THE BLACK Box Theatre will boom with all kinds of dark and surprising sounds that will make for an awe-inspiring musical experience when Trickster is performed there next weekend.
One of the main creative forces behind the show is artist, musician, and composer Jez Colborne. A native of Nottingham, Colborne has been working with Bradford-based company Mind The Gap since 1998 and his work has been staged in China, USA, Brazil, and Germany as well as Britain.
Colborne has a rare condition called Williams syndrome – a genetic condition that brings some striking verbal abilities, perfect pitch, and particularly – an affinity for music; Jez could sing before he could talk.
“I find it all right to live with,” he tells me about his condition. “There are people who don’t understand about Williams syndrome, it’s chromosomal, you can’t get it from someone else with the condition. Because I have a learning disability some people think people with disabilities cannot think for themselves. I have been in this line of work now for quite a few years and it’s great to challenge people’s views on Williams syndrome. I still get the odd comment or the occasional person being negative but for me it’s something I have and I live with it.”
Collaborating on a wide range of projects with diverse artists, he always aims to create something no one has created before. His aim is to challenge peoples perceptions of artists who have a learning disability and ultimately create a world of ‘positive chaos’.
Mad about unusual sounds
Music is Colborne’s passion and he is interested and inspired by rock, contemporary, and world music, as well as non-traditional instruments such as sirens, shipping containers, and foghorns.
“I’m absolutely mad about objects that create unusual sounds,” he declares. “My passion began with my fascination in wide-area warning sirens, like the type they use in quarries to signal that they are going to blast or in a petrol-chemical plant to warn the people around if there is a disaster.
“When I was a kid there was a part time fire station near me, it used to go off every morning and afternoon. I heard it on many occasions. One day in particular sticks in my mind when I went to the supermarket in town with my mum. The fire station was right behind the supermarket, and as soon as I got there the siren screamed to life like a huge monster – it was deafening! For a long time after that I didn’t like them and definitely didn’t want to listen to them.”
Colborne’s early anxiety around sirens became instrumental in creating his first commission, Irresistible, while on tour with Mind the Gap. It also allowed him to confront his fear and research different sounds sirens made.
“I felt that as a musician – even though it might be harsh for my ears – there are loads of tones to them and they all have their own voice; just really loud, like an opera singer. I started listening to them as musical instruments, my fear went away and I started to be more and more interested in them.
“Irresistible involved using lots of types of sirens to create a symphony. It brings a whole new meaning to the word siren, mixing them with choirs, bands, and lighting to make sirens the star of the show. It was about using danger, excitement, and risk to create a new piece!”
Anyone can be a trickster
Irresistible was performed at the London 2012 Olympic Games and since then it has toured the world, and now Galway audiences can brace themselves for Colborne’s latest piece, Trickster. The idea behind the show is that life is sometimes tricky and in order to overcome the obstacles it throws at you, you have to be creative. Through doing this you also become a trickster yourself; Anyone can be a trickster.
“It’s about the docks, the sea, the travelling,” Jez tells me. “There is a container in it as well so it is also about containment. The container opens out into a ginormous space with endless possibilities for movement, dancing, and performance. It’s more a music-performance piece with a bigger cast.
“It’s going to include all my experiences of Galway, the industry, the weather, and being stranded on Inis Óirr. I like sirens and ships and that had a big influence on this work.
“We recorded the siren at the gasworks, we have seascapes and stormscapes too. We went out to Inis Óirr and there was a big storm, we were stuck there for a few days so we brought that in as well. That was incredible in its own right, it was quite an adventure. I love Galway, it’s very different to where I live in England because of the sea.”
Trickster is a co-production between Mind The Gap and Galway-based disability arts organisation That’s Life and was supported by the Arts Council initiative Ignite.
“There are 25 performers in the show,” Colborne reveals. “This is a big epic show that cost a lot of money to do. It’s great to work with That’s Life as they are performers with disabilities, including some with Williams syndrome. We’ve always wanted to collaborate with people and That’s Life wanted to work with me so that’s how the link up came about.”
As we wrap up our interview he shares these final, parting thoughts; “Don’t view people just because they have a disability, view them because they have an ability.”
Trickster is at the Black Box for two nights only, on Friday October 10 and Saturday 11 at 8pm. Tickets are €12/€10. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie