Modelling Play and London update

A couple of nights ago Muttley and I got back into London from Spain and heading to my temporary lodgings in Elephant and Castle it felt very much like a coming home. London sucks you in that way, as everyone in the world but me already knew. But be that as it may, I’m halfway through my stay here this time and consequently halfway through the Modelling Play development.

Myself, Rachel, Nathan, Muttley and Nikki presented the first public showing of the piece last week. It was an interesting showing in the sense that what we showed was never intended to form part of the final work. It was a proof-of-concept showing, where we created a full-systems model containing a series of connected interactive toy models. The system we chose to model was ‘Bateman’s Vegas’, a fictional coastal town on the east coast of Australia. We had ten people come along to take part and share their thoughts with us, and it was a really interesting afternoon. It wasn’t a success (it wasn’t intended to be, and it certainly didn’t surprise us in that respect) but in many ways it worked better than we thought, and we learned a great deal from the experience. There’s more discussion and video footage from the showing on the Modelling Play blog, if you’re interested.

Following the showing, we trekked over to Essen, Germany for Spieletag, the world’s biggest boardgame festival. Two days of boardgamery and learning everything we could about that medium, in order to better understand the intricacies of tabletop interactivity. Now back in London and about to get into phase two of the project, which culminates at the end of November with two scratch showings at the Battersea Arts Centre, November 29 and 30.

Meanwhile, in Canberra, the other half of Boho (Jack and Mick) are about to present a showing of the other new Boho work (we are having a good year I think) exploring epidemiology. Conceptually Transmitted Aphasia explores the outbreak of a new disease which infects ideas and spreads through language. That’s taking place 12pm Saturday 27 October at the CSIRO Discovery Centre – details on the Boho website.

attacking a reviewer with a sword in manila and building community gardens in london

So, two things! First of all, what happened in Manila this time round. Secondly, where am I now (London) and what is that about.

So first:

me and georgie and jordan back where we belong

A pretty extraordinary fortnight in Manila, madly scrambling across the town in pursuit of the Sipat Lawin Ensemble for the third season of Battalia Royale. Myself and the other BR playwrights – Sam Burns-Warr, Georgie McAuley and Jordan Prosser – christened ourselves the Too Many Weapons collective and held a symposium about the project at the CCP, before attending several weeks of runs at Museo Pambata on Roxas Boulevard.

It was utterly amazing – possibly the most visceral performance experience of my life. Not because of the script – if anything, the script was the one part of the project that really frustrated me, because seeing what an extraordinary and unique creation Sipat had produced, I wished we could go back and rewrite the thing from scratch to better fit their work. But in every other respect, it was a massive punch to the emotions.

this is what we look like after a massive punch to the emotions

One part of the stay was something that now seems quite major in retrospect – Ness Roque had proposed after the last run the idea that the audience might be able to stop the play at a point. JK and I chewed over that idea in conversation and then I scripted a new interactive sequence, in which a number of the audience are able to cal a halt to the action at the halfway mark if they so choose. It’s turned out to loom pretty large in people’s experience of the show in the last couple of weeks.

I’m gonna avoid doing a long emotional blurt here, but I want to gather (for those who are interested) a selection of some of the interesting reviews which have cropped up around this season.

Bloody Hell! (Philstar)

Royally Beaten (Philstar)

Beyond Battle Royale (Punked Noodle) – this is the best review I’ve ever gotten. just sayin.

RUN FASTER (Sabong, Food and Random Musings)

A Rambling Eulogy (Write Drunk Edit Sober) – a pretty amazing unpacking of audience psychology within the show

Life and Death (GMA Network) – featuring an interview with me –

Epic Live-Action Game Performance (When In Manila)

Blood Flood! (Lakwatsero)

Post-Battalia Royale Experience Realisation (Lakwatsero)

Psychotic Killers and Slutty Students (Twentysomething Tales)

Highly Recommended Street Theatre Experience (Flaircandy)

Battalia v3 (Life is Kulayful)

A Slice of Death (Because It’s Awesome)

And especial thanks to Marguarita Buenaventura from the Philstar for this line in her Royally Beaten review: ‘I now sport a bump on my right temple that throbs whenever I blink and a permanent paranoia towards all flying objects within my periphery. Thanks, Battalia.

WE DO WHAT WE CAN MARGUARITA. (also, sorry you got hit in the head with a samurai sword.)

The other business of the trip was for Jordan, Sam, Georgie and I to write and record a series of terrible hiphop tunes and radio plays and to create a collaborative album entitled The Greater Manila Audio Experiment.

THIS IS OUR ALBUM COVER (thanks Jenny Chua)

Now, part two!

For the last week and a half I’ve been in London, working on one of the two new Boho Interactive shows. Jack and Mick are in Canberra at the moment getting into the thick of the epidemiology project (about which more here). In the meantime, Muttley and I are in London working at the University College London Environment Institute. Alongside Nathan Harrison, Nikki Kennedy and Rachel Roberts of Applespiel, we’re starting on the development of a new show with the slightly awkward working title of Modelling Play. Rachel elegantly described Modelling Play as ‘a participatory tabletop performance work in progress’, which captures it as well as anything.

our community garden game.

Modelling Play is a creation in partnership with UK company Coney, as well as the UCL Environment Institute and Tipping Point UK. At the moment we’re in the thick of building a slew of interactive models and testing out all kinds of settings, mechanisms and lessons. If you’re interested, you can check out the project blog, and see examples of the sorts of things we’re creating. We’re building toward a short residency at the Battersea Arts Centre at the end of November, at which we’ll share the end result of whatever it is we create. And who knows what that will look like? Not me, except that it won’t be a model of a community garden (cause that was stressful).