Agent in a Box R&D

April 18, 2014 by

We were lucky enough to be awarded a ‘CATH’ grant last year, and have been working in collaboration with some excellent people to create a new concept using our 2008 production Black Tonic as its inspiration.

Agent in a Box is a collaboration between:

Katie Day – http://www.theotherwayworks.co.uk/

Alyson Fielding – http://www.pyuda.com/

John Sear – http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/facilities/digitalhumanitieshub/staff/sear-john.aspx  /  http://wallfour.co.uk/

Inspired by The Other Way Works’ 2008 immersive theatre production ‘Black Tonic’

This pilot project has been delivered through the Collaborative Arts Triple Helix, a research project by the University of Birmingham in partnership with University of Leicester, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of their Creative Economy Knowledge Exchange programme.

Agent in a Box will eventually be an hour-long spy thriller, theatre game experience, to be played alone in an anonymous hotel bedroom.
Agent in a box is an exciting creative content offer for those boring evenings you spend in chain business hotels when travelling for work with only CNN for company.

The experience is delivered in the form of a portable box (the size of a box of chocolates), which can be purchased for yourself or as a gift. An interactive story of espionage told through paper fragments, phone and text messages, provoking the player to accept the invitation of the anonymous hotel room to become someone new if only for one night.

We are now seeking partnerships to help us develop the project.

Technology Feasibility Study Brief

April 17, 2014 by

Technology Feasibility Study – ‘Protagonist’

Task:

Deliver a technical specification and development plan for a prototype of an online app that automatically generates a short film memoir about a user from their social media content.

Fee:

£1,000 to deliver the Feasibility Study. We would estimate this to be 2 days work.

Background:

‘Protagonist’ is a practical attempt to make sense of our vast stashes of online personal data in a human, emotional and narrative way.

This is an early stage research project funded by REACT (http://www.react-hub.org.uk/protagonist/) and is collaboration between Katie Day, Artistic Director of The Other Way Works, a theatre company based in Birmingham, and Dr John Troyer, Deputy Director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath.

Requirements for the Prototype:

1.  Gathers social media content from user’s accounts (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+);
2.  Produces a video from user’s social media content;
3.  Content of video aims to be of significance to the user (it is anticipated that this would be achieved by automated classification and clustering of content);
4.  Video looks attractive and professionally produced;
5.  Video is 1-3 minutes in length;
6.  It should be cost effective and seek to use pre-existing assets, services and tools;
7.  Cost of Prototype development does not exceed £40,000.

Requirements for the Feasibility Study:

1.  It will include a proposed technical solution;
2.  The development plan will include effort estimates and suggested delivery timescale;
3.  The technical specification and development plan should be clearly and realistically costed;
4.  A list of the technologies required;
5.  Person specifications for developing and integrating these technologies, and leading the project;
6.  A Skype meeting with Katie Day after the study is complete to discuss the proposal.

Application Process:

Please get in touch with Katie Day via email to info@theotherwayworks.co.uk by 6pm on Friday 25th April 2014 to express your interest in delivering this brief.

Please provide a brief overview of your relevant experience. Include any links to your CV, portfolio or existing apps.

We have more detailed requirements and use cases for the prototype that we will supply to the selected applicant.

Artist Biogs

April 16, 2013 by

Katie Day – Co-creator and Director
Katie Day is the Artistic Director of The Other Way Works. In this role she initiates and directs new productions, delivers participatory activities, and leads the strategic development of the Company. In Spring 2011 she co-created and directed Avon Calling, a site-responsive performance for audience member’s own living rooms. She directed the company’s recent production Black Tonic which premiered in Manchester with Contact Theatre in November, and toured to Birmingham in April 2009, and Bristol’s Mayfest in May 2009. During the summer and autumn of 2008 she directed and co- devised Complimentary, commissioned for Warwick Arts Centre, and led a DIY5 artists’ professional development project on behalf of the Live Art Development Agency. Throughout 2010, Katie produced the Theatre Sandbox scheme for iShed, working with six regional venues to commission six new projects that explored the use of pervasive media in live performance.
(more…)

The Science Bit

April 15, 2013 by

The following information is provided by Dr Debra Skene, Black Tonic‘s Scientific Collaborator:

