Augmented online at GIFT Festival: “A virtual, virtuoso delight.”

The tour of my solo show, Augmented stopped halfway through in March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Toby Bennett filmed what turned out to be the final performance at Salisbury Playhouse. Gateshead International Festival of Theatre (GIFT) streamed the film of Augmented on Saturday 2nd May. The Festival was wonderful, connecting people around the world and filling us artists and creatives with hope. The audience response online to the streaming of Augmented was wonderful, with people posting photos of scenes and lines as they watched.  Augmented got a five star review from A Younger Theatre reviewer, and the Guardian  review called the the show a “fascinating insight into communication and expectation, and makes you pay more attention to the noises of the everyday.”

Sophie looks euphoric on a stage surrounded by projected text that says me me me me me
AUGMENTED written and performed by Sophie Woolley ; Directed by Rachel Bagshaw ; Co-Design by Laura Hopkins & Khadija Raza ; Lighting Design by Joshua Pharo ; Sound Design & Composer: Adrienne Quartly ; Movement Director: Rachel Drazek ; Assistant Director: Esther Dix ; Dramaturg: Sarah Dickson ; Audio Description: Michael Achtman ; BSL Creative Consultant: Jean st Clair ; Produced in association with Told By An Idiot ; Manchester Royal Exchange ; Manchester UK ; 6 March 2020 ; Credit & Copyright: Helen Murray

A Younger Theatre reviewer wrote: “Woolley’s performance is emotionally intense but truthful. She shares a deep connection with her audience in the small space and forces them to confront their own prejudices against those who navigate the world differently.”

The streamed show had captions available and audio description at the click of a button and many audience members were glad they could watch from home – because not everyone has the energy or reseources to go to festivals. Is this the future for the performing arts?

“This production is clever. The simple but effective set from Laura Hopkins and Khadja Raza features a white split backdrop, onto which are projected colours, images and the creative captions expertly printing themselves onto the screen. Woolley uses minimal props, (a chair, a book, a hat) and the split backdrop is used as a telephone, a rainpipe, a piano. Josh Pharo’s captions go way beyond practical and become, at times, beautiful. The words dance across the backdrop like a shape poem and give emphasis to Woolley’s speech. ” (A Younger Theatre)

sophie cringes on a blue lit stage as if scared by an unseen enemy. behind her text is projected ,phrases such as 'why cna't you just leave me alone' and 'i'm running all over the place without music'. behind sophie is a slatted curtain. she stands on a lip shaped mat on the stage. there is a simple metal chair and sci fi style lights at the side of the stage. sophie wears a dress silver leggings and has bobbed hair that flies out as she swivels.

 

Augmented Credits

Writer and Performer Sophie Woolley
Director Rachel Bagshaw 
Assistant Director Esther Dix
Designers Laura Hopkins and Khadija Raza
Lighting and Projection Design Joshua Pharo 

Composer and Sound Designer Adrienne Quartly
Movement Direction Rachel Drazek
Production Manager and Stage Manager Simon Perkins
Dramaturg Sarah Dickenson
Audio Description Michael Achtman
SSE Monitor Jean St Clair 

 

Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. The original R&D was funded in its development by Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists, with funding from Arts Council England. Originally developed with Ovalhouse. Supported by the New Wolsey Theatre. Augmented is sponsored by Advanced Bionics.

Unlimited Instagram takeover story

Check out the photos here.

I don’t have a dog. I really like people, humans. I also like JG Ballard, the novelist.  I think of his work a lot at the moment. Unlimited asked me to share some thoughts I’m having right now. I write satire so I’m going to attempt to write some thoughts through that prism now.

These are some thoughts I had this morning whilst walking in an east London park with my essential, permitted household human companion.

Under lockdown in London and all over UK,  non “key workers” like myself (I’m a writer/actor) are permitted to leave the house to exercise, preferably once a day. People who have dogs are lucky because they have real face to face conversations with other dog walkers from OUTSIDE of their household.

In some nations, like where my friend @uhuru_b lives (whose neighbour’s dog is pictured in this photo collection) dog walkers are not allowed to take their dogs beyond their yards. I don’t have a dog to walk because I don’t want a pet. I’m fine with that.

In London, the dogs in parks are often not on leads because their walkers want to stand still and chat with external (non household) humans at the permitted distance of two metres. Their dogs are going wild, really wild, and their play becomes more boisterous and violent.

The dogs don’t know there’s a pandemic. They’re playfighting, slobbering over each other, rolling around. This looks quite fun right now. I wish I could do that. This thought surprises me a bit. It comes out of nowhere. What’s happening to me?

The dogs are nipping, boxing, chewing and increasingly biting and slapping each other. I wonder whether one of the owners might step in to break it up. But that risks another owner from another household stepping forward at the same time to pull their dog back.  They risk narrowing the gap between themselves and so ‘breaking the rules’ of lockdown, whilst trying to save their irritable and socially inept dogs.

