Who we are
non zero one is made up of four artists, who came together in 2009 at Royal Holloway, University of London. A prominent voice in interactive theatre making in the UK, the group makes interactive performances where you, the participant, are active and important. At a non zero one show, you have the chance to make a choice, and you’re asked to think in the moment about the question the work poses. The group has made work for theatres, gallery spaces, public places and museums, and continues to explore new places and ways of working with interactivity as a focus. As a participant, you might be sat around a large table on a roof, amongst many others in an auditorium or on your own in a public space. With a consistently creative approach to technology, non zero one have become known for making use of multi-channel wireless headphones, live sound mixing and sampling, projection and the occasional treadmill to create opportunities for choice and interaction.
In 2009, we made would like to meet as our degree show at Royal Holloway. After our exams we then had a long period of time with no classes or lectures, so we Googled opportunities to “scratch” the show and found Southwark Playhouse’s Playhouse Secrets – their lunchtime programme of work where for a £5 ticket you got a show and a sandwich. There was no money on offer, but it was a chance to put the show in front of the public and see what they thought. We filled in a form by hand, put £20 in each to cover costs, and borrowed a lot of equipment. By this time we were all doing work experience or internships with theatre companies and venues; Alex was doing an internship at the Barbican in the press department, which meant that sometimes he bumped into people from other departments in the kitchen. One of those people was Malin Brereton, who was a producer at BITE. He invited her to the show. She came. She got locked out of a fire escape during the show but somehow that didn’t ruin it, and she programmed the show for Barbican BITE ’10. Towards the end of the year, we applied for Farnham Maltings No Strings Attached and won a grant for £1000 and mentoring support, which allowed us to develop they vote with their feet for a scratch performance at BAC, and later developed hold hands / lock horns.
2010 arrived and we found ourselves making would like to meet for the Barbican. We were advised, when asked for a budget, to pay ourselves properly. We did, and we resolved to try and do this for ourselves and everyone we worked with from this point on. would like to meet had developed from our graduate piece to our first professional piece of work. Robert Logan wrote the score for the show, and then came back and wrote all the music for the time out. The National press paid an interest to this just-out-of-University company that the Barbican had taken a punt on, and we found ourselves recording a feature with Miranda Sawyer for the BBC Culture Show. After the Barbican, we made hold hands / lock horns out of lots of bits of paper, lots of tape, some wireless headphones, a microphone, a couple of video cameras and a badge machine. We took the show to Forest Fringe and met a whole community of incredible artists doing mind-blowing things. During 2010 we also became supported artists at The Basement, Brighton, which gave us rehearsal space, producing support, and lots of creative and critical feedback. It was here we met our friends Made In China, who we were to perform alongside at The Basement, the National Theatre, the Junction and Forest Fringe in the next couple of years.
In 2011, the old Bush Theatre closed, and this is where we got to when you came in was commissioned as a last goodbye to the building on Shepherd’s Bush Green. Incredible composer and sound artist James Bulley designed the sound and wrote the score, and we are still lucky enough to work with him today. The Bush introduced us to the very talented Elinor Cook who we worked in collaboration with on the script, which took four people at a time round the backstage and onstage areas of the theatre, guided by voices of Bush alumni including Bash Born, Josie Rourke and Alan Rickman. We found ourselves writing parts of this is where… whilst we were on breaks up in Edinburgh, having returned to Forest Fringe with the time out. This was the show that put water polo caps on the heads of 12 strangers and asked them to trust in the mantra of their water polo coach, Ken. This piece was first scratched at Cambridge Junction earlier in the year, before heading for some interrogation and testing at the National Theatre Studio. Opening with a “preview” at Latitude Festival, the show went to Edinburgh two weeks later. “Preview” in quotes because it turns out that a tent next to a large music stage, with a cow pat in the middle of the floor and a leaky roof, is not necessarily the ideal environment for a show that requires silence, total darkness, projection and around 30 electrical devices. The get-in time for the show was about 2 hours normally. At Latitude, it was 15 minutes. Solution? Ask for 13 tickets and have the world’s most organised party-going get-in squad. The making of the time out was funded by our first Grants for the Arts, Everything we made in 2011 was supported by production manager Anthony Newton, who rigged up the Bush Theatre with kilometres of cable, designed a custom-made audio system for the time out, and oversaw its tour and re-appearance at the Barbican. In 2011 we also became affiliates of the National Theatre Studio, meaning we had access to incredible mentoring and support. This year also saw us win our first award – an Offie for Best Entertainment, for this is where…
In the Olympic Summer (did anyone ever call it that?) of 2012, we were asked to create a piece on the roof of the National Theatre, and you’ll see [me sailing in antarctica] was the result. In the wettest July on record for quite a while, we put a giant, mirrored table up on the roof, and sat around it twice every evening with 19 participants, having a look into the future. Disposable rain ponchos were a thing. The (Offie-nominated) show was massively ambitious and was made possible by the National Theatre’s incredible production, lighting and sound departments, who put a seven-tonne revolving setup on the roof, and let us change the colour of the lights on the fly towers every night. you’ll see… was also the first time we worked with sound designer and engineer Helen Atkinson, who came back to design a bespoke system for mountaineering at the Roundhouse three years later. At this point, everybody was working full-time in other jobs, and so naps in the dressing room every evening did become quite important. We also returned to the Barbican this year with the final run of the time out, performed in a converted rehearsal room to the sounds of a Jarvis Cocker gig going on above.
