Tuesday, 6 May 2008
OXFORD PLAYHOUSE TECH RUN
For this showcase at least, my job as writer was almost over. The vision I had once seen in my head was about to strut out across the stage of the Oxford Playhouse. But I wanted to watch all the threads come together in the tech run. I arrived early at the theatre with Helen, and was greeted by Tish Francis at the stage door. She had come to welcome us, which was so thoughtful. The stage door man took me on a tour of the theatre. He told me all about the play he was writing about Dracula and I told him about my visit to Transylvania for the opening of Ilinca's art exhibition, and explained how much the Romanians hated the Bram Stoker story. I offered to go off and find some extra props we needed and found myself wandering around Oxford shopping centre looking for something Gabriel could present the dormice to the little Morris girls in. Lush had exactly the right sort of box and I went rushing back to the theatre to discover the cast already doing a music run through in the rehearsal room upstairs. I joined in the "gingerbread" scales and then went back down to see what was happening in the theatre.
Karl Roberts had worked all night on the new projections and came rushing up to Oxford in the driving rain to deliver them. James and Jules set to work slicing and shifting the old and new images to get the right mix. Helen ran through all the lighting cues with Ashley Bale. This was the moment when I realised how wonderful it was that she had worked at the theatre before, knew all the staff and understood how the equipment worked. There was so much going on and so little time to bring it all together but she kept perfectly calm - I was full of admiration. We had to abandon the idea of using the fore stage because it would have meant a completely new lighting rig, which would have taken hours. This was a great shame because it would have helped bring the actors closer to the audience, but in the short time we had it was the right decision.
Karl and Miles Standish set up three cameras in the gallery, with which to film the show. We went for a smoke outside. It seemed so strange to be there with Miles, we had belonged to a youth theatre in Chesham when we were children - acting, writing, singing - now we were working together again. It is all my fault that he got caught up with the theatre and film world - I dragged him to the stage door of the Palladium one day and he hasn't looked back!
After a break the actors and musicians did a run through on the stage. The projections were still being sorted out and every now and then I could see the screen of James's Mac appearing on the projection gauze with images being lifted and dropped into the imovie timeline and then appearing in full on the gauze. It was a race against time. The show looked very different on the stage and the lighting, which Andy had produced, was wonderful. I was especially impressed with the shadow of the artists studio window on the ground and also the beautiful green leaf effect in the Kelmscott Manor scene. The actors had learned their words for many of the scenes and for a moment it almost looked as if they were doing the show for real.
We had hired a medium grand piano for Steve which sounded so much better than a keyboard or upright. All the actors had radio mics. For the girls, this was the first time they had used them, and Frances and Maddy were very excited to hear their voices amplified in the theatre for the first time. I am glad Steve decided to MD the show himself in the end, he is so empathetic with the singers. I can't imagine anyone else being so sensitive to them, especially with such a tough call as that day was. Juliet and Etta were almost hidden behind the piano on stage but it was amazing to hear the richness of the sound in the theatre at last.
By the end of the tech run there was just enough time for me to go and get changed and rush down to meet the first members of the audience and guests.
The picture above is a video still of Joseph Millson as GABRIEL in the madness scene in Act II.
Posted by Teresa Howard at Tuesday, May 06, 2008