Terry O’Connor: Voices

Like kids at Christmas, when we first started using the vocal effects at the start of working on Void Story, they never failed to thrill.  An audio hall of mirrors, the effects box with its high-pitched kid’s voice and the super low ‘giant’ voice especially, transformed any utterance, sound or breath beyond recognition.

Pretty soon on Void Story, the sound of these treated voices started to suggest their own timbres and layers of identity. It wasn’t enough that the kid’s voice stated the obvious like kids do, or switched mood from one line to the next. We soon found that the most fun you could get from this high pitched naivety was to make it a brittle veneer barely covering a whole foundation of spite, cynicism and manipulative confidence. For the ‘giant’, a whole semantic debate emerged, as though the slow, deep, steady voice wanted to unpick its own being.

We’ve gone back to the voice toys for The Thrill of it All, feeling there was still more fun to be had from them. So in rehearsals all eight performers speak this way; the women high and infantile, the men low and ponderous and the costumes play to the same gender extremes. Watching the men improvise around a text idea, early on in this rehearsal process, their wigs over their eyes, their mics in front of their mouths, the confusion around just who was talking was giddy fun; your eyes always a few seconds behind the pass.

Watching our individual versions of these effects-box-identities squabble and undermine one another through amplified back-chat, (all men reduced to a low and self-important grumble, all women barbed and squeaky), we blur, merge and weave on the small screen of the rehearsal video playback, a plastic-brutal cartoon of sexed identity.  Like a twisted set of Ken and Barbie Dolls…. like late-stage Elvis and Dolly- without the Americana, the songs, the hips or the tits.

Terry O’Connor, 2010