accepted on the scheme the Snape Maltings team said “We don’t really understand it, but we want to do it!” It’s rare to find an organisation willing to take such a leap of faith. Huge thanks also to Arts Council England, Hinrichsen Foundation and PRS Foundation for helping us make this happen. The Aldeburgh Festival premiere sold out pretty much instantaneously but we’ll be putting a tour together for next year. Can’t wait to get this baby out there at last!
So, not to take away from any of that, but in the interests of full disclosure for my fellow makers of things, “Parallelist” was also:
- Turned down for grants by three major funding bodies plus an additional one which never replied to our application (they also had no email or phone number. We might as well have applied by carrier pigeon.)
- Initially received with a fair number of blank looks and struggled to find development opportunities for two and a half years. One organization lost our first application for R&D, invited us for interview following our second, and then proceeded to never provide any further response (naming and shaming supplied privately by request.)
- The result of significantly less time spent wandering in the Suffolk reed beds ruminating on the nature of consciousness and more sat at a computer raising funds and coordinating production details than I care to think about. Endless, purgatorial character counts ate my January.
- A project which has found me bumping up against blocks, fears and the limits of my ability, understanding and intelligence again and again - like doing a massive Sudoku puzzle but with much higher personal investment. Thanks to the steadfast brilliance and invention of Clay Gold, and the endless patience and wisdom of Sarah Bedi, and the… everything of Jonnie B, I was finally able embrace the fact that one of the greatest mysteries of human existence, which has taxed the finest minds for millennia, was unlikely to be definitively settled through the medium of avant garde music theatre by a cellist from Surbiton… and finish the damn piece!
*Sophia has also been very strict about the structure of my pants for this production. I will be wearing enormous pants.
Photo by Sam Murray Sutton