Mele Broomes on Sonic Séance
Mele Broomes talks to The Skinny about Sonic Séance, her follow-up dance piece to 2018's award-winning show, VOID
"I don’t know any more with empathy, because empathy comes in many forms and I don’t always believe it. You can seem empathetic, sometimes people own empathy when they become a hero," muses Mele Broomes. "Of course you want people to have empathy, but it’s not that, it’s not about making people feel like they have to hold you up at the end of the show."
Broomes' latest work, Sonic Séance, the follow-up to 2018's Total Theatre award-winning VOID, debuts at Take Me Somewhere later this month. This production with her company V/DA sees her directing and performing alongside composer Patricia Panther, music producer and DJ Letitia Pleiades, and researcher and visual artist Ashanti Harris, but, Broomes says, everyone is equal in the production.
"We’ve all got roles – I guess in theatre, the director is seen as this certain position… they’re seen as the boss woman. But each role is important – someone has to direct it because we’re going as a theatre piece, but also someone has to make music – that’s their responsibility. That role doesn’t mean you’re not being equal," she explains.
Sonic Séance stemmed first "from the idea of cleaning, how females literally clean up after people. Then there’s cleaning in a more nuanced way, having to be palatable in certain positions in terms of the way you speak or the way you hold yourself, so you’re not too loud," says Broomes. "And that fed into my identity, how I change my voice in certain situations so I don’t come across in a particular manner to upset somebody.
"This led to experimenting with voice manipulation, dramatising, stretching and accentuating the voice to sound very ‘strong’ or ‘aggressive’, hence the ‘sonic’ aspect of the piece."
The séance has to do with connecting to another realm. Broomes doesn’t classify herself or the other artists as ‘religious’, per se, but they have found something in the repetitions and the connections to yourself, to others, and beyond. The séance is a place to be and give, she says, it's a place "to thank but also to call for help, and to question."
In the séance, according to Broomes, you can connect "to something that no longer exists. We’re all a product of something that came before us, something that helped create our ideas and thoughts…our history runs through all of us.
"Everyone has their different situations that they’re in. Ours is particular to ourselves, as individuals and a collective voice. We are trying to find a space where we don’t have to feel aggro all the time. Yes, the show definitely says I’m not happy, hear me. But also we’re trying to get to a place of rapture, where we can lose ourselves. We can have a small moment in time where we don’t have to think, connecting with our own personal and connected spirituality."
Sonic Séance is not a sequel to VOID, but Broomes talks of their differences. "VOID was very much talking about the person in a lot of solitude… [Sonic Séance] was trying to find solidarity with other women… to hear their perspective of how they roll and flex in society, how they navigate certain spaces and what they feel they can and cannot do."
Take Me Somewhere is still in its infancy, defined by its openness to performances that don’t sit easily in one category, and Broomes hopes it will be a visceral performance. "Nobody can understand what goes on for me, I can’t understand what goes on for someone else. Just listen and appreciate, regardless if you don’t know or understand."
Sonic Séance, Take Me Somewhere, Tramway, 16 & 18 May, 9pm