Talking Tie was conceived as a theatre prop for The Illusion Brothers – a clown performance by Dominic Burdess and Tom Godwin (pictured above). The aim of Talking Tie was to create an interactive device which is not only appropriate to the action on stage, but which is essential in that it enhances the possibilities inherent in the piece.

The Illusion Brothers is an hour-long performance in which two clowns are followed through a pivotal, life-changing moment. The illusion brothers, exist entirely in a world of illusion until one of them, completely taken in by the drudgery of his boring job, loses sight of the joy and playfulness inherent in his leisure-time illusions and devotes himself entirely to his daytime employment. In recognition of his efforts and attitude his employer eventually awards him “employee of the month”, and a tie, the Talking Tie, the first visible prop in the performance, descends from the ceiling to be placed around his neck.

The action then consists of the performer’s journey as he tentatively, and then with more and more gusto, assumes the power inherent in the assumption of his new role – at the same time as he gradually tightens the tie around his neck. With each manipulation of the tie, the Talking Tie verbally encourages him in his growing megalomaniacal attitude, eventually leading him to be so overcome with his power, to tighten his tie so much, that he strangles himself and dies.

The relationship between the Talking Tie and the performer develops from the actor passively listening to the Tie, through a series of conversations and manipulations where the actor controls or uses the Talking Tie to assume greater power until, eventually, as the character’s quest for power unbalances him, it will evolve to the point where the Talking Tie is recording and repeating his words and sense breaks down completely.

The interactions and dialoguing with the Talking Tie are triggered through the manipulation of an electronic circuit which is embedded into the Tie’s structure. This circuit incorporates possibilities for pre-recording, recording and playback and has several points of actuation – both on the toggle and on the Tie’s base. This allows a variety of ways of triggering audio while at the same time rendering the technology less decipherable to the audience, thus maintaining and even extending the sense of illusion and magic integral to The Illusion Brothers.

The actor’s speech during the Talking Tie sequence begins as a tentative acceptance speech and develops through a range of emotions to become a very powerful, rousing speech such as one would encounter in a political rally. The speech predominantly consists of gibberish and, like a patter song, it is “sung” or performed at a particularly lively pace. The pre-recorded speech elements in the Tie contain no gibberish at all to allow a coherent relationship to be created – one which allows the audience to accept the Talking Tie as another character – at once the personification of “power” and the voice inside the wearer’s head – and so facilitate the development of a cohesive relationship between the Talking Tie and its wearer.