Broken body clocks and sleep problems

Debra J. Skene, Scientific Collaborator

Centre for Chronobiology | Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences |University of Surrey | Guildford, UK

Within our brain is a clock which provides information about “the time of day” to our bodily functions enabling us, for example, to be awake during the day and sleep at night. This clock is synchronised to the 24 h light/dark cycle by environmental light that enters the eyes. In totally blind people (such as Jo) light transmission is impaired and is unable to synchronise the body clock thus the desynchronised clock “free runs” at its own pace. As Jo says: “I have a tick, but no light to reset my tock”. In most people a desynchronised clock free-runs at a period length of greater than 24 h. While in a desynchronised state, symptoms akin to jet lag are experienced (daytime sleepiness, poor night sleep, reduced alertness and performance during waking). This is a lifelong condition for totally blind people.

Body clocks can also be disturbed by rapid shifts in time as experienced following travel across time zones or by rotating shift workers. Steve and Anna have flown across time zones; Helen and Lena are shift workers. Symptoms of disrupted clocks are poor night sleep, daytime napping, reduced alertness, fatigue, and reduced ability to perform during waking hours that may predispose a person to accidents and risk. The long term consequences of repeated clock disruptions are just beginning to be studied with epidemiological studies showing increased cardiovascular and cancer risk in night shift workers.

How to treat and correct disturbed clocks is an important research area. Currently there are two recognised treatments, melatonin tablets and light exposure (especially light enriched with the colour blue). These treatments can directly speed up or slow down the body clock so that it more quickly becomes synchronised to the new time zone or the new work shift schedule. Appropriately timed melatonin and light (and avoidance of light at some times) can be used to alleviate the symptoms of jetlag or shift work. For example, Anna’s “jet lag pack” includes melatonin pills, a Lightbox, an eye mask, sunglasses and a chart showing when to use these for maximum effect. Melatonin is also currently the treatment of choice for cyclic sleep/wake disorder experienced by totally blind people. Melatonin has been shown to correct the underlying clock problem in the blind as well as improve night sleep and reduce daytime napping.

Further reading

Arendt, J. and Skene, D.J. Melatonin as a chronobiotic. Sleep Medicine Reviews (2005) 9, 25-39.

Skene, D.J. and Arendt, J. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders in the blind and their treatment with melatonin. Sleep Medicine (2007) 8, 651-655.

Press

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  • 23 Nov 2008 – Whats On Stage Manchester

    Reviewed by Dave Cunningham, 23rd November, 2008

    Venue: Place Apartment Hotel, Manchester

    3 Stars

    Read the review

    Shift working and long -distance travel can destabilise sleep patterns. One of the challenges facing the audience in Black Tonic is working out the extent to which the actions of the characters are affected by their disrupted sleep. Our assessment is affected by the fact that the play is presented in such a way that we too experience the symptoms.

    The jobs of the characters make it appropriate to stage Black Tonic not in a theatre but in the rooms and corridors of the Place Hotel. Lena (Magdalena Tuka) is a chambermaid working shifts in the hotel. Here she encounters Anna ( Katherine Maxwell-Cook) whom she blames for the loss of her lover. Lena fears that Anna is going to exert her malign influence over long distance traveller Steve ( Gareth Nicholls) and his partner Helen (Laura Ellison). Anna , insomniac and self-harming, clearly feels guilty about something and we have to work out her true motives.

    The play requires an unusual level of audience participation ranging from the usual one of observing and interpreting to more direct involvement of conversing and interacting with the characters. At times this involvement is secured in a natural manner.

    From our hotel room we overhear Lena convey her suspicions to her supervisor Marie (Lou Platt). After interrupting an argument we are taken to one side by Helen or Steve to hear their concerns or confessions. Other cues for participation, however, are more artificial. A telephone call urges us from room to corridor or we are just directed into a darkened room. It is a shame that these directions could not be more discrete (the telephone call could have been intended for another room but received by us in error) so as to maintain the illusion of spontaneous involvement. This occasional disjointed approach does, however, help us feel we are experiencing the type of confusion caused by destabilised sleep patterns.

