Born Mad: interview with director Rebecca Hanbury

Fringe Opera talks to Rebecca Hanbury, director of cutting-edge theatre company Born Mad, about the world première of her upcoming show, Sister.

How did you put together the script for Sister?

We set out to explore the powerful and infuriating glue that holds families together, so started asking people for stories about their sisters. Soon, we were inundated by women and girls from all walks of life coming forward with stories to tell. There were tears, laughter, moments of regret, and stories of unshakable resilience. We were also interested in the way that the stories were told, so decided to use them in the words they were spoken to us – full of the half-finished sentences, ‘um’s, ‘ah’s, and contradictions of real life speech.

Where does the music come in?

Having worked with composer Alex Groves for a couple of years on music theatre pieces with electronic scores, we shared a dissatisfaction with creating an electronic score, pressing play, and having our singers sing over it. We felt like we were missing a trick, so started thinking about ways of making live electronic scores. I was interested by the sound samples that Alex collected and turned into music, and was keen to put this on stage. This led us to think about foley art, and we came up with a plan: to use sound effects to tell the story in one part of the show, then manipulate it and use it as the building blocks for the electronic music later on in the piece.

That sounds complicated, how is it going?

It’s going well thanks! It’s a hugely complex work with 11 microphones onstage (and counting!) and hundreds of live cues.

With all of these electronics, is it still opera?

It really depends on what you think opera is. We don’t use live instrumentalists or a conductor, and most of the text is spoken, so many would define it as a play. However, the score is contemporary classical and our performers Daisy Brown and Nia Coleman are first class opera singers as well as great actors.  We tend to call ourselves “music theatre”, but in all honesty, people should come along and make up their own minds!

Sister premières on Friday 3rd June 2016 at Rich Mix, Shoreditch, East London. 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Tickets £12. Details here.