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Gary Stevens

Sampler. Photo: Chris Hewitt
1995 – 2024

Sampler created a sense of a place entirely through sound. There were no physical objects on the stage, apart from the five colour-coded performers. Over seven thousand audio cues were played on a keyboard.

The performers would feel their way through the empty space. An observer, who is a classical percussionist, sat in the auditorium at the sampler keyboard and played the sound of the performer’s footsteps At different times the sound suggested a cavernous hall, an intimate room with a carpet, a garden with a pond, a shingle beach, a snowy wasteland. Objects were ‘found’ as the performers walked around the empty space colliding with invisible walls and furniture, standing in imaginary ponds and bumping into trees. Actions were discovered that allowed them to travel, to go through imaginary doors into different spaces or ‘cut’ them to another location. Sometimes the performer appeared to be part of a game. The others watched as they explored a room only to knock a vase off a table. They heard it totter, roll and smash on the floor. Then they lost all sound of the room. They withdrew and were replaced by another, who had learnt not to go too near the table. The show created a feeling of claustrophobia in an open space. Two performers could be standing side by side on the stage, but occupying completely different fictional places, where they stood isolated and alone.

Appeared at The Geist Banana Warehouse, Nottingham; Barclays New Stages and LIFT, ICA, London 1995

“They experiment, prodding and poking at each other, producing static signals, creaks, mechanical squeaks. The sounds become more specific and suddenly each performer is on a creaking plank: a move in the wrong direction and there is a sampled cry, a pause, an then a muddy slurp. Of course! It’s a game, and each ‘dead’ player is ‘out’, but the players have to work out the rules for themselves. A disembodied voice provides instructions and ‘help’ on request, like a live action computer game… it’s a fascinatingly quirky, original, and ultimately slightly chilling experience.”

The Independent

Performed by: Emma Bernard, Martin Jones, Rachel Capell, Gareth Brierley and Gary Stevens
Sound design: Kate Tierney
Keyboard: Gus Ferguson
Lighting: Beth Hardisty

Sampler. Photo: Chris Hewitt