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The Clusterflux Collective on PLEASE LEAVE (A MESSAGE) as part of our #EdPreviews2023 Season

Karaoke is a Japanese term, directly translating to ’empty orchestra’.

It’s a medium, a form devoid of content.

On a fundamental level it is the combination of visual text and music. It is also a space, with its own set of playing rules.

A cultural phenomenon enjoyed world-wide. It’s a sonic and visual aesthetic.

It’s a form of performance that brings uniqueness to re-enactment, that celebrates authenticity and failure over perfection.

It’s glorious and tragic and everything in between.

Our show is not about karaoke. It’s about a group of scientists and linguistic experts constructing a nuclear warning meant to last 10,000 years. It’s about the climate crisis and the messages we’re leaving behind for future generations.

But inevitably, meaning changes over time. A warning or message from an ancient civilisation reads like myth or prophecy to today’s society. A message we leave behind now will lose and gain meaning over thousands of years. Each time a song is performed in karaoke, its message gains a new meaning, like an archive reactivated every time it’s sung.

We started looking at karaoke as a form of communication, a channel for receiving and transmitting information. It became a portal, allowing us to occupy a familiar space governed by personal experience, self-expression and unapologetic trashiness. It provided a tonic to the danger of nuclear fallout and the melancholy of the memories we reference throughout the show. It allowed us to embrace the joy of living in the moment, at a time when the future is becoming increasingly uncertain.

Karaoke brings people together. Anyone who’s been to a karaoke bar will know the feeling of a room full of strangers brought together for a moment of belting out a song together. The moment where embarrassed irony can become genuine, heartfelt expression. Much like theatre, karaoke is a form of escapism from the outside world, a chance to connect with a room of people, sharing the same experience together. These moments of letting go feel necessary in times of unrest.

So we experimented with how we might occupy a karaoke space, and who we became once we did. We turned our rehearsal space into a karaoke bar, requesting songs, singing together, shouting over each other, listening, not listening. We booked a private karaoke booth, made a playlist of songs relevant to our themes and sang our hearts out.

We played with songs that correlated to themes of the show, exploring the possible connections that could be made by performing the song in this context. We had our friends come and watch the show, and tell us about what songs they would have sung, what memories our choices had brought to their minds and what fragments of their past they might bury as seeds with a hope to last 10,000 years. It allowed our message to contain the joy of what it means to be alive right now, and made our fear and hopes for the future more urgent, more tangible, and more bittersweet.

PLEASE LEAVE (A Message) is a show with so much unspoken danger reverberating under it. Karaoke allowed us to somehow let go of the message but keep carrying it in our own way. We had spent so much time in the impossible task of bending our minds towards a geological timescale, in which our lives are fractions of a fraction of a millisecond; we needed something immediate and personal to be able to access it. So much of our practice is an attempt to make ‘the infinite intimate’ and in singing karaoke, we found a message to last 10,000 years oozing through the cracks in our untrained voices.



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