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Composite scan of David Winskill's review of A Collection of Small Choices for the Hackney Gazette


Hackney Gazette
Thursday 26 November 2015

'Humbler Voices of Hoxton Hall: A Collection of Small Choices ★ ★ ★ ★ ★' by David Winskill

Hoxton Hall has been serving Hackney residents since 1863 when James Mortimer opened it as a music hall and "place of education and entertainment for the humbler classes."

In Hannah Bruce's fantastic creation we get to hear some of those 'umbler voices and many more besides. Galley and museum audio guides are familiar to us all – a cut-glass voice through the headphones lauding the light and shadow genius of Caravaggio as we trudge around in an aesthetic fug. Hannah's piece is so much more than that.

On arrival I was given an iPhone and a comfy headset with no instructions other than where to stand... The evocation of space created between the cans is amazing – footsteps approach from behind, doors creak confusing visual reality with the world pumped into your ears.

Characters tell their stories and memories stirred from 150 years of rich social engagement that the place has witnessed and been part of. It is hard to categorise the work that she has created – a sort of sound psycho-journey.

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Screen grab of lovelondonloveculture's preview of A Collection of Small Choices


Thursday 12 November 2015

Preview: A Collection of Small Choices, Hoxton Hall

Following the relaunch of Hoxton Hall recently, audiences and visitors to the hall are invited to take part in an adventure of the Victorian Music Hall, undertaking in a personal journey to uncover the hall's history.

Designed by artist Hannah Bruce, this interactive installation is activated by a groundbreaking app that takes users on a unique tour around the building, combining historical treasures with a 21st century approach.

A Collection of Small Choices was commissioned by Hoxton Hall and draws upon the characters, objects and music that is contained in the building's archive, offering visitors a unique perspective to discovering the building's history.

Directed by Hannah Bruce, written by Matthew Morrison and sound by Jonathan Eato, A Collection of Small Choices challenges the conceptions of many conventional heritage tours, encouraging visitors to explore Hoxton Hall guided by fictionalised characters inspired by the archive.

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Screen grab of Natasha Tripney's article for the Guardian 'Behind the curtain'

The Guardian, Thursday 27 March 2014

'Behind the curtain: exploring theatre's secret spaces' by Natasha Tripney

"There's something incredibly powerful about an empty theatre," says Hannah Bruce, whose company is behind The Claim. Created for Transform, the show takes participants into places the public rarely ventures. The building, which opened in 1990, is a sprawling complex housing two auditoriums as well as numerous rehearsal spaces, studios, workshops and offices. The public usually only get to see a tiny part of all this but there is, says Bruce, an "amazing cavernous area underneath the building. It's like a big cave, there's rubble and rocks from the quarry as well as the theatre's brick foundations."

The show uses digital technology to take audiences on journeys. An app guides its audience of 10 into the Quarry theatre – the larger of the two stages – during times when Mark Rosenblatt's production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is not being performed there. It will then draw them down into the the belly of the building in what Bruce hopes will be an intense and intimate experience. "Life can be very overwhelming at times, visually, aurally. We all have techniques to screen things out," she says. "We're interested in creating an environment where, rather than screening things off, people open themselves up to their surroundings."

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Screen grab of Zoe Parker's review for Culture Vulture

The Culture Vulture, 31 March 2014

'The Claim' by Zoe Parker

How much do we actually pay attention to the places and people that are around us? Would noticing those small yet sometimes significant details change the quality of how we live? This is what I wondered while watching The Claim in association with Hannah Bruce and Company and Northern school of Contemporary dance. The Claim explored the hidden spaces behind the scenes of the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It also gave us a glimpse of the sights and sounds we hear everyday in the city of Leeds.

Our tour began with downloading an App on our smart phones and then putting on headphones. This App was developed and designed by Peter Worth and Jonathan Eato and was a great piece of technology with perfect functionality. From then on in, we were invited to follow the voice 'in our head' that was giving us instructions and commentary through our headphones via this app.

The Claim at West Yorkshire Playhouse (specially commissioned for the festival Transform 14 was utterly beautiful. For me, it was a thoughtful moment of tranquility that reminded me to lift my head out of my own stuff once in a while and pay attention to what is happening around me.

