Voices of Dissent was my first solo show, which I made in 2008 at Contact, Manchester. It was ‘an anarchic multi-character piece combining spoken word, dramatic monologue, movement, music and renewable energy’.
Voices of Dissent began life during my At Home residency at Contact in 2006. I wanted to create a piece of work that explored the issue of sustainability, while being a sustainable product in its own right.
The piece tells the story of Tali – an ancient trickster god from a forgotten pantheon who ‘in the beginning’ stole fire and gave it to humanity. For his crime, Tali was condemned by the other gods to live out his immortal days on earth, experiencing their pain and hunger forever.
But now the gods are over-heating, and are forcing Tali to try and steal fire back from the humans. Realising the impossibility of his task, Tali sets out to try and prove to the gods that humans are worthy of the gift of fire, intervening in the lives of a host of characters to make them act more responsibly. Tali’s story and the stories of the characters he meets are told in a combination of dramatic monologue, dialogue and Ben Mellor’s trademark verse, full of imagery, wit and wordplay in this engaging new solo show.
The production aimed itself to be sustainable, and as a result was necessarily participatory. A bicycle was used on stage, mounted on a pedal generator which powered the lights. The faster the pedals turned, the brighter the lights, and if they stopped of course, the lights went out. This meant that when I needed to leave the bike to become other characters, an audience member had to take my place to keep the show lit. This was a central motif in the piece, a metaphor for the collective responsibility we all must take to ensure our future energy security, and an innovative means of creating a participative audience experience.