This is about the start of something new. Creative development.
Having performed in all sorts of ways, with all sorts of people, in the mid-2000’s Tyrone began performing independently, working with projection and music: namely slides. A focus on hot celluloid. He operated the slides himself from the stage. We all know how exciting slide nights can be. Add live music. It’s been a throughline. Screen and music. Now we’re working on Tyrone and Lesley in a Spot. It’s an evolution of performance practices that go back quite some way.At Sydney’s Ukuleleland (2006) he performed love songs in tandem with a curated slide presentation of dog shows from the 1960’s, all found, appropriately enough, at flea markets. Lesley joined him in another iteration of ‘Tyrone’s Show of Love’, in some strange basement venue in West End.
His first appearance at The Melbourne Ukulele Festival (2011) was out the back of Bar 303 with another set of ‘found’ slides of Brisbane taken by an unknown photographer in 1952, a ukulele, and a transistor radio picking up AM signals in real time. Other appearances with this set of slides include a rendition of Philip Larkin’s ‘Home is So Sad’ set against a gramophone and collection of windows and sunsets.
Tyrone had aimed for short-film fame with award-winning The Figures, shot in green-screen with hand-made backgrounds built into the concept and composited in later. Here the screen is the world. Unfortunately it also involved acting.
With Lesley on board, the focus shifted to songwriting and playing covertly theatrical gigs in music venues. The duo seemed to become festival favourites, and clocked up a lot of flying hours as they wrote and launched three albums.
Bear with Me (2012- present day, various venues) used video projection and animation on an old-fashioned portable screen. Tyrone and Lesley’s youtube channel is populated with all sorts of experiments in live performance and projection.
Gentlemen Songsters (2014, Brisbane Powerhouse) had a projection sequence at its core, based in the circular shapes of the moon, a ukulele soundhole, and a glass half-full, viewed from above.
A bright, circular spot floated above the songs. We’re going to lower that spot and put Tyrone and Lesley in it. To illuminate the songs, and bring projection back into the fold.
In writing and playing Gentlemen Songsters the structural potential of the sonata and song cycle in shaping the sequencing and framing of music in performance was the main concern. That fascination extends into the new work we’re developing for Tyrone and Lesley, but this time projected image is back in the dance: no wallflower.
Developed with the assistance of Metro Arts, we were initially calling it ‘Tyrone and Lesley’s Festival Piece’ as we self-consciously tried to increase our production values on a shoestring, combining modest means with brilliant ideas.‘Tyrone and Lesley in a Spot’, is a better title converging the image of the spotlight with other circular symbols in the show.
It starts with the songs, staged. Tyrone and Lesley’s music is full of skies and cycles: suns and moons, clouds and clarity, days and nights, light and dark, stars and light bulbs. There’s a depth to the musical material that belies its quirky performance iteration. Tyrone himself has been described as “Leunig with a ukulele”. Tyrone and Lesley have gained a reputation for our theatrical approach to music and our musical approach to theatre and have played in both kinds of venues.
So Tyrone and Lesley in a Spot is a new music-driven theatre work in development, initially a shoestring collaboration between me and Nathan Sibthorpe. A performance that knows it’s a performance, it will be reflexively self-aware of its devices in staging the intermedial relationship between live music and projected image. I’m not interested in creating screen images which function purely as ‘concert visuals’.
I don’t know quite what those gestures are going to be yet. A bookful of little drawings are invitations to change, not instructions for realisation. Screen and music will have a performative conversation, and like a good conversation, we’re not sure where it’s headed. This thing won’t be designed and executed. It will go through phases of emergence. It will be between the ‘as if’ of theatre and the ‘what is’ of music. It will make its own sense, in its own time.