Week three. The world is moving fast on the top floor of the Powerhouse building. This week smashing the creativity about with Contact’s Young Company is Werkha, aka Tom Leah, electronic jazz musician who’s been making beats globally for years. Tom has bopped down to Moss Side to combine his variety of sampled beats and rhythms with the raw energy that so often fills the dance studio. It’s loud today and the young people are buzzing with excitement – getting dropped out of the World Cup already a distant memory as the workshop begins. Even at this stage new members are arriving and are quickly picked up by the tenacity of the young people’s enthusiasms.
Tom drops the young people straight into it and they begin to devise tableau’s which contain stereotypical ‘acts’ of masculinity. This is the first time the YC have devised together to generate work and it’s exciting to see how they take on different roles and who begins to lead. They collaborate with ease as a group with everyone giving offers and making suggestions -it’s an exciting taster of what is to come. Tom has more or less separated the session into two sections; devising scenes and collection of sampled sounds to inform the action. This takes place in the form of dictaphones, bicycles, a toaster and a sound studio, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Tom’s role in this project is varied and will probably change as the production begins to take a firmer shape. On paper – he’s the sound designer – but he comes from a background of performing across the electronic festival scene and beyond. He’s laid back and runs a chilled-out young people-led workshop. He’s keen to try out everything and has lots of ideas on the role of sound in theatre. The workshop continues and the young people produce two scenes. One which revolves around a boy learning to ride his bike, the other explores gender stereotypes in a club and peoples actions inside this space.
‘With nothing set in stone it is an opportunity to show the YC how subtle sound can be and how much technology has enabled it to transform spaces’
With two improvised scenes that interlink through a transition the young people split into smaller groups and are sent to three destinations to begin sampling sound. This links into why Tom is here, he wants to explore how to make a transition between sections rhythmical or energetic or in time or all three at once. This is both from a logistical perspective and an artistic one. With nothing set in stone it is an opportunity to show the YC how subtle sound can be and how much technology has enabled it to transform spaces. After twenty minutes of exploring how to make sound from a bicycle, how to create a ‘live bar’ from objects found in the kitchen and a small group mixing a new house track in the music studio with Tom everyone is back together. It’s a bit tense in the dance studio, Werkha sits in a corner with his mac mixing the tracks as the YC perform their scenes- each scene accompanied with it’s own soundtrack that mixes into the next. It’s curious how seamlessly the mechanic bicycle sounds become ‘bar sounds’ and then house music, pausing briefly for a breath to then drop again, but it is probably a testament to Tom’s ability with music software.
It’s the first taster the YC have at what their show could be like, what direction it may move in. What stands out about this session is how far the YC have come in trusting each other’s instincts and relaxing enough to trust one another’s decisions. We’re almost at the halfway point in the workshop stage and it will be interesting to see how quickly things begin to move now and where we will all be in four weeks time.