Mira was separated from her sisters for 15 years during the Algerian civil war. Jessica and Annabel used to tell each other everything. And Tara? Well, she’s a bit of a pyromaniac… Following the sell out success of Sister’s première at the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival in June, Born Mad return to London to present Sister for five nights at London’s Ovalhouse.
Sister is an outpouring of memories – some tender, some comic, and others painfully raw. Women from across the country shared stories with a common theme of sisterhood with us, creating a unique tapestry of real lives. From a myriad of voices emerges two sets of sisters; Jessica and Annabel, and Mira and her siblings. Jessica and Annabel’s turbulent upbringing has repercussions long into adult life, whilst global conflict forces Mira to choose between her sisters and her children.
Verbatim theatre meets Born Mad’s signature style of boundary-pushing electronics and live vocals to bring these deeply personal stories to life. Microphones and cables cover the stage as the performers become foley artists, and every sound is recorded, manipulated and relayed back to create an all-consuming sound.
I chatted to Born Mad about the production to find out al about the concept and how the space lends itself to the piece.
Thanks for talking to Break A Leg. Can you tell me about the production and what the audience can expect from the show?
Sister is about the overwhelming and infuriating glue that holds families together. It is a collection of real life stories, made out of interviews with almost 50 women. The stories are told word for word alongside foley art, sound design and electroacoustic music. The piece is heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure.
Has the concept changed from the initial idea?
In January 2015, when the project was in its infancy, we asked ourselves the following questions: What is it about families that makes them so important to us? What are the unique bonds that siblings share? What is the impact of a shared childhood? How does our past shape our adult life?
We are interested in honest, contemporary stories, so we set out answering these questions by simply asking people. Our first few interviews were funny, tender, joyful and heartbreaking in equal measure, so we decided to continue. We found that many of the closest, yet also the most tumultuous relationships were between women, so decided to focus on sisters. We are also passionate about showing interesting and multi-faceted female characters on stage, so this choice seemed right for us.
We never could have imagined that our initial questions would have made a piece like Sister, but this is an intrinsic part of our process – letting stories lead us into unknown places.
How does the space lend itself to the piece?
Ovalhouse is a great space, and our designer Georgia de Grey made the set for this theatre. Without giving too much away, the space is unusually deep, and the set plays with distance and perspective in a really exciting way.
What are you looking forward to most with this production?
It is humbling that our participants have shared their stories with us and we are so excited to pass these on to our audiences. The piece contains stories about civil war, displaced families and survival, as well as loyalty and lifelong friendship. These are stories that need to be told and the act of sharing them is both vital and thrilling.
What would you say to encourage potential audience members to come?
The show is a powerful conversation about family and relationships – mixing some pretty big comments on modern society with humour, bonkers sound design, and some really beautiful music.
Thanks to Born Mad for chatting to Break A Leg, it was a pleasure!