Would Like to Meet... non zero one

Feature in Issue 22-1 | Spring 2010

Meet non zero one, six good friends who formed a theatre company whilst studying at Royal Holloway, University of London. For their practical dissertation, they created an interactive audio piece called Would Like To Meet, which they then took to the Southwark Playhouse as part of the venue’s Secrets programme. It was seen there by a producer from the Barbican and commissioned for BITE in spring 2010. Here, they document their emergence as a graduate theatre company…

Here and Now

We are new to this — to the professional ‘theatre world’ — and are learning as we go. We have been a company for less than a year; we were together in London at first, but then dispersed all over the country to new full-time jobs. In recent months we have been experimenting with the beginnings of a new show as part of BAC’s Scratch Festival (autumn 2009), as well as creating a website, producing marketing images for the Barbican, and applying wherever we can for funding.

It is tough, tiring, expensive and scary, but definitely rewarding. We have ten-hour meetings, send approximately 30 emails a day and lose sleep at night, but the excitement and passion when we come together is worth it.

So here, in short diary installments, is what we, as a new theatre company, have been experiencing in the past few months.

From: Fran
Subject: Scratch – The Fear

We applied for BAC’s Scratch Festival with the determination that it would be the starting point for our next piece. We got offered a slot to perform during the Reasons for Living, Democracy weekend on Saturday 26 September. So today, only thirteen days from performance day, we are trying to create the Scratch (it is also the only day beforehand that the entire company can meet).

We arrive in the BAC foyer at 10am, bright and hopeful, armed with laptops and notepads. We start by playing games based loosely on the theme of democracy to get us into the spirit, and then sit mind-mapping and fantasising ideas of audience interaction, choice, and silent disco headphones. By the end of the day we need to have a title for the piece and a short description.

After a short twenty-minute lunch we experiment with some simple ideas using mobile phones, pieces of paper and a lot of chairs. By 5pm we sit staring at each other, eyes glazed slightly.

Before we leave at 8pm we still need to discuss Barbican marketing, funding applications and the website. And take a company photo. Oh – and write those 40 words. So we continue…

From: Cat
Subject: Barbican Marketing Meeting

Alex and I get to the Barbican, painfully punctual after texting each other our journey updates for the last hour. Today, as the designated Barbican non zero one spokespeople, we have the first marketing meeting.

As I shake hands with our producer, media relations officer and marketing officer I’m certain they can feel my heart booming. Relaxed Alex has met them before, but I get stumped by their first question: ‘So Cat, what is your role in the company?’ ‘I guess it’s... ahh... co-everything?’ Performer, producer, techie, administrator – non zero one may as well call themselves the six musketeers; it’s as good a title as any.

Luckily the images we started creating two days ago, taken by Sarah and John and frantically touched up, go down a storm and I relax. An hour and a half later and we are another step closer to seeing our work distributed in 50,000 BITE brochures...

From: Sarah
Subject: Web to the Site

I sit glaring at Dreamweaver in front of my Mac, worried that my every tentative move may bring about the downfall of our website three months into the build. I’d begun working on it – mostly drawing boxes on paper, knowing what I wanted it to look like and how I would like it to work – but I had no clue how to make it happen, or if my designs were even possible.

With me about to punch my laptop, or even better the persons behind Dreamweaver, Thom, an old friend of mine, came to the rescue after he received a message entitled ‘Dreamweaver is ruining my life’. Thom is now teaching me how to make a website… in return for tea and home-cooked food.

Whatever I learn from Thom I’ll try to pass on to the rest of the company. Growing collectively is important to us, and we make decisions as a group, consulting one another on everything from proofing website copy to trying out new creative ideas. This makes some things more time consuming as they have to go between the six of us, but it means that we are really cohesive, consistent and completely engaged in everything we do.

Separately we can be self-sufficient photographers, designers, administrators, producers, performers, etcetera, but it’s even more exciting to be able to share our individual skills and interests to benefit the company. Most of us have full-time jobs or have done internships working in the arts in various areas – experiences that allow us to work together efficiently as a company. Most importantly though, our individual interests provide inspiration for our performance work. In Would Like to Meet, for example, there are video installations, movement pieces and interactions within the triangle of participant, performers and space. When we all come together our creativity comes alive – especially if there’s a free sandwich in it for us somewhere.

From: John
Subject: non zero one Music

The bullet point ‘Performing Rights??’ is still there, at the bottom of the agenda. Now it’s getting serious, we can no longer get away with the ‘did-they-ask-if-they-could-usethat?’ music clips that (may) have appeared in early versions of Would Like To Meet. We need our own music.

