It was lovely to be back at The Vaults to take a look at ‘Ripples’, which is a work-in-progress play. The show is presented at the Fringe Futures Festival, an innovative collaboration between the Pleasance & VAULT Creative Arts, providing an opportunity for early and mid-career artists to try out work at various stages of development in front of a live audience.
How many times have you watched something going on around you, and then when asked a question about what just happened, you cannot give a detailed answer? Our mind plays tricks on us and fills in the detail that we cannot remember, so we think we know what happened, but that may not be entirely the case. Inspired by her own experience of this when she was young, Xi Chen (Director), was convinced that she had seen two boys drowned, but her family convinced her that she must have been mistaken.
‘Ripples’ examines this, using binaural technology, to stimulate the sense of the audience, to act as witnesses to an unfolding event. Audience members are asked to look through the eyes and ears of two men, one deaf and one blind, to see how their perception of the scene is observed using their different senses. The audience are given a set of headphones, which they must wear during the experience. The experience begins with sound only coming through the headphones, and it is interesting to feel how the focus changes when your sense of sight is taken away. I found myself straining my ears to concentrate on every little sound, but without the use of my eyes, my mind was trying to build a mental picture. Immediately an alarming sound was heard, my guard was raised and my mind was alerted, questioning what happened, and asking, should I be afraid? It was as though my own defensive system came into play and heightened my senses. This sound only experience, made me feel that I was walking in the shoes of the blind man.
Next, I found myself walking in the steps of the deaf man. The scene was viewed from a distance and without the assistance of my ears, I instinctively felt that I had to peer more intently to try to connect together in my mind, the scene in front of me.
The next section moved on to witnessing the same scene again, but with a backdrop of the videoed material and the unknown man (Gaurav Singh Nijjer), who at a distance had looked slightly suspicious. Did seeing his actions from a closer angle still make him look suspicious? Finally, the video showed a fast forward of the objects that had made the sounds that were listened to during the show. The unknown man (Nijjer) closed the final scene with some further clues as to what happened.
At this point, the audience were asked to complete a card to let the team know what they thought happened. The idea being to test the experiment to see how close people had paid attention and how accurately they could assess the situation.
The whole project is interesting and will appeal to the amateur detective in the audience and the experience has been well thought through. The final clue I felt was quite ambiguous, but I suppose that is the idea. If I am honest, it felt experimental, which I realise was the intention, but even when polished, I think maybe a little more excitement could be added to the story. The re-runs did feel a little bit too long, and without anything a little more dramatic to hold onto the audience’s attention, there is a danger of them losing concentration and interest. This would therefore risk ruining the experiment. A little thought about your target audience might help to direct you in a particular direction with this. In making this comment, I realise that the original intention was to use an everyday situation, but you are asking an audience to be interested in the events, replayed several times in different formats…
The presentation does need to be refined, but these are all things that could be improved upon with rehearsal. The overall concept is a good idea, but some tweaking is needed.