    Director Katie Day lists theatre and hotels as her major passions . Yet the influences on Black Tonic seem cinematic rather than theatrical with the techniques of David Lynch being particularly apparent. The environment in which site-specific events take place can create problems as well as generate benefits. Day not only avoids problems but uses the atmosphere of the hotel to exploit the feeling you get in such locations that something weird might be going on in the next room; and by extension that strange things may be happening beneath the conventional surface of society as a whole.

    Apart from Magdalena Tuka, who is given the chance to show different aspects of Lena,the actors are not really required to create characters. Their purpose is more to tell the story and convey the atmosphere of a waking dream – which they do very well. The story, by Clare Duffy, is not entirely original – one recalls similar storylines in a tale by Stephen King and a film by David Fincher. Nevertheless the story is told in a very imaginative way and leads to a satisfying conclusion.

    Black Tonic might be a triumph of style over substance but it is very imaginative and a lot of fun.

  • 26 Nov 2008 – The Independent

    Black Tonic, The Place Hotel, Manchester

    Reviewed by Lynne Walker

    Wednesday, 26 November 2008

    Read the review

    In Black Tonic, devised by the Birmingham-based company The Other Way Works, an audience of two couples play detectives piecing together a dramatic jigsaw acted out in the lobby, corridors and bedrooms of a hotel. Instructions are issued by phone or shakily typed notes in Clare Duffy’s ingenious web of fantasy mingled with reality, directed by Katie Day and nimbly executed by a small cast.

    After checking in to Manchester’s Place Hotel we’re offered a Black Tonic to sip while the rooms are prepared. At one table, two guests innocently swap stories while, a little nearer, a married couple called Steve and Helen fool fondly around. My fellow traveller and I share the lift with them – Steve now moody and apparently jet-lagged – on the way to our penthouse apartment. Before we reach our destination, Room 503, Helen runs forward to assist a young lady who is lying apparently injured on the ground. Assured there’s nothing we can do, we’re told to close our door behind us.

    Video sequences flash across the television monitor, then room service is temporarily interrupted as a chambermaid Lena (Magdalena Tuka) rushes to our bathroom to throw up. She’s clearly troubled by what she has seen elsewhere. Marie (Louise Platt), squirting air freshener, begs us to turn a blind eye, bribing us with extra pillow chocolates.

    Outside the door, a full-scale row is erupting. My co-detective and I have our ears bent separately by Helen and Steve. It’s hard knowing how to respond to a young woman pouring out her heart about the apparent faithlessness of her husband and begging for advice. After all, I saw the incriminating evidence slipped into her handbag downstairs. How interactive should we be? Should we strong-arm the maid who has stolen a laptop? The blind man in the darkened room clearly expects a vocal response. He has a tick, he says, “but no light to reset my tock”. This, it turns out, is a clue.

    Thrust into a room with stuff strewn on the floor, we find clues as to the identity of Anna, who specialises in “professional relationship restoration”. A jet-lag pack – containing melatonin tablets, an eye mask and a blue lightbox – presents another twist in this mystery about anonymity and intimacy, the effects of light and sleep deprivation, and a blind date between the nightly life of a hotel and the endless possibilities of dramatic fiction.

  • 12 June 2008 – The Guardian

    3 stars, Sprint festival, London

    Lyn Gardner

    Read the review

    Anna has an unusual job: she runs an organisation specialising in “professional relationship restoration”. If you want to get your ex-partner back, she may be able to help. We first meet her in the bar of a London hotel. She is downing a cocktail called a Black Tonic and observing a married couple, Helen and Steve. We watch her watching, and are plunged into an evocative thriller that takes place in the public spaces, corridors and bedrooms of the hotel.

    Commissioned by Camden People’s Theatre for the Sprint festival, Black Tonic is a site-responsive performance produced by the Birmingham-based The Other Way Works. It is designed to be played in hotels for an audience of two at a time. This is quite an early version of a show that I think could eventually be a cracker; it is already technically adept, and plays cleverly with that particularly odd tension between anonymity and intimacy that is part of any hotel environment. One of the fascinating things is the way the real guests in the hotel seem entirely oblivious to the impostors around them, raising the idea that in such circumstances we are all giving some kind of performance.

