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Credit: Theatre Conspiracy

Experimental theatre goes digital in Theatre Conspiracy’s PuSh Festival performance, Live from a Bush of Ghosts.

Described as a ghost story for the digital age, the performance is a re-visioning of Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which is a re-interpretation of a novel of that title by Nigerian novelist Amos Tutuola. Combining the turntable cut-ups of Vancouver’s No Luck Club with visual arts, storytelling and dance, the work is an expression of globalization, technology and mash-up digital culture.

The play’s seven characters, which include an Internet gambling addict and a “heavy metal televangelist,” are ghosts that arise from e-waste fumes and reflect some of the negative effects of globalization.
 

“In our initial discussions [about the play], we all talked about technology in our lives. [As artists,] we all use digital equipment and are so tech-heavy… [and so] we’re constantly producing e-waste. I upgrade my laptop every two or three years and change cell phones and computer monitors. Just think of where all this stuff goes when we stop using it—it’s all sent to Third World countries, where people dissemble it and extract the precious metals to sell.” —Trevor Chan, No Luck Club


 

Chan explained that from its first incarnation, the performance was conceived in a way that reflects a hip-hop/digital aesthetic. Tutuola’s work sampled different stories from African folklore. Eno and Byrne’s album combined clips of preachers, radio hosts and world music, inspiring producers like the Bomb Squad’s Hank Shocklee (from Public Enemy). In 2006, it was re-released on multi-track format, along with an invitation for users to make their own remixes.

Directed by Richard Wolfe, the performance was co-created by Conspiracy Theatre artistic producer Tim Carlson, dancer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, visual artist Candelario Andrade and No Luck Club. Chan explained that the collective worked out the performance over a series of week-long workshops, testing segments out last year at one of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s FUSE events.
 

“As instrumental musicians… we’re always thinking how can we create a song if we don’t have vocals. One solution is making a movie—building a story in our listeners’ minds… A lot of [turntablists] are influenced by cinema, if they don’t work with vocalists… We don’t look at our work as traditional musicians. At heart, we’re manipulating sounds—blending beats, fiddling around with sounds, telling stories.” —Trevor Chan

 

Live from a Bush of Ghosts


February 4–15, 2009, 7 p.m.
February 8 and 15, 4 p.m. Sunday matinees (no evening show)
Studio 16, Vancouver, 1555 W. 7th Ave @ Granville St