Rehearsal room secrets: What is nothing?

A black and white image of Sophie taking a selfie photo in a rehearsal room mirror, standing underneath a skylight. Sophie's expression is serious and contemplative.
Ovalhouse rehearsal studio.

Today I spent the morning with dialect coach, Elspeth Morrison, and voice coach Sarah Case. Elspeth took me through a scene with a 1940s posh character, and we also looked at my Liverpool accent (Typetalk operator) and a Scottish accent, and we solved a few glitches in my minicom/Typetalk scene. I suddenly remembered that minicom calls end with both parties typing or saying SKSKSKSK.

I have no idea why SKSKSK never crossed over into general usage. I am bored of signing off emails with ‘Best Wishes’ and ‘Kind Regards’. In future all people should end emails with SKSKSK.

If you don’t know what a minicom is, or Typetalk or SKSK, don’t worry. The team and I have discussed much we explain deaf tech to parts of the audience who are not aware. Things will mostly fairly self explanatory and if they aren’t, then this is part of the art of the piece, in that scenes will often land differently with different audience members.

Since last week, I have had a new sound map on my cochlear implant processor, and today I found that when I am projecting my voice, the automatic gain control on the new level programs was momentarily dampening the volume. That is what it sounded like anyway. So I switched back to one of my old sound map program, where I have a wider IDR and high, loud levels and that did not dampen my loud, projecting voice. I hope I can get used to my new sound map. I might get some adjustments made in a few weeks time.

First up in the afternoon, I spent some time with awesomely talented and experienced sound artist, Adrienne Quartly. Adrienne decided to make one of the environmental sound effects using my voice. This led to Rachel Bagshaw the director wondering whether we could do that for some more of the sound effects.

Rather than rehearse this week or worry about the shows, we are investigating the script in a playful way. The team spent a good deal of time discussing what nothing is, as opposed to silence. Then we looked deeper. Rachel told us all to make our own nothing. Adrienne’s nothing sounded very close to my lived, auditory nothing. Rachel’s nothing left me feeling lost and falling. Lucia Tong’s nothing was repetitive and ended in calm and release. Tamar Saphra’s nothing was crossed out. My nothing was uncomfortable and involved an office chair.

We looked again at the time line we’d mapped on the wall yesterday, and how ‘nothing’ sat in each section.

Then it was time to play with what we’re calling the Jon Ronson scene.

Rachel got me to do the Jon Ronson scene with everyone sitting close to me round a table. I had to read it intimately instead of doing it angrily like I was doing on Monday. Then Rachel got me to do it again, more performatively, in a way we both describe as defensive and comedic, and then see where that got me. It was unsustainable – and unsustainability got me to a more interesting reading of the scene. It felt like it got me a closer to achieving what I was aiming at with that moment.

I’m very grateful to everyone for agreeing to work with me on this. Come and see the scratch performances at Ovalhouse 12-14 July.