31/01/2024 - 03/02/2024
Isaac Hooper - Performer/Devisor
Liam Kelly - Director
Believable Arts Management
What lurks beneath our seabed? A plug. Earth’s belly button. From whence we rose and now must return, to pull. Drain the excess. Before the sea swelling swallows us. A blip ventures below, braving the absurdities of life pressurized as their subconscious seeps out into the deep. Through experimental vocal techniques, live soundscapes, and anarchic improvisation, blip explores the power of the human voice against the cataclysmic wave of noise.
blip is a devised and interactive work by award-winning performance artist Isaac Hooper. The debut of a new art form, ‘Cyborg sound poetry’ blip galvanises embodied technology, Dada, and clown on an adventure into our collective subconscious. Seize the means of vocal production and sing the body electric through this immersive experiment to the depths of your imagination.
BATS Theatre, ‘The Dome’
31st January – 3rd February 2024
Book online at https://bats.co.nz/whats-on/blip/
Sophie Kells - Stage Manager
Josiah Matagi - Lighting designer
Felix Ashworth-Hall - Sound operator
Daniel Nodder - Choreographer
Thomas Wahey - Coding Assistant
Charlie Jones - Production Design
Ruby Hooper - Marketing Manager
Jimmy Williamson - Production Manager
Solo , Theatre , Multimedia ,
Engaging, well designed, skilfully presented, challenging-but-not-off-putting
Review by Tim Stevenson 01st Feb 2024
Audience members coming through the door on the first night of blip are greeted by a smiling, clownish figure in a silver lamé jumpsuit. This is blip, created by Isaac Hooper (they/them); the director’s notes say they are a cyborg = a human-machine system.
Around their neck, blip wears a portable console covered in buttons and lights, a bit like a miniaturised version of an old-fashioned pinball machines. Not a big talker, they communicate in whistles and single words or simple phrases. Their voice is electronically distorted to make blip sound like a robot-child hybrid.
Behind blip, there’s a big screen onto which is projected a simple, cartoonlike beach landscape.
So that’s the setup. The show gets under way, and blip starts to interact with the various working parts. They get a couple of people out of the audience to hold up and wave beach flags like surf lifesavers use. They talk to themself and the audience in their robot-child voice. They have little arguments with one of their hands, which apparently has a life of its own, or maybe it’s more like a hand puppet. They get the audience to come up with noises and say them together, or he gives them actions to perform in unison.
blip turns the sounds they make into little song-poems, and sometimes these get away from them and take on a life of their own. The electronic apparatus gives them non-human capacity. It also asserts its autonomy over their more human-like aspect.
We get the impression that blip has a coherent personality – clumsy, enquiring, naive, rather sweet, physically very expressive – a bit like Mister Bean, only not as irritating.
And so it goes on. There’s a lot of audience interaction. The voice looping device gets a lot of use, creating and then playing with soundscapes. In one sequence, a magic seascape comes up on the backdrop, which can react directly to what’s being said on stage – I won’t describe this in detail, but it’s very cool and makes the audience go “Oooh.”
Moment by moment, there’s a lot of emphasis on improvisation and interaction between blip, their electronic extensions, the audience and whatever is on the screen. This makes the show feel a little random, but blip’s material has a clear progression – you could even call it a storyline – that’s about control, our relationship with nature, and the power of words and basic human desires.
Is blip the debut of a new art form, ‘Cyborg sound poetry,’ as the publicity material claims? Well, maybe. Is it an engaging, well designed, skilfully presented, challenging-but-not-off-putting piece of experimental theatre? Yes, it totally is; by the end of the evening, your reviewer is smiling and the audience noisily appreciative.
Isaac Hooper devised and performed the show. It’s a great concept, well thought through, and well executed. They have a lot to do on stage to keep the balance between spontaneity and maintaining direction. The role requires them to be quick-witted, physically inventive, and well in sync with their audience. They bring all these qualities to their performance and make a success of it. When Isaac comes out to talk to the audience at the end, they look as if they’ve just run a marathon while phoning in a World Chess Championship match, and I’m not surprised.
Hooper is fortunate to have worked with a great technical team on developing and presenting blip. Sound and audio are both crucial elements of the production, and they both look fairly cutting edge to me, so I’ll pick out for mention the projection design people (Connor Turnbull, Thomas Whaley, plus Hooper) and Charlie Jones for production design. But everyone involved can take satisfaction in what they contributed. Director Lia Kelly has succeeded in bringing together a show that works excellently well in its composite parts and as a whole.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer