For as long as it hangs in the air, it sings
On Karaoke, by Sleepwalk Collective
Karaoke (Tue 18 & Wed 19 Feb 7.45pm) is a show about pop music, and all that it contains and implies. It’s a show structured as if it were a piece of music, with “verses” and “choruses” and “instrumental sections”, and with slithers of thought and narrative slipping rhythmically – as in a song – in and out of the flow. It also, crucially, runs exactly like a real karaoke, with all of the text that we say and the action that we do running along on a small screen in front of us, for us to follow. This text is also projected on a screen at the back of the stage, so the audience are always simultaneously reading everything that they hear, with the instructions for action appearing, from the audience point of view, like labels describing everything we do.
It’s a show where “everything is exactly what it says it is”, made for an age that demands ever increasing exposure, all the world available in high definition at the touch of a button. Except of course, it doesn’t ever work like that, not really. That which we strive to capture most will always slip through our fingers, run away out of sight. And it’s in this play, between seeing and hearing, what’s described and what actually ‘is’, that the show finds its motion and purpose.
The text and music, both of which were composed by the company throughout the rehearsal process, are central to the piece. There is a lot of text in this show, densely packed, but playful also, in the way it makes use of language. Writing, for us, is never so much about storytelling or about re-presenting “reality” as it is about using language to do something, to highlight or transform a thing or possibility already present in the here and now of the theatre, something latent between us and you, you the audience.
One thing we love, unabashedly, about pop music, is the way it can take the simplest and most insipid couplet and twist it up – with the right voice, the right sound underneath it – into something that feels (for the moment it lasts) like it means everything. That takes your breath away. And we’ve been trying to capture some of this, in the show, trying to work a wry, flimsy kind of obviousness into the text and then layering it into the right texture and rhythm and composition of sound and image so that, out onstage, for as long as it hangs in the air, it sings. And there’s a sly humour, we feel, in watching these words float up into the light whilst knowing that at the end it’ll all fall, clumsily, back down to earth, when the show ends, or the song. A sadness, also, of course.
But then that’s just what we think. As with everything we’ve ever made, this is a show created for the audience to complete themselves, to find their own way through. We’ve tried to compose for you an experience that’s complex, delicate, sensual, hypnotic, that we hope is pleasurable in new and unexpected ways.
These performances in Warwick Arts Centre (Tue 18 & Wed 19 Feb 7.45pm) will be not just be the UK Premier, but also the first time Karaoke has been performed in English: although we still generally write and rehearse in English, we tend to test material first in Spanish, in Spain, for Spanish audiences. We feel like this is maybe the most “Spanish” show we’ve ever made. We’re both nervous and excited about seeing how it comes together, how it works and what it does, with you.
University of Warwick and Coventry Student Tickets are available for Karaoke for just £6 to be bought directly from the Box Office.