The REM Waking World follows the quest of Jacob Thorne, a lonely bachelor with an overactive imagination, who, while in pandemic social isolation, sleeps too much, dreams too much and then finds himself further isolated in a vast dream world, unable to escape. This new land exists to produce dreams for the Waking World (us) and frequently mirrors Jacob’s home planet through parody and satire. It’s a wonderland of the Earth’s collective invention – Romeo and Juliet live there, Cinderella, and David the Goliath Slayer - every fictional character created by human thought. Jacob is the first human to ever physically visit there and is suddenly thrown into a career as a famous dream writer with the perfect wife, two ideal children and unprecedented creative power and wealth. The only problem is, he’s starting to flicker and fade – disappearing for a few seconds at a time. Will Jacob’s escape earn him some level of control over his story? Will he find hope to light his way through this crisis? Or will he fade into time like a forgotten story?
The show, written, designed and directed by teacher/ actor/ illustrator, Joshua Combes, began its development in ISO (Social Isolation) during the worldwide 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. Joshua was facing teaching Drama through a remote learning platform for the first time in his twenty-year career in Education. Searching for ways to engage and connect his students in an authentic performing arts learning experience – while in his new patchwork classroom - he created a unit on Fiction Podcasts. Looking at shows like “The Bright Sessions”, “Homecoming” and “Marvels” he found inspiration.
During the school holidays, in preparation for Term 2, Joshua wrote a new audio play performance and sound design program. Along with a number of scripts to be used with his students in his remote learning class. While preparing this, he also created his own piece as a therapeutic answer to what was going on in the world. He used it to learn how to produce a fiction podcast, in order to teach it, and to engage himself in an artistic adventure to unwind in his Social Contemplation. Joshua, a great fan of Fiction podcasts, learned from the writing of his favorite Fiction Podcaster, Lauren Shippen as well as the work of “Spirits” creators Amanda McLoughlin, Julia Schifini and Eric Schnieder with their excellent tutorials and articles on Multitude.com and the BelloCollective. In creating his own episode, Joshua sharpened his Adobe Creative Cloud integration and learned how to use Adobe Audition and other sound design tools like Garageband and collaborative sonic software Sountrap.
Previous to the creation of this piece the Australian government made cuts to Arts programming. Coupled with the puzzling treatment of NSW teachers during the Covid19 crisis, Joshua was despairing about his teaching career, not to mention his career teaching young people the significance of the Arts in our World. He was inspired to react in the best way he knows how -through art.
Joshua notes while people were asked to stay in their homes and protect their families, the Arts kept people engaged and focused to ride during this uncertain time. He wishes to point out the significance of this to the young adults in his care. In conjunction with fiction podcasts, online Visual Arts galleries, audiobooks, TV drama streaming on services like Netflix and Stan, well-renowned music artists were performing LIVE concerts on Instagram and other social networking sites, as well as theatre companies like National Theatre streaming a National Theatre At Home.
Interestingly, the first episode features Joshua’s real life dream family – Samantha, Lewis and Elijah along with a teacher friend, who sent in her soundbytes using her mobile phone, video conferencing and Facebook Messenger. Subsequent episodes feature teachers in key roles, as a salute to the profession and their contribution to the creativity of children. So far, episodes have been recorded remotely online from various locations in New South Wales, the aim is to widen the geographic expanse of this project.. Take time to listen and dream!