A house without books is like a room without windows - Heinrich Mann
Sounding the Sky
The British Library
Sounding the Sky was an immersive audio story journey commissioned by the British Library in response to their Season of Sound. We led audiences around some of the Library's most spectacular and secret spaces to experience an aerial sequence of sound-rich stories linked by a theme of the sky. The journey involved lying in a summer meadow, migrating with hummingbirds in a reading room with projected illustrations, preparing to skydive from a high balcony, and stepping out into a constellation on a roof terrace.
The show included work by award-winning audio makers Cathy FitzGerald and Hana Walker-Brown, poetry by Ruth Padel, music by Aurora Orchestra, a story by Susanna Hislop and illustration by Gayna Wiles. Director – Ellen Wiles; Assistant producer and Stage Manager – Susanna Hislop; Lighting Designer – Rory Beaton; Sound designer – Ian Dearden; Sound engineer – Marco Carpegna. More detail coming soon on our blog page.
Sounding the Sky – photo collage
Palace Green Library, Durham
University, June 2017
Our Time Travellers show was commissioned by Durham University's Palace Green Library in response to their Time Machines exhibition. We immersed our audiences in the fourth dimension, exploring fiction about time travel and fiction as time travel. Our audiences were led on a journey around the exhibition and library spaces for stories staged in collaboration with music, illustration, yoga and shadow puppetry. Laurence Owen and Lindsay Sharman performed their musical adaptation of H.G. Wells's The Time Machine next to the original manuscript. Jacqueline Phillips performed Ursula K. Le Guin's dystopian story, the 'The Phoenix' in which a librarian rescues a stash of books from the flames, in a research library-made-apocalyptic. 6/100 'Apocalypses' by Lucy Corin were performed with projected illustrations by Gayna Wiles. The audience co-wrote and performed flash fictions. Neil Gaiman's dark tale 'Other People', about a man encountering a demon and being forced to looking back in time, was powerfully performed by actor Jamie Brown, with evocative new shadow puppetry.
Time Travellers - photo collage
Time Travellers – short video story of the show
Neil Gaiman's 'Other People' performed by Jamie Brown with shadow puppetry in the History of the Book room.
The Time Machine (H.G. Wells), by Laurence Owen and Lindsay Sharman, performed next to the manuscript
Debussy's 'Syrinx' played 'offstage' by Ellen Wiles
Ursula K. Le Guin's story 'The Phoenix' performed by Jacqueline Phillips in the Barker Research Library
Six Apocalypses from Lucy Corin's collection One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses, performed by Jamie Brown with illustration by Gayna Wiles
Micro fictions on a theme of time travel, written and performed by the audience
The British Library, November 2015
Literally Fantastical was commissioned by the British Library as a response to their Alice exhibition. We led audiences on a journey to experience a sequence stories on a theme of the fantastical, the fabulous and the fairy tale. Ross Sutherland performed his twisted retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with all nouns shifted 23 places in the dictionary, accompanied by old film footage, in the Writers and Scholars Room. A site-specific audio story about a disgruntled bibliophile pigeon by Ellen Wiles was played as an installation on the roof terrace with the audience gathered around a book sculpture. We transformed the Manuscripts Reading Room into an enchanted forest, where Maeve Leahy performed fairy tale-themed songs interacting with dancer Rob Hesp, and audiences collectively performed a traditional tale. Emma Jane Unsworth performed a new story about a jogger's encounter with a vampire from one distant balcony to another across the chasm of the Library's main atrium, via silent disco headphones. Timothy Allsop performed Neil Gaiman's story about memory, writing and imagination: 'The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury'. Adjoa Andoh performed Angela Carter's feminist gothic classic, Wolf-Alice, with live illustration by Gabi Froden. Grace Chilton performed the tea party scene from Alice with vintage illustrations. Ark also co-curated the Library's Fairy Tales and Wonderlands Late, which art film maker Sebastian Buerkner, book artist Chloe Spicer, and postcard poet Michelle Madsen.
Literally Fantastical - photo collage
Literally Fantastical - short video story of the show
Timothy Allsop performs 'The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury' by Neil Gaiman
Maeve Leahy performs 'Little Tin Soldier' with dance by Rob Hesp
Grace Chilton performs 'A Mad Tea Party' with projected illustrations from Alice over the decades
Ross Sutherland performs his story, 'Little Red Riding Hood (+23 spaces)'
Ellen Wiles's story 'Coop Coup Coo' performed as an audio installation on the BL's roof terrace
Adjoa Andoh performs Angela Carter's story 'Wolf Alice' with live illustration by Gabi Froden.
A Literary Bestiary
Swiss Cottage Library, June 2015
A Literary Bestiary was created around a sequence of stories involving curious creatures real and imagined, human relationships with animals, notions of the bestial, the feral and the wilderness.
We reanimated the splendid modernist spaces of Swiss Cottage Library out of hours, and took the audience on a journey across three floors, with stories performed from spiral staircases and in alcoves. Every short story or set of stories took place at a different staging post, and all the readings involved experimental performance concepts and creative cross-arts collaborations, including an interactive audience story involving creating, reading from and devouring edible books.
Stories included new commissions, classic tales, and a story by the contemporary genius of the micro short story form, Lydia Davis. Artists included Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones) and Grace Chilton, writers Joe Dunthorne (Submarine), Nicholas Royle and Ellen Wiles, actress and singer Maeve Leahy, artists Chloe Spicer and Ruvienne Doran, dancer Rob Hesp and guitarist Maria Jose Andrade.
It was curated and directed by Ellen Wiles and co-produced by Karoline Solbakken with technical production by Rich Irvine. Take a look at our blog page for a more fulsome story of the show.
A Literary Bestiary - photo collage
A Literary Bestiary – short video story of the show
A Literary Coup
Primrose Hill Community Library, April 2015
For our show A Literary Coup we took over Primrose Hill Community Library on World Book Night. Curated around the theme of libraries and reading, the show involved story performance collaborations with art forms including film, dance, sound and interactive book art.
Stories included new commissions by Nikesh Shukla, Hannah Silva, Sarah Grochala, Lucy Coggle, Ellen Wiles, and classic short stories by Babel and Walter R. Brooks performed by actors Susanna Hislop and Charlie Partridge. There was street dance and lindy hop by Michelle Bailey, interactive book art by Chloe Spicer, and live viola music by Christoven Tan interacting with a new recorded composition by Kate Denholm.
A Literary Coup - photo collage
A Literary Coup - short video story of the show