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Screen grab of Phil Kirby's review for Culture Vulture

The Culture Vulture, 1 April 2014

'The Claim at West Yorkshire Playhouse' by Phil Kirby

I love exploring places you don´t normally get access into. I was once lucky enough to get into the bar at the Houses of Parliament, enjoyed a peek backstage at the O2 and most recently attended the Culture Vultures tour of Temple Works. When I read that The Claim was an atmospheric encounter with hidden spaces at West Yorkshire Playhouse I was intrigued.

The journey begins by asking us to walk past a barrier & with a No Entry sign. I'm not a rule breaker, so I had to trust the voice in my ear, with its well-timed additional encouragement. I followed the instructions and hoped the voice would point me in the right direction. I experienced mixed feelings of excitement and unease as I walked through a clearly marker "No Entry" zone.

The Claim is exciting and different. It's a brilliant way to seeing the other side of this theatre space, experience great performances along the way, and be tested in your ability to let go, trust your instinct and allow someone to direct you.

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Screen grab of Hannah Giles' review for Whats On Stage

Whats On Stage, 1 April 2014

'Transform 14 - Day 3 (West Yorkshire Playhouse)' by Hannah Giles

Day three of Transform 14 and, in a packed schedule, we managed to catch four of the most exciting works to grace the weekend.

We also got to explore the inner workings of the Playhouse building (as well as play with our smartphones) with the innovative, The Claim. Moving in a small group, we followed a designated course through the empty Quarry Theatre, then backstage and beyond, through dark spaces, stairs and winding corridors, all in the company of our audio guide, who urged us to keep going until we reached our final destination deep inside the building. Of course, it would be a shame to ruin this part of the show, but needless to say it doesn't disappoint.

Any time a show comes with a set of instructions involving headphones and downloading apps, you know you're in for something special, and Hannah Bruce & Company's The Claim certainly delivers a unique experience.

The technical aspects also worked seamlessly; demonstrating how modern technology can open up whole new world of creative opportunities.

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Screen grab of Catherine Love's review of The Claim

Catherine Love, 9 April 2014

'Transform 14: This Building is Full of Secrets' by Catherine Love

Backstage spaces, however tatty, always hold a strange kind of magic. It is this thrilling, intangible charge that Hannah Bruce & Company exploit in their new piece, the second of this year's Transform commissions. The Claim is essentially an audio guide with a performance element, but with the added appeal of leading audiences out of bounds, behind "no entry" signs and through closed doors. These spaces in the bowels of the West Yorkshire Playhouse are not just hidden away; they are secret, forbidden, kept closed off to prying eyes.

The Claim suffers a little from the usual challenges of audio works, struggling at times to integrate the instructions that guide us around the building and the enticing calls to our imagination... There is, as with much interactive theatre, an invitation to engage that is not quite seen through.

That said, the piece manages to render these backstage environments truly magical, at the same time as offering an intriguing sideways look at the world. As we are released into the cool afternoon air, I walk away thinking about everyday spaces and the hidden traces of beauty and memory that might cling to them.

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Screen grab of Jongisizwe Ntshuntshe's and Bandile Nombutuma's review of Cosi-Cosi for Southern Pulse Magazine

Southern Pulse Magazine, issue 1

'Keeping to the Rhythm' by Jongisizwe Ntshuntshe and Bandile Nombutuma

Cosi-Cosi was one of the works that could easily be seen as an allegory for ITC [Infecting the City festival]... a collaboration between 10 artists and 12 contributors which included local residents of Cape Town.

The mp3 contains snippets of the history of Cape Town, especially those bits of history that did not make it into the books in libraries. The poets, sounds, musicians, and text in the recording makes the walk an artistic experience.

Having walked the route myself, I must say there was something weird and wonderful about it. It was also phantasmal to walk past a cigarette stand and have the voice narration in my headphones telling me to not stop at the stand as I walked right past it.

Cosi Cosi is recorded in Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa, and two San languages. All you need is a Smartphone, Tablet, or mp3 player with a set of headphones, and you can walk a section of Cape Town in a way you’ve never done before.

