Just a delayed update

Thought it was about time we posted a little update on what’s happening at the moment with The Ice Maiden.

We performed the work-in-progress version of our first act in the From Devon with Love festival and managed to get a lot of helpful feedback from it, which was the main thing we were looking for. A lot of our ideas went down well, people liked our aesthetic and we found out a lot about which sections were working better than others. From the feedback we got two main points  – to push our more dramatic, aesthetically-interesting  parts futher, and to give the whole piece more of a storytelling feel. Although we did have some bits which were quite like storytelling theatre, the theme was definetly lacking when you looked at the piece overall. Rather than having flats to function as wings, and blackouts to disguise scene changes, it was suggested we ‘don’t hide the strings’, integrate the narration in the action and have the actors sit on a bench at the back of the stage when not in a scene and other such ideas.

Although we had worked with other actors for that performance, we decided to carry on with just the three of us for the next stage of the project. Taking the feedback we tried to develop our script taking the new ideas into account but ended up hitting a wall. The concept of storytellers narrating the tale to the audience was integrated fairly easily, but there seemed no way around the fact that these characters seemed random, walking around the stage telling the audience this story for no particular reason. There were also problems with the plot, mostly from the character of Babette who we couldn’t escape simply being the ‘love interest’.

Therefore we decided we had to take a bit of a new direction with the piece. We looked at the plot and made it more centric around the main character Rudy, and decided to have him as a puppet throughout the whole piece, rather than just at the beginning. The plot changes opened up a lot of new potential scenes, and as we worked through a new script we tried to make sure sure that each scene had some sort of hook or device to it, and not simply be too reliant on dialogue (never one of our strong suits).

While we liked having storyteller characters narrate the whole piece, we needed a reason for them to be there and so they have ended up functioning as a framing device. It is now like it is being created by these storytellers as it goes along – the play is set in these creators’ rehearsal room as they struggle to come up with a new idea, and start writing this story. It allows us to be highly theatrical and acknowledge the storytelling themes, we can drop in and out of the action to narrate when we need to and we can show the strings as much as we want

We’re going to be performing in the Ignite festival in the Bike Shed and TheatreFest in Barnstsaple  – so lets see if we can make this version in three months….

 

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Bond is almost there!

As a company we have a great fondness for letting a project takes as long as it needs to, presenting it only when it is finished. That being said it is always a bit embarrsing when a short project indended to take only a few weeks ends up taking 4 months!

It has been hugely enjoyable throughout, but it certainly is a slow process. Filming-wise this is mostly a secheduling issue, particularly when it comes to the precious-few daylight hours we have after everyone gets out of work. But the part that has really taken up our past few weeks is the editing process, and it does feel like we have spent an awful lot of time crowded in a room staring at a screen. Part of the delay is the fact that we to go through 2 editing stages. While Theo does have some very nice Sony Vega Pro editing software it isn’t compatible with the format the camera records on, so we therefore have to do an inital basic edit on Windows Movie Maker on all scenes, so it can then be rendered into a format that the better software can recognise.

The first stage of the editing is primarily about visuals, working out which take to use and putting it all together. One problem we would sometimes find outselves in is not having enough footage – because of a tendency to shoot only the moments and lines we already had in our heads, and therefore missing out the in-between parts, which would leave the scene with a rather choppy feel to it. This would lead to a list of re-shoots that had to be done, or chunks that needed to be found in stock footage when it was past our capabilities budget-wise. At the end of this we had the main body of the film, but far below presentable quality.

This is where the second stage comes in. With the Sony Vega software’s superior range of options we could add the necessary visual tricks, from simple subtitles to the effects-soaked opening titles. However the main task of this stage was to get the sound right, and while in some scenes this is only a matter of minutes in others it can take a lot of time and complex layering. Often it is a case of cleaning up background sounds of cars or rain, or using the dialogue from another take which sounded better, or perhaps even dubbing a few lines over. But to really give the film the right film you need the right sound effects and music. With the exception of a few Bond themes and our fantastic title song by Jack Davy, all of these these can be sound from our good friends freesound.org and freeplaymusic.com. It can be quite a fine balancing act getting the levels right between all those layers, and while we had most of the things we would need already noted down and sourced, we would still have to have a couple of people ready to hunt down some forgotten gun shot sound, and film, render and transfer it across as quickly as possible.

And so at the end of a tricky but fun process the film is almost ready for public viewing. It is currently chugging through the many hours of rendering but will be uploaded to youtube in the next few days, so watch this space!

 

 

The Exeter Blitz Project

Edith’s Walk: An Exeter Blitz Audio Tour. Follow Edith through the city centre as the ghosts of Exeter emerge from the rubble to tell their stories.

Amongst all the Bond fun, Charlotte and Laura have been working on their audio tour Edith’s Walk. The tour is part of the Exeter Blitz Project commemorating the bombing of Exeter 70 years ago this May.

We’ve had a really great time doing all the recording. Lots of voice actors coming in and out, performing in our make shift recording studio (Laura’s hallway and wardrobe), sustained with copious amounts of tea, bourbons and easter cakes. A massive thanks again to everyone who was involved. We are lucky to know such talented people, they have really brought our audio tour to life!

We are starting to edit the piece together now with the help of Dan Smith our sound engineer extraordinaire.

We have both really enjoyed working on this audio tour. We want the people of Exeter to walk through the city with a new perspective. For us, this project has uncovered a part of Exeter’s rich history. We now look at the high street in a very different way, realizing what was lost and why the city is now shaped as it is.

Over the next month we will be getting everything together ready for our first tours on May 7th. When the tour is ready you will be able to download it onto your mp3/ipod from here on the website. More information coming soon!

