I Tried To Fuck Up The System But None Of My Friends Texted Me Back // Travis Alabanza

In the the Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room at the end of an intense festival weekend, the audience experienced this work through headphones, pre-made recordings, mime, audience interaction, dance and the combing of hair. Intimacy was referenced and we were given an insight into the artists’ thoughts through headphones that place Alabanza ‘inside’ your head. We were on the London Underground. A woman was crying. A man tried to comfort her. It felt better. 

Alabanza narrates dimensions of loneliness. It’s in the soles of your feet, it’s compassion verses danger, it’s failure and perfection and it’s about fear of people you don’t know. Their voice is strangely comforting as they talk to us about texting and everyone being on a podium. They talk to us about how they cried on the Underground after a friend died and no one helped. London is ranked as one of the loneliest cities in the world, and loneliness is about a lack of connection or communication with other people or animals. It can be felt even when you’re surrounded by other people.

Gradually, throughout the piece the audience were able to decide to join in: to dance, to be a human sculpture, to comfort people. The show ended with someone from the audience combing Alabanza’s hair, just as their Mum used to. This was loneliness and togetherness as an epic, multi layered and multi-sensory experience. The piece discussed chronic loneliness, but somehow by the end I felt, as many of the audience seemed to, as though we’d shared something together. This, as Alabanza explains, is a way to fuck up the system and to make a change. 

- Gini Simpson

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Travis Alabanza

Is Travis Alabanza the future of theatre? - Guardian

Loneliness Lab

Samaritans (UK)

Humans of Greater London

Intimacy/Tingle/Sound // Nwando Ebizie

Intimacy / Tingle / Sound is tranquil and easy to adapt to.  Cushions were dotted around the wooden floor, the lighting neither light nor dark and the rooms pillars providing a natural division for people to 'find their own space'. Audience are encouraged to sit and have hands massaged, which is pleasant though unusual for a meditative setting. It gives the uninitiated a passage into stillness. This sensory experience is hosted by three women dressed in ethereal floating costumes and exuding personal calm and charisma.

A giant screen shows a seascape and gently crashing waves, providing another anchor for calm. The repeating cycle of sensory experience includes a whispered story-telling that clashes with the calm environment as a dark tale unfolds. After the massage you're encouraged to make your way to lay on the ground using a cushion for your head. I sat up against a wall, cross-legged. As I'm familiar with dropping into deeper brainwave activity I rarely heard the words.  

There were people who were seemingly unfamiliar with the processes of meditation who looked uncomfortable at the idea of trusting the process leaning on cushions with their body's twisted on their sides to accommodate it. It was perhaps a mixture of resistance and a need to know more of what was expected of them, which of course is nothing, but trusting in that is part of the waking-up (to ourselves) process. 

The soundtrack reminded me of Centerpointe's Holosync Brain Sounds, which I found challenging for reasons I found out when I attended training in Anna Wise's Awaking the Mind system. The training measured your brainwaves during guided meditation and revealed your VAK system, your individual sensory modalities - visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. They told some very interesting stories about monks they'd tested who'd meditated for decades and never moved out of beta brainwaves to obtain the proven health benefits of stillness.

Nwando Ebizie was telling the tale when I arrived and someone else was continuing as I left.  It was a modern take on the meditative brain state, and a short introduction for the uninitiated.

-    Jane Unsworth


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Brainwaves and Meditation - Science Daily

Centrepointe Holosync Meditation

Anna Wise - Awakening the Mind 

Mindfulness vs Meditation - Medical Daily

Pete Blackaby - Humanistic Yoga

HOW WE LOST IT / Cheap Date Dance Company

HOW WE LOST IT / Cheap Date Dance Company

Three sets of clothes are laid out on the floor. Three women walk out on to the stage in their underwear and proceed to dress in an exaggerated choreographed manner. We are being lured, reeled in, played. Within this act of dressing, concealing - the subtlety of provocation is disarming - but then, this isn’t like a traditional kiss and tell, teen angst trauma fest or misery memoir.