We made a festival for the Science Museum in 2013 called LIFE: A Healthy Game of Chance and Choice. Through the experience thousands of people had the opportunity to learn about the work of the Medical Research Council, and we got to work with scientists, write puns and dress up in fun costumes. The application form for the tender was about 40 pages long, but by this point we had a two-person “Administration Unit” consisting of Alex and John, who began to work two days a week for the company. We were able to afford the A-Unit (as nobody ever, ever called it) because 2012 also marked the start of our two-year Resident Theatre Company status at Royal Holloway, where we taught undergraduate studies. By 2013, we were well into the swing of things; planning, marking and getting to watch some incredible student work. We even had our own office in the Drama Department, and only caused one evacuation when Alex’s class set a toaster on fire during a practical exam. This year we received funding from Jerwood Charitable Foundation, for the research and development project just to come back, which later evolved into mountaineering. The R&D period saw us making certain commitments and documenting them on the internet there was all of this.
2014 was the year of visual art. We had been really interested in how interactivity in the context of performance might work outside of a theatre, and The Other Art Fair commission untitled (audio with pen) was a chance to provoke visitors into questioning the rules of an art fair – what can you touch, what can you say, what can you draw all over with a biro? We blindfolded a lot of people and challenged them to become cheeky vandals, in a 12-minute binaural audio piece that was to reappear at the Best Of TOAF in 2015. In a break from visual art, in April we opened ground control, which was commissioned by Hijack Festival, to give 7-12-year-olds some interactive, digital action. We have since toured ground control more than any of our other shows to venues across the UK, and have seen tens of brand new civilisations created by teams of young people, who have shared their thoughts about the future and danced to a lot of national anthems. Throughout 2014, we were also making the monster that was mountaineering. That took a lot of time. In October, we made a totally new show for The Other Art Fair, called the art of conversation. We built a white room and projected onto a massive table top that people sat around, facing-off in a 90-second conversational challenge. We got the chance to work again in the visual art world when we made something you’ve already seen for the Fine Art Society’s What Marcel Duchamp Taught Me exhibition. Some days, we set up a temporary office at the Fine Art Society, sitting on chairs that we later found out were referred to as “pieces” and were worth more than a mid-sized car, each. As our residency at Royal Holloway ended, John and Sarah started to work part-time for the company, with Sarah leading on strategic planning and funding. At the end of 2014 we secured an Arts Council England grant for 18 months of activity, which would allow us to make mountaineering, tour ground control, write a 3-year business plan and grow our audiences geographically and age-wise.
