@ Sloan’s Bar and Restaurant, Glasgow, until Fri 3 Jun 2016
(part of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s On The Verge Festival)
In the upstairs cloakroom of Sloan’s Bar, four of us are sitting in the dark. A fifth in the corner.
Lights on/Bright/Harsh/Dizzy/Pictures on the walls/Beyoncé/Flesh/A whale/Flesh/Another Whale/Cameron Diaz/boat/Wolverine/More flesh/Broken Phone/In the corner/A body/slumped/Eyes open/Wide open/Wild eyes/Mouth opening/A smile/Sara is awake/A voice/Rachel/Questions/An accident/Do you remember who you are?
Till Human Voices Wake Us, written by Zoë Bullock, directed by Ellen Jerstad and performed by Eleanor Henderson (Sara) and Esme Bayley (Rachel), is a bold and thoroughly unpredictable piece of work. It thoroughly belongs at On the Verge and would certainly not be out of place at its former home The Arches, taking considered risks with its form, content and relationship to its audience, and displaying more than enough promise to suggest we may be seeing more of everyone involved in the near future.
Watching Till Human Voices Wake Us is an exercise in decoding, in reading signs and making sense of them. Bullock’s script drip feeds information beautifully, scattering it amongst long streams of disjointed ramblings, allowing the audience to join together the dots, to piece together who Sara is and what accident has befallen her. This is satisfying work, permitting an audience member to invest themselves fully in the narrative, such that when it reaches its climax, when the reveal is made, it feels entirely credible and justified.
Sara, it transpires, is the murderous software on Adam’s mobile phone. Her scrambled memories are the results of her user’s search results, a descent into the dark web of illegal pornography. Her interrogator is her creator, and we the audience are software engineers gathering data. In lesser hands such a premise might feel absurd, yet the provocations posed here feel relevant, such is the skill with which the whole work is executed. When does software become sentient? What archives of human life can be found within search engines? How enmeshed have human bodies and digital technology become?
Cramped into a cupboard sitting face to face with, and in the hands, of a talented performer and being taken to places you had no idea existed, that you had no idea could be reached in a cloakroom above a bar. What a fantastic advert for On the Verge and the work of students at RCS.