HOAX: A case study in cross-media and academic collaboration
"A cross-media project combining a graphic novel, Psychosis Blues, with a dark musical, My Lonely Heart, HOAX is based on a selection of poems written by Ravi Thornton’s brother Roabbi, during the several-year long duration of his ultimately fatal mental illness, schizophrenia. Roabbi’s poems expressed his varying state of mind, and constitute a very honest portrayal of what it was like for him to suffer the illness.
HOAX explores the story and characters around this poetry, the backstory and context for a young, mixed-race man living in an inner city, suffering from schizophrenia, primarily undiagnosed. My Lonely Heart combines music and physical theatre to relay the first part of the story (pre-diagnosis), while Psychosis Blues, uses comics form to narrate a series of episodes (post-diagnosis) interlinking nine of Roabbi’s poems. The project’s scripts thus draw on a set of dialogues between sister and brother, present and past, the living and the dead, the fictional and the real. From this dialogical matrix, the project has opened out into a series of collaborations, amongst writer, director, composer, producer, artists, book designer and, perhaps uniquely, an academic invited into the core creative team.
Beginning with a reflection on the principles underpinning collaborative creation, this paper will proceed to explore what happens when the interpretative and theoretical perspectives normally brought to bear upon a finished artwork are incorporated into the process of creative production itself. Whereas the role of the participant observer has become commonplace within the social sciences, within the arts the formal inclusion of the researcher as part of the researched remains much rarer. Equally uncommon, collaboration between creator and critic at the level of academic dissemination (via co-presenting and co-writing conference papers and journal articles) opens up a number of hitherto under-explored potentialities that our paper will discuss. Whilst not overlooking the risks attendant upon collaborations of this sort, the paper will outline the ways in which projects like HOAX can transform the relationship between the academic and non-academic worlds, and strengthen the final outcome."
I'd say it was our best performance yet!