We Ask These Questions of Everybody
New verbatim opera performed online by all-disabled ensemble shares perspectives from a marginalised community
Composed by Amble Skuse | Written and directed by Toria Banks
Friday 29th January, soundfestival, 5pm
Livestream via soundfestival
@WeAreHera | #QuestionsOfEverybody | www.wearehera.co.uk
As a decade of austerity policies continue to bite, HERA’s online opera created remotely will share the real-life experiences of disabled people in the UK. Performed by a cross-genre, all-disabled ensemble, We Ask These Questions of Everybody draws on transcripts from an assessment for the Department of Work and Pensions to expose the emotional challenges faced by disabled human beings dealing with state power. In a year which has seen vulnerable communities facing overwhelming mental, social and financial pressures as a result of shielding, We Ask These Questions of Everybody shares a story which urgently needs to be told, and celebrates the hope and solidarity of the disabled community.
Hannah needs help. She meets Lynn. Lynn works for a company that works for the Department of Work and Pensions. An assessment takes place. And then something else. This is an encounter between two women, an audience, and a riotous chorus of disabled voice, with text drawn from real conversations and combined with samples soundscapes and singing. In collaboration with designer Dylan Howells and creative captioner Laura Spark, We Ask These Questions of Everybody is an interactive and accessible digital experience, designed to reach many more people than it might have before, including home-based disabled people who are often excluded from theatre
Writer Toria Banks says “I’m so excited by Amble’s work. Her music is intimate and detailed, but hugely ambitious, and so is the show. It’s about really everyday things – preparing food, having a wash, going to the shop, and it’s about survival and joy. Because life as a disabled person is like that. I think after the year everyone’s had, non-disabled people will be in a good place to understand that too. The show was originally going to be live (and we still hope it will be at some point) but going online makes sense for us. Even before COVID, Amble and I have never met in person because of our disabilities. I understand getting frustrated with Zoom but real, human connection doesn’t have to be about sharing physical space. It’s about listening.”
HERA was founded in 2018, by writer-director Toria Banks, singer-director-writer Simone Ibbett-Brown, and singer and contemporary music veteran and pioneer Linda Hirst, as an intergenerational, intersectional feminist opera company. HERA makes and tours accessible music theatre by women and minoritised artists.
Composer Amble Skuse (she/her) is a musician and artist, working with oral history archives, interviews, community memories, radio interviews, traditional song, found sounds, live processing, body sensor controllers and acoustic instruments. She makes compositions for instruments and electronics, improvises using a 6 string Starfish fiddle and laptop, and makes live performance pieces as well as site specific works, sound walks, and installations. She explores these ideas of identity and power through a lens of intersectional feminism. Her focus is on gender and disability, and she is currently studying for a PhD looking at ways in which a disabled composer / performer can ustilise technology as a tool for composing, improvising and performing. Her work has taken her across the world, from Edinburgh to Singapore on a 10,000 mile train journey, to Canada to develop an improvising platform with disabled musicians, to China to explore the role of ‘being’ in improvisation, to Croatia to perform with the female coding ensemble OFFAL.
Writer Toria Banks (she/her) is a director, acting teacher, dramaturg, writer, and now producer, who lives with a neurological disability. She has been Resident Director at Trinity Laban since 2009, and worked for opera companies including English Touring Opera and the Royal Opera House before forming HERA. An experienced acting teacher, she led the Foundation Acting course at Arts Ed for five years. As a theatre director and dramaturg she has worked with a combination of new writing, old writing, collaborative devising, and physical theatre. She is also a commissioned playwright.
Running Time: 50 mins| Suitable for ages 15+
We Ask These Questions of Everybody includes built-in audio description and creative captioning.
Written and directed by Toria Banks Composed by Amble Skuse
Creative Captioning by Laura Spark Digital design by Dylan Howells
Victoria Oruwari (singer), Steph West (singer and harpist), Dr Sonia Alloria (multi-instrumentalist), Clarence Adoo (musician)
Friday 29th January 2021, 5pm
Pay What You Can (suggested donation £4)
A Sound Festival commission supported by Help Musicians, Mahogany Opera Group, Ignite Ticket Fund and Creative Scotland