ERGO SUM is an immersive experience created by director/writer Ellie Chadwick, combining live performance with illusory, multi-sensory technology, exploring neurology, psychiatry, and the kaleidoscopic nature of human experience.
Binaural sound, projection mapping (from Limbic Cinema), and haptic sensation immerses audience members in the minds of the characters, allowing them to experience the world in multiple different ways.
After two major R&D phases in 2015 and 2017 supported by Arts Council England, Big Lottery, Sennheiser, Theatre Delicatessen, and the University of Warwick, we worked on a full realisation of the production at the Barbican Pit in 2019, supported by Watershed Pervasive Media Studio (Bristol), Theatre Delicatessen (London), and the Barbican Guildhall (London) via their open labs scheme. The piece was due to be developed further for performance at Bristol Old Vic as part of their 2020 Ferment Festival, but this has been curtailed due to the covid19 pandemic.
Ergo Sum is currently being reworked for an online interactive experience with BBC R&D's MakerBox tools, to be launched in April via the BBC Taster website.
Photograph above: © Laura Williams
You can listen to director Ellie Chadwick
talking about Ergo Sum and digital
theatre (including a sample binaural
track) on BBC Radio 4's The Digital
Human here (from 19 min 30 sec)
Click here for the Ergo Sum
Abrianna has a mission. She’s not sure what it is yet, but she knows it’s important. Why else would she be seeing and hearing messages everywhere she goes? Thing is, adapting to London city-life after growing up in the Tuscan countryside is not proving easy: technology seems to be malfunctioning around her, and even turning against her. When she ends up in hospital after finding a chip buried inside her arm, she starts to question her own reality.
Hallie was a visual artist. Now she cannot bear to paint. Trying a change of direction in her life, she takes on a new job for a fresh start. But her ability to live a normal life is being taken from her one piece at a time, no matter how hard she tries to hold on to it.
Joel sees the world and its inhabitants in a permanently shifting and dancing kaleidoscope of colours and shapes. Numbers too. In his job as a physics lecturer he finds solace from the continual sensory bombardment of the world, talking about the cosmos and its never-ending mathematical beauty. But after a few incidents at work he is in danger of losing his position, and his comfort-zone seems about to implode. How can he become more resilient to a world that is totally overwhelming?
A sensitive and in-depth exploration of what it means to be human in a fast-paced and confusing modern world, Ergo Sum immerses audiences in the minds of neurodiverse characters using binaural sound, tactile technology, and projection mapping. The play explores the boundaries and transitions between hallucination and reality, and internal self versus the external world, encouraging participants to see life from a different perspective.
“Inspiring”, “amazing”, “thought- provoking”, “compelling”, “brilliantly executed”, “a truly unique experience”, “inspirational”, “audio experience incredible!”, “clever and fresh”, “truly stimulating”, “touching”, “intense”, "the closest thing possible to a lived experience”.
R&D audience feedback
"How do we understand others’ emotions? Ergo Sum is an outstandingly innovative project showing that in order to truly understand others we need to share experiences with others and more importantly to share their experiences. Immersive, multisensorial, and ambitious Ergo Sum puts shared bodily experiences at the centre of our interpersonal relations, drawing attention to what we can do to help the most vulnerable among us. Fantastic project!"
Dr Anna Ciaunica - Researcher, Institute of Philosophy, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
"Ellie and her team have a really sophisticated approach to the material which involves some mastery of technology that should not be underestimated. Their ability to improvise and play with video and its interaction with performance in a research environment is very impressive."
Louise Mari - Theatre Practitioner, Shunt Collective
"I thought the show was sensitive in its handling of subjective experience, well-acted and scripted to show the potential impact on relationships when a subjective world acquires so much energy it refuses to be side-lined. Of course the multi-sensory digital dimension only enhances this impact, so congratulations."
John Wetherell - Project Assistant, Mind in Camden
"A unique experience of getting inside someone else’s head. It deepened my understanding of these conditions, and enabled me to better understand the patient’s perspective. The combination of the brilliant 3D sound experience with the visuals and live performance made this possible."
John Chadwick - Pharmacist
"Fantastic sensory experience putting you right in the mind-set of someone experiencing a psychotic break... As a pharmacist I have never empathised more and found it to be a really wonderful tool to help me understand what day to day life might be like. My senses were flooded making it hard to concentrate on anything apart from the sounds in my ears. I have never been quite the same since. Something every health professional should try".
Sayeedara Rahman - Pharmacist
"Exciting to see how the integration of technology such as binaural sound and projection mapping can shed light on different facets of the human experience."
Conor Gray - Royal Shakespeare Company
Roland Smith - Theatre Delicatessen