mountaineering! Until 2015, our biggest audience had been 19 people in one go. Why not make it 93? We’d never done a show in a theatre auditorium, with a stage. Why not try that, with two, sixty-foot gauze projections, three channels of wireless audio, live channel switching and roving microphones? A journey for a group of 93, and 93 individuals simultaneously, we worked with James Bulley, Helen Atkinson, James Turner-Inman and Anthony Newton to open the show at the Roundhouse, followed by a week at co-commisioning venue Salisbury Playhouse. Whilst mountaineering was on in February, everything unknown was happening on Perth Beach in Australia as part of Fringe World. When we announced that we had a show going to Australia, general reaction was “OMG so jealous – it’s so beautiful there!”, to which we had to reply, “we’re actually just sending the MP3 files over…” But we had our first international audience, and the MP3 files sent us a nice postcard. Having a slightly more flexible structure meant that we were able to take on a bit more work in 2015, and so we opened a total of 4 new shows. a thing worth keeping was our response to the Staffordshire Hoard discovery, as part of the Hoard Festival at the New Vic. The star of the show’s publicity was an old teapot that Cat found in her grandfather’s cupboard – a mounted knight on a trusty steed. At the end of the year, we returned to the Science Museum to make What’s Your Angle? – the undercover-news-reporting, dressing-up-as-a-cow-infiltrating, inflatable-cube-occupying adventure for families, which celebrated the 150th anniversary of the London Mathematical Society. As it was the Science Museum, it meant we got to break out the great puns and amazing costumes again and in our attempt to understand some mind-boggling concepts, we created a live TV News Studio – check out some of the headlines on the N24 Twitter account.
2016 brought our first ever international tour, as we made a Norwegian version of ground control (or Rommkadettene: klar for landing) for Barneteatret Vårt, Ålesund. We lived in Ålesund for a month translating the show’s language and its cultural references, so Barneteatret Vårt could tour it over 2016-17 and find out what Norway’s young people want for their futures. In other news, we made a brand new interactive artwork for the Barbican, called let’s take a walk. This was the first time we’d worked with community groups to make interactive conversations, interviewing six members of the public and spending time doing experiments in the Barbican with them, to map their stories and questions onto the foyer spaces. The project was installed in the foyers at the end of 2016 through to 2017. Over the 6 months (it got an extended run, yeah!) that it was at the Barbican, nearly 2,000 people took part. Have you seen the documentation video?
We worked throughout 2017 on a three projects that all came onto the scene (at once?!) in early 2018. The first was the Ulysses Listening Window, an audio installation with furniture designed by us and built in South London. We worked with developer James Kerry-Barnard to integrate Rasperry Pi into our beautiful benches, allowing visitors to The Return of Ulysses to listen to recordings of new writing, developed by upcoming poets through a workshop with writer Inua Ellams. The second is take-hold, made in collaboration with Sheila Ghelani for University of Cambridge Museums. take-hold features three muses of the museum, who occupy your head and get you to do things like stick your hand in a rubber glove and fiddle with a stick, all in the name of questioning the ‘rightful’ place of museum objects, along with ideas of power and ownership. The third is Documentary Challenge, a documentary-making experience for school groups, commissioned by IWM and available at all three of their national museums – London, Duxford and North. We worked with developers Verb to create and build an app to power the experience – theoretically eventually allowing up to 97,000 KS3 students to take part every year (within the first 9 months, at least 8,500 young people have taken part – the biggest audience for any of our projects, ever). 2018 had more in store, though – first of all was Documentary Challenge Families – a new version of the experience designed for family teams at IWM sites across the country. Reena and Omar from SMASHtv reprised their roles as commissioners, asking families – “what needs to get out of the museum, and in front of people’s faces?” Got an answer to that? Why not go and take part yourself? From April to October 2018 we were making put her forward – an artwork with the mission to double the number of statues of non-royal, non-mythical women in England. We travelled the country asking people which living women they would celebrate with their own 30cm, 3D-printed statue, and gathered hundreds of nominations. We then approached 25 incredible women to 3D scan, 3D print, and unveil across the country during Heritage Open Days. It was a life-changer for us, and it was epic. You can learn about the women and where the statues ended up on the dedicated put her forward website.
To kick off 2019, we were back at the Roundhouse with a new version of the Listening Window. At the end of 2018 we met writer Karthika Naïr as she tutored six emerging poets, who each produced original work that was showcased alongside January’s performances of Akram Khan Company’s Until The Lions. The poems, recorded by the young poets in their own voices, are bold, strange and beautiful and you can listen to them, along with the work of previous poets, on the project page. We were kept pretty busy in the background with Documentary Challenge, as over 10,000 young people were busy taking part and making their own mini-documentaries. Imagine the number of emails between us and the developers about GDPR. Now THAT’s what it’s all about!