The solution to creativity blocks

Well it has been a while since the last post and this is because, despite arriving fresh faced and bushy tailed into a new year, ready to get back into developing Watcher and the Watched, experiment with new styles and ask important artistic questions….we hit a complete block.

We could go over practicalities fine, discuss business card designs and rehearsal structures perfectly well but in terms of anything creative we had, well, nothing. Absolutely the worst thing to face when getting to a new phase in a project is a complete imagination drought.

So what can we do to get those creative juices flowing again? Games? Workshops?

Instead we remembered how coming exhausted out of Rogues and Wanderers we did a small, simple adaptation of an existing source that was both enjoyable and very allowing of creativity, namely A Christmas Carol. From this it was then very easy to flow straight into a more major project, The Bloodline.

Realising this was exactly what we needed we cast about for something to work off – a novel? A childhood story? A play? And then we realised we had a far better idea: James Bond. We would make our own Bond film.

Suffice to say we are just coming out of R+D and into storyboarding and we will give you more details in a few details when we have a script. A script that will of course be shaken.

Not stirred

Tick tock tick tock tick tock

I am writing this as I sit watching last minute rehearsals for The Bloodline. The performance is on Thursday so time is ticking! Everyone has so much energy and is having so much fun with what has turned out to be a very physical piece!

I’m not performing in the piece this time so I have had the pleasure of sitting in on rehearsals as SourDough have been choreographing fights, squabbles, and gruesome gruesome deaths (we felt it wouldn’t be Shakespeare without them).

Mark Ruddick Is God

We were very lucky to have a workshop and guidance by Mark Ruddick from Squire Theatre last week. We were in utter awe of the extent of how much he was able to teach us about his fascinating craft in such a small amount of time. He really is a genius and we are very grateful for his time!

We are performing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm this week at the Bike Shed Theatre, it would be great to see you there! We have been very playful with Shakespeare . . . We have been playing with sub-plots, contexts, characters, settings and outcomes. I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks! I’d love to go into more detail but since it’s so close to performance day, I would hate to spoil it for you!

In the meantime, I will leave you a little video that shows how much fun we have really been having!

Monique Luckman

P.s

The Bloodline

Thursday 31st March – Saturday 2nd April 2011, 7.30pm

at The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter.

BE THERE!

Tickets: £10 (£5)
Book now 01392 667080

Women in the Mafia

Women in the Mafia

(c)philipjehmann

I thought I’d offer a personal reflection on a certain strand of research I have been undergoing for our upcoming show, The Bloodline.
The Bloodline is inspired by the dynamics of power within criminal underworlds and their parallels to Shakespeare’s King Lear. We are asking how power is perceived and how power is sought. Do we yearn for hierarchical structure? What happens when this structure is thrown into turmoil?

Criminal underworlds present insular environments where power is intensified, where the threat of violence is immediate and everyone’s morals and motives are questionable. Many of Shakespeare’s texts explore power in different ways. His words and characters carry weight and gravity that provide a timelessness which we feel will provide an access point for an audience to the themes of power we wish to explore.

The Bloodline

(c)philipjehmann

We have delved into many paths of research on different organised crime gangs around the world and I must admit, the first thing that has struck me is that women are almost never mentioned in these contexts. At first it seemed as if women have never existed within these age old traditions of crime and power.

As a group, we are mostly concerning ourselves with the American Italian mafia and are becoming more and more influenced by the iconic gangster film genre. Its influence seems to be uncontrollably bleeding into our work, which we’re not minding at all at the moment but perhaps that’s for another blog. It is the American Italian mafia and the Italian mafia where I have been able to find an insight into the role of women, and its complicated web of changing traditions have become a real stimulant for me.

There are traditional mafia rules that formally excludes the participation of women in the criminal organisation. Only men of Italian descent are allowed to become members. The traditional role for mafia women are to be mothers and wives of Mafia members. They belong to the Mafia as opposed to being part of it. They are ‘Property of the Mafia’. It seems that Mafia women are expected not to ask questions about Mafia business and are actively kept out of the loop. Some writings tend to root that fact in catholic belief, the mother is Madonna – the pure being. But other reasons are suggested, that women become emotional over the dangers regarding their sons and husbands and that she will lose all objectivity.

women in the mafia

(c)philipjehmann

It interested me how these traditions effect relationships with their husbands. “Pillow Talk” is regarded as a blatant violation of the code of absolute secrecy. It is believed that the reason mobsters take mistresses is to have a woman they are able to confide in.

We have been looking at these traditions and their parallels and contradictions with Shakespeare stories and it is when we have been looking at King lear that my imagination has gone wild! What happens when women of the mafia somehow are presented with a high position of power and the responsibilities and choices that come with it.

We have been aware that in the last few decades women’s roles in the Mafia have begun to change. Now that Mafia women get educated, they have become more active in the criminal organisation and are let into the secrets. They have become book-keepers and messengers. Karen Hill, a character in Goodfellas is a good example.

There are rare examples of women who have began to take power when their husbands and brothers have been sent to prison or have been forced to go on the run. Many of these women have proved themselves by running a successful and equally brutal regime. However, no female is yet to be appointed by virtue of their own leadership qualities. They have only delegate or substitute power. There has been no official change to the Mafia code in regards to female involvement.

I am wondering whether female liberation is happening in these rare examples of female leadership or whether women are performing an act of further obedience by allowing the Mafia system to continue during the absence of the male family members. These questions are allowing me to view King Lear through a new lense, especially the Goneril and Regan characters and their dynamic with Cordelia. I’m not sure yet how this research might manifest in the final product as we are always shifting ideas and evolving healthily but it’s proving a complex topic for me and I’m really enjoying exploring its possibilities in the rehearsal room.

Monique Luckman