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Industry Endorsements

"You can do a lovely free audio tour experience thing (w amazing binaural sound) of recently refurbed @HoxtonHall

Jo Caird, Freelance arts and travel journalist, 4 Dec 2015 [link]

"Magical intimate and for me a quietly emotional experience was @HannahBruceCo #SmallChoices @HoxtonHall now showing. Highly recommend! x"

Mark Esaias, Actor / Puppeteer, 18 Nov 2015 [link]

"I thought it was superb. Very evocative, inspiring. Lots of memories popped up. Very personal. I admit to being a little unsure of how this would work... [but] I AM V. IMPRESSED!"

Helen Mann, National Trust Property Manager, West Dorset, 2013

"I very much enjoyed this site specific work. [It] took place in a school I am familiar with, however, the performance led me through the building in quite a different way, sensually, poetically, and unexpectedly. It was a beautiful experience."

Mark Baldwin, Artistic Director, Rambert Dance Company, 2013

"The Look of the Thing by Hannah Bruce and Company was a beautiful and enriching experience for us at Wilton's and judging from the rave reviews from our audiences it was for them too. The rehearsal process was very creative and enjoyable, the company is very talented and so lovely to work with. If you get a chance to see this company live, make it a priority."

Frances Mayhew, Director of Wilton's Music Hall, 2012

"Selected for their boldness and innovation" Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust, Oct 2012 [link]

"The Look of the Thing @wiltonsmusichall does mesmerising things with bodies, words and time in a beautiful survivor space."

Ben Walters, @not_television, 16 Oct 2012 [link]

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Audience Feedback

"Go and see Small Choices @HoxtonHall by @HannahBruceCo It is an hour very well spent. Unexpected adventure."

Rebecca Dawson, @rebeccadawson78, 13 Nov 2015 [link]

"The tour was quite remarkable. I am the kind of person that does not like audio guides, preferring to muddle through reading the short printed narratives near the gallery features. This was of a totally different order. It was part of the whole artistic experience, allowing me to participate mentally. For example the various voice overs when we were in the 'gods' of the music hall helped me to deduce the different intervention philosophies and practices of Hoxton Hall over the last 150 years ranging across old fashioned charity, to social work to community work etc. The most spectacular parts for me were when the 3D sound effects were used. Hearing a member of staff walking down the stairs behind me, only to find nobody was there, increased my heartbeat and literally made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up."

Audience Member, A Collection of Small Choices, Hoxton Hall (London), Nov 2015

"I liked the idea of combining the image in my head with the image of the place in front of me. The idea of history woven with experience worked well... The scene that was set for me was very specifically British and was very much set in this place..."

Audience Member, The Price of Admission, Darlington Market, Oct 2013

"I find myself struggling to express adequately how moving I found the performance on Friday. The collage of music, voices, architecture, dance, poetry was wonderful. A really unique experience for me... this tapestry of arts"

Audience Member, The Look of the Thing, Langford School (London), July 2013

"I really wasn't expecting such an experimental and different approach to theatre. It was amazing to see another side to the Playhouse. Thank you."

Audience Member, The Claim, West Yorkshire Playhouse (Leeds), Mar 2014

"An incredible experience! The perfect thing for people who love Wilton's (or will but don’t know it yet!) I feel like I’ve been wrapped in a duvet of bricks and mortar, magical words, soft sounds and the wonder of the human body in movement. Loved it. Feel like I’ve taken a tonic that cures daily grind."

Audience Member, The Look of the Thing, Wilton's Music Hall (London), Oct 2012

"The sound effects and commentary made the experience a 'living one.'"

Audience Member, Some Reflections, Max Gate National Trust Property (Dorchester), May 2013

" did make me look at everything differently..."

Audience Member, The Look of the Thing, Wilton's Music Hall (London), Oct 2012

"Never before has a performance piece given me such a sense of the uncanny... A curious feeling of both being watched & being very alone. Some moments of perfect collision between sound, movement and lighting that just took my breath away."

Audience Member, The Claim, West Yorkshire Playhouse (Leeds), Mar 2014

"I felt transported and curious – that was great."

Audience Member, The Look of the Thing, Wilton's Music Hall (London), Oct 2012

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