    The show also melds the public and private faces of the hotel, particularly the way chamber maids are both present and invisible. The balance of video to live action isn’t quite right, and the piece needs more emotional texture, but this is work with real potential.

  • Nov 2008 – Channel M (Manchester) Entertainment News

    Extract of performance and interview with Director Katie Day, November 2008

    TV clip from Channel M’s Entertainment News

  • May 2009 – Venue Magazine, Bristol

    Review – Black Tonic

    **** 4 Stars

    Reviewed by Tom Hackett, May 2009

    Mercure Holland House Hotel, Bristol (Fri 1-Mon 4 May)

    Strange things were happening at Redcliffe’s Holland House Hotel last weekend, as Birmingham-based theatre group The Other Way Works led audience members through the rooms and corridors to unravel a psychological mystery. The experience is less literal and more impressionistic than one might expect from a mystery story, more David Lynch than Agatha Christie. Led round in pairs, we see one corridor scene twice, breaking the narrative flow but also leading us to question our first reading of the scene; the rooms’ TV equipment is used to show short films that draw us into a key character’s psyche; and at one point all four audience members are invited to sit down and play ‘Snap’ with a blind man, for no apparent reason other than to mess with our heads. The possibilities of the setting are fully explored and it’s all executed with impressive precision, whilst the performances are so naturalistic that it is genuinely difficult to tell the actors from the ordinary guests in the hotel. And just when you think the ambiguity and surreality are going to get a bit much, everything ties up into a satisfyingly elegant conclusion. Just the kind of high-quality experiment that can make Mayfest such a refreshing tonic.

  • 2 May 2009 – The Guardian

    Preview, 2 May 2009

    Lyn Gardner

    Make sure you see Black Tonic, The Other Way Works’ behind-the-scenes thriller in the Mercure Holland House Hotel.

  • 15 Nov 2008 – The Guardian

    Preview, 15 November 2008

    Lyn Gardner

    Produced by Birmingham company The Other Way Works, this interactive performance for an audience of just four draws on a short story by Clare Duffy. It’s an intriguing detective tale about Anna, who offers a service described as “professional relationship restoration” that takes place in the rooms and corridors of a hotel, and its pleasure is in the tension between that strange hotel mix of intimacy and anonymity and the way real guests are oblivious to what is happening.

In Development, Thessaloniki, Greece

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Aesthetic Development of the production, and shooting of film material.

Future Dates

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A UK tour of Black Tonic is planned for 2015.

For a discussion about booking Black Tonic for your theatre or festival programme please contact Katie Day at info@theotherwayworks.co.uk

Development History

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Performance History

April 14, 2013 by

  • May 2009 – Mercure Holland House Hotel and Spa, Bristol

    As part of Mayfest Bristol 2009 Sponsored by Mercure Holland House Hotel & Spa Bristol

    Originally commissioned by Camden People’s Theatre.

    Project Development funded by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, Arts Council England, Birmingham City Council & The Sir Barry Jackson Trust, and supported by CPT, Contact Theatre & mac.

  • April 2009 – Radisson SAS Hotel, Birmingham

    Sponsored by the Radisson SAS Hotel Birmingham

    Funded by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award www.wellcome.ac.uk and The Sir Barry Jackson Trust

    Originally commissioned by Camden People’s Theatre. Development funded by Arts Council England, Birmingham City Council & The Sir Barry Jackson Trust, and supported by Contact Theatre, CPT & mac.

  • November 2008 – The Place Hotel, Manchester

    Part of Contact Theatre’s Autumn 2008 Season

    Sponsored by The Place Hotel, supported by Contact Theatre, and funded by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award.

    Originally commissioned by Camden People’s Theatre. Development funded by Arts Council England, Birmingham City Council, The Sir Barry Jackson Trust, and supported by CPT & mac

  • June 2008 – The Grange Fitzrovia Hotel, Central London

    Part of CPT’s Sprint Festival 2008

    Commissioned and Co-Produced by CPT, London

    www.cptheatre.co.uk

Black Tonic

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an evocative thriller” The Guardian

The Other Way Works invites you to unravel this original detective story, where even love can be bought for the price of a cocktail from the mini-bar.

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