Delightful is a piece of new writing by theatre maker Olivia Winteringham (KILN) and was commissioned by Birmingham REP as part of their New & Nurtured season 2017. It is the second, in what is to become a trilogy of works, that Olivia has created inspired and informed by medical science. The first was A Journey Round My Skull which I collaborated on as sound designer in 2014.
Delightful is a dark and disturbing love story that sees Lenni, played by Olivia, negotiate complex relationships with her father, her dead partner, her half sister and the multiple voices she hears in her head. We were keen to find a way to present to the audience an authentic experience of voice hearing. Following a period of research and development working with voice hearers and mental health professionals we opted to use binaural sound design as a method to recreate the traumatic experience of living with multiple voices on a daily basis. We used this technique previously in A Journey Round My Skull to recreate the experience of awake brain surgery; here the audience is cast as the patient with Olivia playing the operating surgeon. However in Delightful there is a second character, Lenni’s half sister Ella, played by Megan McCormick. Ella appears on stage as we flashback in time to provide context for the scenario but also manifests as a voice in Lenni’s head.
In the central section of the piece the audience is invited to wear headphones and enter into Lenni’s head to experience her world and hear her voices. In order for the internal dialogue between Lenni and Ella to continue we placed a dummy head with binaural microphones in an offstage dressing room and Megan was then able to perform live with Olivia with both voices mixed alongside a designed soundtrack containing numerous other voices all played to the audience via the headphones.
This disconcerting, disturbing experience was enhanced by Ben’s fantastic set and lighting design which saw an assemblage of chairs painted in lurid colours on a slanted platform that appeared to change colour as the lights changed.
The show was a Birmingham REP commission and was presented at The Door, Birmingham REP, 26-28 October 2017