Theatre: A Q & A with Born Mad.

Image by Ludovic Des Cognets

This evening, after a sell-out success at their premiere at the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival, Born Mad return to London to present Sister at Ovalhouse.

Sister is an outpouring of memories using Born Mad’s signature style of boundary-pushing electronics and vocals to bring these deeply personal stories to life. This production seeks to get right into the heart of family life capturing those tender, intimate, and sometimes comic, complexities of sibling relationships and sisterhood.

I was lucky enough to have the chance to have a quick Q&A with Born Mad (Rebecca Hanbury and Alex Groves) ahead of their opening night this evening.

1. Is there a character in the play who you empathise with the most, or who you admire the most?

As Sister is based on real life interviews, all the characters in the play are actual people that I’ve met, spoken to and shared stories with.  Until you asked this question, I’d never really thought of them as characters. To us they are people whose stories we need to tell. It therefore feels tricky to pick one I most admire. There are no heroes in the play. There are stories of huge resilience and strength, but these are just normal people full of joy, sadness, selfishness and sacrifice.

2. Who are your favourite sisters in literature or film?

Annie James and Hallie Parker from The Parent Trap… obviously!

3. How do you find working with technology to create the complex soundscapes within the piece?

The technical elements have been a hugely exciting journey for the company. This is largely down to Alex Groves, the composer/sound-designer who created the show with me. There aren’t many artists who can make the sound of a house burning down using stationery and compose such beautiful music. There have of course been moments of frustration, and ideas that have been binned, but that is an inevitable part of our process.

I’m not going to lie; the show is pretty scary. Every sound effect is made live onstage, manipulated and used to create music and soundscapes; even dialogue is recorded and turned into sound design. If things don’t go to plan on stage, we don’t know what sound will come out the speakers – but we are embracing it! Our participants have put themselves on the line by telling us their stories, so it only seems right that we share that sense of risk when presenting their stories to you.

4. Do you think that sisterhood, rather like womanhood, has become more complex as the world has become ever more open and globalised?

That’s a tricky one. Distance and separation of sisters was a common theme that cropped up time and again in our stories. The one that sticks out is Mira, an Algerian woman who moved to England to study, and couldn’t return to Algeria for 15 years because of the civil war. This separation of families is becoming ever more common in a globalised world, but equally the communication brought about by modern technology has kept many of our sisters in touch against the odds.

5. Do you have a sister? If so, has she seen the show, and what does she make of the piece?

Yes, I do have a sister. She is one of the most amazing people I know and, while she’s not in the show, the whole piece is a meditation on my friendship with her. She saw some early R&D, but hasn’t seen the finished play yet. She’s coming on opening night and I’m terrified to see what she thinks.

Thank you so much for your answers! It sounds like a very exciting, innovative work, with plenty to involve the audience. The soundscapes sound like such an interesting part of proceedings.

Sister will be playing at Ovalhouse from Tuesday 6th – Saturday 10th September, and tickets can be purchased here.


  1. Liz Mays
    6th September 2016 / 12:53 pm

    Ok, with all that tech going on, I'd be scared too. That's a big production!

    • Claire
      7th September 2016 / 7:37 am

      It really is – love how innovative the production sounds!

  2. Elizabeth S
    6th September 2016 / 1:25 pm

    Sounds like a fantastic performance – I'd love to hear it, you've got me intrigued! Great read, this!

    • Claire
      7th September 2016 / 7:38 am

      I'm glad you enjoyed – we are so lucky with all the wonderful theatre here in London!

  3. Rhian Westbury
    6th September 2016 / 11:07 pm

    This sounds like such a great show, really intriguing x

    • Claire
      7th September 2016 / 7:38 am

      It does, doesn't it? Such a great idea for a production.

  4. Hannah Heartss
    7th September 2016 / 1:38 pm

    Sounds like a great show – it's got my attention!

    • Claire
      7th September 2016 / 4:13 pm

      It's such an interesting undertaking – I hope they have a great run!

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