The Night Just Before the Forests

Polyphonic Characterisation

In development

This creative research project aims to explore what the use of layered sound technology and polyphonic vocalisation can contribute to the process of building a theatrical role. Rather than have one performer embody a single character, the goal is to conceive of character as emerging through collective composition.

Using a range of microphone types and positions, live processing, and an ensemble of five actors who combine to play one role, we are exploring ways of assembling a character collectively, as a polyphonic or symphonic construction.

Inspired by choreographer Crystal Pite’s collective, physical lip-synching in Betroffenheit (2016), William Forsythe’s vocal choreographies in You Made Me a Monster (2009) and Three Atmospheric Studies (2006) and Todd Solondz’s casting of eight different actors as one character in his film Palindromes (2004), we are exploring various play-texts, including The Night Just Before the Forests (1977). This stream-of-consciousness monologue by the pathbreaking French theatre playwright Bernard-Marie Koltès (1948-1989) – delivered as it is by a young Arab man in a hostile city and evoking the violent history of postcolonial French and European immigration policy – is well-suited to this plurivocal refraction; the character’s alienation and vulnerability might best be dramatised by de-essentialising his voice and avoiding the facile complicity encouraged by attributing his words to a single actor with a culturally specified identity.

We undertook three days research last year at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London. Pictured are Niels Lanz (sound), Dominic Kennedy (sound), Michael Fox (performer), Lucas Button (performer).