Bingo in the House of Babel

Studio Theatre  

A theatre show for three performers and a bingo machine.

Although it aimed to carry its research lightly, bingo in the house of babel was inspired by a series of ideas provoked by popular science books which were in vogue around 1994.

The show worked as a mind game around the Turing Test for artificial intelligence, which employed the notion of a book, in which could be looked up all the answers to all the questions you couldask anyone. It seemed clear that such a book would run not just to many volumes but to a significant library.

So developed the question…

What would the librarians do in the ‘Tea or Coffee?’ section of Einstein’s brain library?

Our answer was go mad, doubt their sanity, play games, set fire to the place. But not necessarily in that order.

As well as being the first Stan’s Cafe project to receive significant financial support, it was the first show notto feature founder member Graeme Rose on stage. Instead he worked on building, half burning and then fire proofing the charred library set, that attempted to retain Stan’s Cafe’s reclaimed aesthetic, whilst extending its scope.

For some reason the librarians of Bingo, like the royalty of Canute the King and the quasi-angels of Ocean of Storms, appeared tobe living in a futuristic mythological world which superficially resembled the 1950s.They are seen recreating events in virtual reality goggles, which look suspiciously like cereal boxes. They discover that they share memories, conduct a seance, relive the burning of the library and play a crazy form of personal truths bingo, until a random sequence of numbers ends the show.

Original Programme Notes

“In this decay time of strangeness,
when so many robots walk the land with such calm,
In this time, this curious, dubious, half-time,
only ninety nine numbers remain.
Ninety nine numbers for finding lost people.”

Devised and Performed by:
Sarah Dawson
Amanda Hadingue
Ray Newe
Direction & Text: James Yarker
Voice: Graeme Rose
Music: Richard Chew with Jon Ward
Lighting & Operation: Paul Arvidson
Set: Stan’s Cafe with Lucy Freeman
Publicity Design: Simon Ford
Photography: Stan’s Cafe
Special Thanks to Peter Fletcher, Tom Miles at BBC Sound Archives and mac.
Bingo in the House of Babel was funded by the Arts Council of Great Britain, West Midlands Arts and Birmingham City Council.

Tour Dates

  • 30th March – 1st April, 1994:
    Moving Parts Season MAC, Birmingham

  • 20th April, 1994:
    Putteridge High School, Luton

  • 22nd April, 1994:
    Shaftesbury Hall, Cheltenham Co-Promoted by Prema Arts

  • 26th April, 1994:
    Nuffield Theatre Studio, Lancaster

  • 27th April, 1994:
    BlueCoat Arts Centre, Liverpool

  • 28th April, 1994:
    University College, Scarborough

  • 30th April, 1994:
    Thame Sports & Arts Centre, Oxon

  • 3rd May, 1994:
    Theatre 95 Cergy-Pontoise, France (x2)

  • 31st May – 19th June, 1994:
    Studio 1, BAC, London