If you love counting, you will have worked out that 2020 marks 10 years since our first big public show at the Barbican. And so to celebrate 10 years, we created a series of eight podcast episodes, answering in each one a question posed to us by someone who has been part of the journey so far. In 10 Years of non zero one we talk about the big ones: ‘what does interactive mean?’ (answers on a postcard), through to smaller the ones: ‘am I wearing a hat?’ as we answer questions from critic Lyn Gardner, writer Dan Rebellato, artist Sheila Ghelani, and others. In March, we were about to publicly launch DAWNS, our site-specific, mass-participation project involving musicians, technicians, artists and thousands of members of the public across National Trust landmarks from Cornwall to Caithness. Then, in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, the UK went into lockdown. We were fortunate to have been planning DAWNS since late 2019, meaning our emergency planning meetings (‘have you tried this thing called ‘Zoom’?’) were about changing course rather than ripping everything up and starting again. By late April, DAWNS was reconfigured so that five world-class musicians could, each from their own home, play together in a brand new composition by James Bulley, mixed and broadcast live to over 7,000 people as the day broke on 16 May. We learned a lot about how streaming works (!) and the power of the internet to bring people together. You can find out more about DAWNS, including watching the 10-minute film and reading the case-study about its development, on the DAWNS site here.
We are thrilled to have an advisory board made up of professionals with experience from across the arts. They are:
Matt Adams is a co-founder of Blast Theory, an artists’ group making interactive work based in Brighton in the UK. Blast Theory has shown work at the Venice Biennale, Sundance Film Festival and at Tate Britain. Commissioners include Channel 4, the BBC and the Royal Opera House. The group has been nominated for four BAFTAs and won the Golden Nica at Prix Ars Electronica.
Matt has curated at Tate Modern and at the ICA. He has lectured at Stanford University and the Sorbonne. He is a winner of the Maverick Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards. He is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Exeter and a co-author of over 40 academic papers.
Céline Gagnon is a freelance fundraising consultant, formerly the Chief Executive of The Funding Network. She has been involved in the cultural sector for over a decade working in fundraising, partnership development and community engagement. As Head of Development at the Tricycle Theatre, she led an integrated capital and revenue fundraising campaign, which raised £5.5million to upgrade the auditorium and facilities.
Prior to joining the Tricycle in 2013, she undertook a variety of roles in the arts including Senior Development Manager at Battersea Arts Centre, Creative Communities Coordinator at Farnham Maltings and Cultural Attachée for the Quebec Government in London. A keen knitter, she counts setting up the Maltings knitting festival Unravel as her proudest achievement.
David is a Creative Producer at Original Talent, working with Cuba Pictures and Fane Productions as well as developing a slate of his own projects. He was previously the Director of Creative Development at London Theatre Company as a founding member of the team that launched the Bridge Theatre. For eight years, David was Director of Broadcast and Digital at the National Theatre where he created NT Live and produced a number of award-winning documentaries, and the National's fiftieth anniversary gala (broadcast live on BBC) and served as Executive Producer on the feature film of London Road. He trained as an actor at Northwestern University in Chicago and Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris. After having worked as a chef for three years, he received an MBA from Cambridge University.
Christine is an in-house solicitor for the National Theatre. Having studied Music at university, she worked in the arts before training as a lawyer and enjoys uniting the two disciplines. In her role at the National Theatre she advises across a range of legal fields and projects including stage productions, digital work and compliance matters.
We don't just make performance work. We're interested in interactivity as an idea, and how we can apply it in a number of different environments. On this page are some case studies detailing the different ways we work with people:
We were invited as part of the "Enlivening the Darwin Centre" project to work with the staff and management at NHM to investigate ways of improving visitor experience and increasing interaction in the Darwin Centre wing.
We offer staff training and consultancy in team work and communication, and we can make spectacular and innovative away-days, team-building days or massive fundraising events. Tell us what you're thinking, and we'll go from there.
If you're an artist, producer, researcher or student at any stage of your career then we would love to meet you and find out about your work. We offer casual mentoring (for free) and we're always up for a cup of tea. Send us a message and we'll be in touch.
Over a two-year period we held the position of Resident Theatre Company at Royal Holloway. The company taught first, second and third year undergraduate studies in Devising, Theatre and Performance Making, Performance Research Project, and Final Year Project. As part of the faculty, non zero one were responsible for planning modules and was involved in assessment across all three years.
We offer workshops from 90 minutes to several days in length. We've taught BTEC workshops at Cambridge Junction, led summer schools at the Unicorn Theatre and National Theatre, and guest lectured at Portsmouth University. Our workshops and talks cover anything from site-specific theatre to technology, to devising and interactive narratives, or starting up your own theatre company. We're always open to new ideas, so get in touch if you think we could work with you.