Over the past year, I’ve been collaborating with director Rebecca Hanbury and our theatre company Born Mad on Sister. We’ve gathered real life stories from women from across the country about their siblings and transformed them into a theatrical tapestry of stories and song.


When we first started work on the piece, we realised we had an intensely personal archive of real lives in our hands. Each interview had been recorded and the stutters and half-finished sentences of the interviewees enriched the stories so much that we decided to work with this text verbatim – using it exactly as it was said to us.


Then, as we began to develop the sonic world of the piece, we realised that the way we’d worked in previous shows (using pre-recorded electronics and live singers) didn’t feel quite right – it didn’t match the truthfulness of the stories. Instead, we decided to make everything that the audience hears live on stage to reflect the honesty of the storytelling in the music making. All of the electronics, all of the sound effects and all of the music would be created, looped and manipulated as part of the show.


This immediately led us to foley art – the practice of overdubbing sound effects onto film, TV and radio. Foley offered us a way of exploring the stories in a more naturalistic way and building up a bank of samples that could then return later in the show. When approaching the music, I realised this liveness meant that the singers would also have to act as their own accompanists – creating soundscapes and loops that they then sang over. This meant the score ended up like a kind of tessellating pattern with motifs and music interlocking and overlapping with each other as the music is built up.


By setting out to make everything live, we really challenged ourselves creatively. We couldn’t rely on what we had done before and we had to try things out, take risks and get things wrong. It’s not the easiest way to make a show – we’ve all had to learn a lot of new skills along the way – but it has resulted in something that we could never have imagined when we set out to create it. Through experimentation and play, we’ve developed a unique sound world for the piece that brings to life the stories so generously told to us whilst maintaining their honesty and truthfulness.

Sister was premièred in June as part of the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival and is returning to London for 5 nights at Ovalhouse from Tuesday 6 to Saturday 10 September – more information and tickets are available here.