Treacherously flattering though it would be to think otherwise, we know that we can’t do it all. Thus, I find myself emailing Robert Logan, the intimidatingly accomplished musician who had just finished composing for an Oscar-winning documentary. Um...Would you be interested in working with us, Rob? What this unknown, unproven group of six can offer Robert takes some thought to pitch. Nervous…

And yet, a month later, we are met in an awkward circle in the dark waiting room at BAC. Nobody quite knows how to begin, but I think Rob is expecting us to start. Ready, steady... convince me! Inevitably, we arrive at, And of course, it would be great for you because... Nobody’s going to be winning any Oscars this time, but you know what? He’s smiling...

From: Iván
Subject: Tech-Knowledge-y

Alex has drafted quite a beautiful letter to a lovely major audio electronics manufacturer and I’ve taken it upon myself to create the ultimate shopping list of what we want from them (I’m a bit ashamed of my excitement).

It seems that we’ve accidentally let technology define our work. Not that we’re complaining mind you – it’s quite nice to be working on ‘cutting edge participatory theatre’, even if at times it means we spend hours on end creating work that only a few people will get to see. And it’s fine because we’ve sought to make work that connects with our audiences, creating unique moments between each member, which was something we could not achieve with an audience of a hundred (or can’t yet, at least).

Our use of technology comes from our passion to create something new for our audience to experience, and for the past two days I’ve also been chasing up Silent Disco kits for a possible live-broadcast performance. We’ve only got a couple of days to decide if we want them for the BAC Scratch or not, but the longer we take, the less time we have to find out how they work. We never intended to be a technology-led theatre company, and there’s still plenty of time for us to not be, but for now we’re all about experimenting with what’s out there in order to keep things fresh and exciting for both ourselves and our audience (all six of them).

From: Alex
Subject: Receipts

At our very first company meeting at university we appointed someone to the role of ‘treasurer’ to look after the £20 we had each decided to put into our exam piece. Despite being in the bottom set for maths at school, that person was me.

It’s ten months later and I’m finding myself still collecting receipts and keeping track of how much money we spend. I’m currently sending another email to remind everyone to bring their receipts (with their names written clearly on the back) to our next meeting. I must admit that I’m enjoying managing our accounts (which I’m learning to do as we go along) as I’m quite the organised freak. I appear to be responsible for our company bank account too, which we opened to hold the grant money we were lucky enough to be awarded from Royal Holloway.

Money and funding is a challenge – particularly as we’re all juggling non zero one with our real full-time jobs and earning money to live. Having totalled our draft budget for the Barbican, I’m shocked to work out that it costs us £59.95 every time we meet in London. And when we meet before 12.30pm it costs us £104.70… Oh dear.


As you read this it is spring 2010 and non zero one are putting all their time and energy into writing and recording Would Like To Meet for the Barbican. We meet every weekend to work on the six individual journeys each audience member will take, holding conversations about telephones, rain and sunken bars.

Since BAC’s Scratch Festival we have also had interest in developing Scratch performance and are going to work on the piece currently named They Vote With Their Feet to take to festivals including the Edinburgh Fringe.

So if you happen to be at the Barbican and see six people walking around at a very steady speed, holding stop-watches with a look of concentration, then wave – it’s non zero one, and we would like to meet you.

Headphone Theatre

Currently enjoying a period of intense activity, headphone theatre has actually been around for a decade or more. Total Theatre Magazine picks a few practitioners old and new:

Back to Back: Australian company whose production small metal objects seated the audience above a busy concourse (for the UK performance, Stratford Station), with the actors in among the crowd. www.backtobacktheatre.com

First Person Theatre: Artist collective that’s produced a two-person headphone piece, Waystation, as well as a downloadable podcast, Figurehead, to be experienced solo on your local park bench. www.firstpersontheatre.wordpress.com

Rotozaza: Company whose enormously successful piece Etiquette sat two people, friends or strangers, together for a short, oblique encounter directed by headphone instructions. Later shows Wondermart and GuruGuru took different approaches to the form. www.rotozaza.co.uk

Blast Theory: Technology-inquisitive company whose work Rider Spoke saw participants cycling the city looking for the hiding places of previous participants – and the recordings they left there. www.blasttheory.co.uk

David Leddy: Glasgow-based artist whose Auricula Series combines radio play and guided tour. Participants follow a map and listen to a patchwork of sounds and voices from which a narrative emerges. Three to date: Tympanic, Sussurus, and Reekie. www.davidleddy.com

non zero one are: Sarah Butcher, Ivan Gonzalez, Cat Harrison, John Hunter, Fran Miller and Alex Turner. Would Like to Meet was performed in 2009 at Southwark Playhouse and in Royal Holloway’s renovated Boilerhouse Complex. It will be performed as part of BITE 2010, 28 April – 16 May (excluding 3 & 10), with post-show talks 1 & 9 May. Box office: 0845 120 7550. See www.barbican.org.uk www.nonzeroone.com | info@nonzeroone.com | twitter.com/nonzeroone

Referenced Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 22-1
p. 12 - 13