One owner breaks ranks and steps away from his permitted human companion, and tries to control his big, daft dog who is overpowering a small dog, who is getting really irritated and trying to headbutt the big dog. That all sounds quite bad now I write it down in instagram, but it is the usual canine messing around – with a bit of edge. It’s just that people don’t move in as fast as usual, in order to break it up. No one else moves or screams or gets in a flap, that’s how I know that it is going to be okay in the end. It’s going to be okay, isn’t it. Isn’t it? “I don’t know,” my permitted human household companion says. “Probably”.

The other dog owners hang back, as one man tries to pull his dog away from the fighty small dog. We’re all just watching a load of accidental dog fighting on a lovely spring day.

And I think, clearly, the transgressive,  anarchic, fighty dogs are a sublimation of their owners’ desires, and perhaps also my own desires. Our impotent rage against the virus and politicians or of our sanctimonious/fearful curtain twitching judgment of others. It’s like something out of a JG Ballard book, I tell myself.

I leave the park with my essential permitted, key, house member companion. He was not interested in the dog fight situation, but I feel sure that it is the beginning of a very sophisticated and impressive comparison between Ballardian social and environmental conditions and precariat urban consumer society in the age of corona.

Like so many of my thoughts at this so called, “strange” time, I don’t have time to finish it or interrogate it for very long. My attention is soon urgently diverted by trying to blow a stray lock of hair out of my camo print facemask, as it repeatedly affixes itself back into my mouth on the way home past the heroically open for business tesco express.

I decide that it is quite enough right now at this time of Corona, just to have an actual culturally referencing thought in my own mind. Well done me.

It is enough to tell myself that a walk in the park filled with dog walkers and their semi-wild dogs, is like something out of a JG Ballard novel. I bung the unfinished thought onto a crumpled pile of discarded thoughts in my head.  I go home to my childless, dog-less one bedroom flat, and get on with my video meetings and typing into a laptop. To focus, I turn the noise of the world off by lifting the headpiece from the side of my head. And now I hear nothing at all, not the rain outside, not the melancholic washing machine, not the strident, telephone conference negotiation coming from my essential companion two metres away at the other table. Nothing.

I hope you enjoyed this shaggy dog story. The end. X

FOOTNOTE: The Collins English Dictionary now carries a definition for ‘Ballardian’:

(adj) 1. of James Graham Ballard (born 1930), the British novelist, or his works (2) resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels and stories, esp dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.

PRECARIAT:

In sociology and economics, the precariat (/prɪˈkɛəriət/) is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare. The term is a portmanteau obtained by merging precarious with proletariat.

Thank you to my friends who sent me their dog photos featured in this selection. None of these dogs were involved in the dog-fight described above.

 

Augmented at Gateshead International Festival of Theatre ONLINE – Booking now open

Sophie dances in front of a bronze coloured screen made of stips of plastic
AUGMENTED written and performed by Sophie Woolley ; Directed by Rachel Bagshaw ; Credit & Copyright: Helen Murray

Following the cancellation of my Augmented tour half way through, I’m proud that the film of the Salisbury Playhouse performance will be streaming online at GIFT on saturday 2nd May at 4pm, with a Q&A after. Intsead of paying for your ticket you can make a donation to GIFT. Click on the donate link on the website. Reserve your ticket to Augmented here and check out the rest of the festival. See you there!

“This year’s digital re-imagining of Gateshead International Festival of Theatre (GIFT) kicks off on Friday 1 May, through to Sunday 3 May. With a thought provoking, curated programme of contemporary theatre, dance and interactive events, this tenth edition of the festival aims to connect artists and audiences self-isolating at home, to share and inspire creativity.

Catch global artists and brilliant new works. Immerse yourself in sensory experiences, experimental works in progress and lively debates – and all from the comfort of your armchair. Book up your festival weekend now, with a packed programme of events and performances shown in real time, and join artists and audiences tuning in worldwide to encounter bold new works, share human stories and build personal networks (with a virtual cocktail party if that’s your thing) at giftfestival.co.uk. @giftfest #cultureinquarantine #stayathome

Fancy an action-packed weekend of the best theatre, dance and interactive events from the comfort of your armchair? Check out the digital edition of @giftfest which lands 1-3 May. All events and shows, and tickets for this year’s festival, on giftfestival.co.uk “

Augmented running time is 70 mins.

Sophie looks euphoric on a stage surrounded by projected text that says me me me me me
AUGMENTED written and performed by Sophie Woolley ; Directed by Rachel Bagshaw ; Co-Design by Laura Hopkins & Khadija Raza ; Lighting Design by Joshua Pharo ; Sound Design & Composer: Adrienne Quartly ; Movement Director: Rachel Drazek ; Assistant Director: Esther Dix ; Dramaturg: Sarah Dickson ; Audio Description: Michael Achtman ; BSL Creative Consultant: Jean st Clair ; Produced in association with Told By An Idiot ; Manchester Royal Exchange ; Manchester UK ; 6 March 2020 ; Credit & Copyright: Helen Murray

Augmented is the inaugural show for Augmented Productions and is produced by Told by an Idiot’s leading producer, Jenni Grainger. The show is in association with Told by an Idiot.

