From the very beginning of our project to develop Tonseisha – The Man Who Abandoned The World from the play Tonseisha by Erik Patterson, I have been describing the Erik’s play as ‘operatic’ in nature. Though I am notorious for bandying around the words opera and operatic, these terms are often just a personal shorthand for my response to a particular work. However I have become convinced that in this instance I should pursue this sense of the operatic nature of the piece (fortunately I have convinced my collaborators that this is a good idea). Tonseisha may never be an opera, but neither will it be a play with incidental music and song.

For me ‘Operatic’ describes a use of words, music, design/image/scale, and hyperrealism within a theatrical context.

Music – it’s pretty obvious. Key to the operatic nature of the work is that the music and song (along with other sound) is integral to the production, it is never incidental. The text of the play could be thought of as a form of recitative, though this overlooks the fact that characters will sing some of the script.

Design/image/scale – the play will take place on a big stage, both literally (hopefully) and metaphorically. The scale of any set/settings should be large. Utilising light to paint pictures. It must be beautiful.

Hyperrealism – much of what the audience experiences will be heightened i.e. not naturalistic, but nevertheless real. It is key that we retain the nature of Erik’s intent, particularly in the juxtapositions between the mundane and the surreal.

We are not producing a traditional opera (I have added it explained to me on many occasions that “opera is sung through”, and in an opera “the music leads the work”), but rather (I hope) utilising some of the key elements of its (many) forms, and merging them with a play text to produce something that will be a moving experience for an audience. I try to avoid using the word opera, but when I inevitably do, it should be taken not literally, but as shorthand for an overarching vision of how the piece should work.

In addition to the song and music we will be seeking collaborators particularly from outside the UK to develop soundscapes in a digital format for use both within the main work, and as stand-alone pieces. How does Montana sound? What is the sound of loneliness in a Japanese bar? What noises do two cultures clashing together make? We will be open to the possibilities of these being combined with other digital media and/or film.

We will be seeking a large empty space somewhere in London in which to create this work, and have no fixed parameters as to its nature other than that it is large, and hopefully multi-roomed. Our occupation will ensure a welcoming environment for everyone, including collaborators, visitors, visiting artists, and audiences alike. Entry to, and time spent in, the space should be a pleasure for anyone/everyone.

Gary Merry – Director