This show was a devastatingly powerful performance piece made in response to the Rotherham child abuse scandal. It utilised total darkness and a distressing mixture of warped sounds, including sound-bites taken directly from the report, the shrill sound of a paper shredder, and an ominous, steady beat. Intimidating, frightening and provocative, the real impact of this show came at the end, when the lights were turned on to reveal a child’s bedroom scene. - HorrorBox
"Thought-provoking and clever" - Sheffield Star
"It was an intense experience that combined lighting effects, recordings, live action and brilliant audience control to produce a work that was tense and exciting to be a part of whilst making and inviting intelligent political and social comment. If you see a police officer wandering around the building, follow him." - Sara Hill, Now Then
"Sheffield-based Forest Sounds makes imaginative use of lighting, sound and text to shred the murky politics of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, demonstrating that immersive theatre still retains the power to shock your socks off." - The Stage
In October 2014, Forest Sounds came into this world when we were selected by Theatre Delicatessen for their opening Horror Souk at their new building in Sheffield.
Theatre Deli on the Moor used to be a Woolworths, a few years ago. In 2014, it was a huge, abandoned husk on one of the city’s high streets, with a cavernous basement, a big shop floor and two more derelict levels above, featuring spooky toilets, spooky offices, spooky corridors and spooky walk-in fridges.
For Horror Souk, audience members were encouraged to explore at their leisure and look for the 8 theatre companies putting on short, interactive, horror pieces throughout the building. They ranged from Frolick’s Rat Death, a puppet murder mystery, to Laura Murphy’s My Brain is a Radio, an aerial exploration of mental health.
We chose to create something inspired by the recent breaking of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, due to the publication of the Alexis Jay report. Andy was living in Sheffield at the time, and experienced the effects of a national scandal play out in his local community.
We three spent weeks working closely in a 14 by 7 meter room, utilising installation and devising techniques none of us had worked with before. Nathanial Barry helped us to build a surround sound soundscape that we ended up using to structure the performance. Eve Exley-Carvajal helped us source props and costume.
It was a slow process of building, devising, writing and revising, but we gradually stripped away the excess and were left with a concise but effective 15 minutes of horror theatre.
All dressed as police officers, one of Forest Sounds patrols the corridors, collecting audience members for each performance. The patrolman guides the audience into a holding room, hung with tarpaulin, before leading them into our main space: a pitch black void with a centre space cordoned off by tape a few feet from the walls.
The production involves interpretive movements and actions, using short flashes of light for jump scares and stark images. We stalk around through the darkness for 15 minutes while the soundscape told the stories surrounding the scandal – the sounds of footsteps, the sounds of councillors, the sounds of shredding documents.
At the end of the performance, all three of us leave the room, taking the tape with us and turning on the lights to reveal the space as a huge child’s bedroom. The audience are invited to explore whilst listening to the words of Shaun Wright, the police commissioner at the time, and reading the information sheet.
The piece received an incredible response: below are links to published reviews. We hope to return to the issue at some point, given the fact that the media can move on so easily, even when the problems remain unsolved.