The orginial R&D was funded in its development by Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists, with funding from Arts Council England. Originally developed with Ovalhouse. Supported by the New Wolsey Theatre. Augmented is sponsored by Advanced Bionics.
Augmented was filmed and edited by Toby Bennett.

Credits

Writer and Performer Sophie Woolley
Director Rachel Bagshaw 
Assistant Director Esther Dix
Designers Laura Hopkins and Khadija Raza
Lighting and Projection Design Joshua Pharo 

Composer and Sound Designer Adrienne Quartly
Movement Direction Rachel Drazek
Production Manager and Stage Manager Simon Perkins
Dramaturg Sarah Dickenson
Audio Description Michael Achtman
SSE Monitor Jean St Clair 

Tour booking Emily Lunnon, Original producer Kendall Masson, R&D movement by Lucia Tong and Martyn Garside, Secret dance track Lee Affen.

arts council lottery logo

Unlimited logo

Advanced Bionics logo in blue and white

told by an idiot logologo for augmented productions

 

Support the Augmented tour Crowdfunder!

Hello! It’s been a while since I posted.  This post is about my launch of the Augmented crowdfunder yesterday.

promotional image of sophie woolley Augmented show. She wears a red dress and has a placid enigmatic expression and sound waves zoom onto her head.
Photo by Justin Munitz

I’ve created a show called Augmented, which tells all about going deaf (in adulthood) and having a cochlear implant. There was nothing in culture which reflected my experience, so I decided to make a show to share the complexity and build bridges between hearing and deaf culture.

Augmented is the inaugural show for my new company, Augmented Productions and produced by Told by an Idiot’s leading producer, Jenni Grainger. The show is in association with Told by an Idiot, a company with a history of touring innovative and provocative new work for the last 26 years.

It’s easy to find YouTube videos of deaf people being ‘switched on,’ but what happens to them after that? Do they become assimilated into ‘hearing culture’? Or are implants not that good?

Having been hearing, deaf and now ‘cyborg,’ I can see the world from three perspectives and I invite you to support my work in sharing my unique perspective.

Augmented is a moving and entertaining solo show, directed by Rachel Bagshaw (Associate Director at London’s Unicorn Theatre).  It features stunning creative captions by award winning Josh Pharo, and design by award-winning set and costume designer Laura Hopkins, with an amazing sound track by Adrienne Quartly.

Arts Council England is supporting the tour and their financial contribution has allowed me to secure some brilliant tour venues all over the country, however there are areas of the budget that still require funding, including: Financial support to stretch our marketing further to ensure the show is seen by everyone, including the scientific community, professionals working with deaf people and children, deaf and disabled people.

I also want to have accessible Q&A sessions after three of the shows on tour and there are additional costs for these which are outside of the production budget. These Q&A sessions are crucial because the show provokes many questions from deaf and hearing people, and provides a platform for sharing our stories, hopes and fears about the future for deaf and hearing society.

I would really love for the show to be seen in London and a well known venue has offered me space to showcase the production in London for three dates. We need additional financial support to make this a reality.


I’ve raised the financial backing from the Arts Council and also Advanced Bionics (who have given me £1000 in sponsorship, which is awesome).

I have just £3000 to go to reach my final target of being able to achieve all I would like to achieve. If you can invest any amount, I would be hugely grateful.  

The Augmented tour dates are, (London TBC):

5th/6th/7th March 2020 Manchester Royal Exchange

10th/11th March 2020  Birmingham Rep

13th/14th March 2020 Salisbury Playhouse

18th-21 March 2020 Plymouth Theatre Royal, Drum

25 March 2020 Cambridge Junction

 

Augmented Productions launches, supported by Told by an Idiot

As my Clore fellowship ends, I’m proud to announce that I’ve set up a new company called Augmented Productions (named after my forthcoming play, Augmented).

logo for augmented productions

Augmented Productions is over the moon to be partnering with the amazing, brilliant and funny Told by an Idiot for a year-long associateship. Over the next year the two organisations will play together, and grow together, with Told by an Idiot offering Augmented Productions vital support in our inaugural year!  This is going to be SO GOOD.

“I am thrilled that Augmented Productions will be joining us as our first associate company. The brains behind Augmented is Sophie Woolley, a unique writer, performer, and experimenter, who was a crucial part of our project with the Barbican ‘Let Me Play The Lion Too’.Sophie will surprise and challenge us with her playful and provocative work, and it marks a new and exciting development in the journey of both organisations.” – Paul Hunter, Artistic Director Told by an Idiot

told by an idiot logo

Augmented, the show, is supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Supported in its development by Unlimited, with funding from Arts Council England. Originally developed with Ovalhouse. Supported by the New Wolsey Theatre.

arts council lottery logo

Logo designed by http://www.jamesmerry.co.uk/