Laura Hunter—the poisoned chalice of synesthesia

By Oliver Damian

How do you know if what you're seeing isn't just your mind putting bits and pieces together?

Back in 2011, I was developing concepts for a web series called The Consensus. I made this video as a sketch for Laura Hunter: one of the characters in the story world for the series.

An early childhood traumatic event involving LSD and mild sexual abuse by her free-spirited parents made Laura a synesthete in five senses. She can see numbers, words and letters as colours. See sound as colours. Feel colours. Hear tastes. Taste the weather. Her acute but weird senses made her an outcast in her childhood and early teens. It was only when she left home for an art college that she learned to see this as a talent and advantage. Her acute sense of proportion and colour made her a successful art student, and artist. Later on she became a top graphic designer. It was whilst completing her Phd at the Royal Academy of Arts in London when she met Sir Thomas Harrison who immediately saw the wonderful ways her talents could be put to use.

The actor in the sketch was a fellow web series creator. She improvised the whole thing based on the directions I gave her. I experimented by first giving her a past life regression session. That session brought the memories and images she used for the improv. It also brought this flavour of emotional rawness and authenticity to her performance. I think regression could be a handy tool for actors who want to dive deep into their acting practice.

Laura Hunter character sketch