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  • Writer's pictureGaurav Singh

Review of "Hugs, Tears & Replacement Bus Services" by Nod At The Fox

This review was written on behalf of North West End UK and was originally published here.

Hugs, Tears and Replacement Bus Services is an 18-minute long binaural listening experience that invites you to sit back and immerse yourself in a fantastical bus ride to an unknown destination. Created by Nod At The Fox, which is an emerging theatre company whose artistic practice brings together puppetry and audio storytelling, the show is being staged at the Living Roots Micro Festival, which is a showcase of seven seed digital arts commissions including binaural poetry, soundscapes, narrative shorts and a digital art gallery.

In this experience, you find yourself following the voice of a man who is returning back home after a late night out with friends. However he seems to have missed the last train of the night, and instead, has to take a replacement bus service back home. Here he meets passengers whose names he does not know but can still feel their gentle presence through a myriad of sounds, thoughts and questions that come to him. It’s late, he’s falling asleep and there’s something strange about this bus ride that he can’t quite shake off. More importantly, you find yourself, the listener, reflecting back on a time in life where even the most mundane public transport ride somehow slipped into a surreal, larger than life experience. This is a journey to that space, and back.

Designed and performed by Eden Harbud, the choice of form (i.e. binaural audio) and narrative path (i.e. one voice leading the listener) works exceptionally well for Hugs, Tears and Replacement Bus Services as the listener is not inundated with a flurry of aural stimulation but instead, is invited into the sonic environments present within the narrative. This includes the ambient humdrum of the train station, the subtle growl of a bus engine and even the floaty, dream-like aural quality as the story slips between the real and the imagined. With the gentle introduction of musical instruments that ‘moves’ around for the listener, the experience is almost meditative. The show’s brisk duration works in its favour as it invites the listener to rewind and go back to enjoy this intertwining score of voice, music and sounds as many times as they’d like to. The spoken text is also available as a transcribed video which offers audiences another way to access the experience. Whilst the show succeeds in many technical and narrative aspects, there remains an opportunity to be more playful with the listener by layering the sounds such that they have a choice of where to focus (and where not to)

Hugs, Tears & Replacement Bus Services is an intriguing aural experience that tugs at your heart and imagination by focusing on the mystical in the mundane.

Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer

Reviewed: 14th April 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★


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