Way back at the start of the year, a group of hopefuls auditioned for the chance to be in a new play. We were told that it was about Synesthesia, a condition in which people can see colours or experience tastes by simply hearing a certain word. It’s bizarre, yet truly magical and much harder to explain than I originally thought so here is a proper description.
That video is the very same shown to us by our director Matthew Xia at our audition. In fact, it was after watching that video that two members of our cast discovered that they too were synesthetes. The energy was buzzing! The Sound of Yellow was already reaching out, and had already infected us all. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
We were also informed that the play was going to be ‘verbatim’, which means that some of our lines were going to be quotes from actual synesthetes. We were going to be playing real people. So, no pressure!
In the weeks that followed our ‘Two Boroughs’ group met, and played games and bonded. We saw shows together; the splendid A View from the Bridge and the show that inspired our own, The Valley of Astonishment by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne. We were very privileged to meet them both along with the cast and fellow synesthetes. They continued to visit us over the weeks to give us their insight into their process and help us translate our script to an unsuspecting audience.
It was only a week before the play when we met up with the other groups participating in this event; Kairos Community Trust, Foundation 66, St Mungo’s Broadway & the Open Voices Choir. We finally got to see the bits of the play we had only read on paper come to life. Each group had been working on a different section, so seeing the whole thing come together was exciting!
Over the weeks we had been teased with images and models of the set. With tales of ever changing lights, smells of beef and disinfectant, 3D glasses, lights and sounds all in one tent. Well, the stage guys at the Young Vic did not disappoint. Our stage was an ever changing canvas, painting different colours, smells and sounds in a fully interactive space. It’s hard to explain (closest thing I could get was the holodeck from Star Trek) but was a wonder to experience. The play had street performances, it had audience participation, it had sounds, tastes, and lighting to affect as many senses as possible. It had a choir! It had moments of happiness and pure joy. It also had moments of utter gut wrenching sorrow. It was able to take you there safely and bring you back to the safety of yourself. By looking at your own reflection, you saw (we hoped) a whole new you. Not the you who had started watching this play as, but the new ‘enlightened’ one. That wasn’t supposed to be as pretentious as it read. Oh well.
I remember getting ready to go, the show was over it was time to get back to reality via a few celebratory drinks at the bar, when I was stopped by one of the members of Foundation 66. He asked me simply, “What I was going to do now?” I replied with, “Go to the bar and hang for a bit”. He corrected me with, “No I mean, what are you going to do now? Now this is all over?” I replied, “I don’t know what I’m going to do now.” That’s when it hit me. This wasn’t just some play; this had been a life force and life line to so many people.
The Sound of Yellow was never going to be a straight forward play. Over the weeks it had become a piece of organic material. A living breathing thing, that kept evolving and growing, needing our sustenance, wanting to be much more than just a performance piece. And in that final moment, I think it achieved it.