Colliding Disciplines: Making a new play with movement, text, direction and an amazing creative team.
My role as Associate Director on the production was to support Abbi, Helen and Caroline in the making of this piece. Though the play had been written and redrafted over a much longer period of time, we had six weeks with the cast to make the play for performance. The joy of this role in a truly collaborative process is also that, in relating rehearsals and talking to our creative team I had the privilege of seeing their work support and define the production. It is from this perspective, and by unpicking a slice of the show, that I hope to show you the key input from the designers of WWYTW.
The First Transition
An early decision was that the transitions between scenes should be used to tell a story, that they should be a point of focus rather than a way of changing scenes. We should celebrate the form of the play – five stylistically different scenes – and not try to disguise a set change. This challenge was furthered by the decision that transitions should introduce the oncoming scene, that they should have meaning in their own right as well as supporting the narrative of the play as a whole.
It is usual for creatives to attend weekly production meetings and for them to see run throughs of the play but because we were often choreographing to music and the production uses original composition, our composers Ben and Max were in the rehearsal room as much as they could be and whenever they were in the studio they referenced the mass of video taken in rehearsals. Many drafts of tracks were used before settling on final versions in the technical rehearsals and, often next to Max on the desk, was our sound designer Alex also playing and redrafting. Sound had an important role in defining where Pig and Sissy are and in the case of the interjections, when they are outside of the play.
Because the five different scenes are all so stylistically different, our designer Oli and our costume supervisor Caroline were on hand to not only dress the scenes but to help with the making of the transitions, bringing in rails of pieces to try on and play with as well as sourcing and making pieces to test out differing approaches. Without the capability of having actual lighting in rehearsals, our lighting designer Beki was in the room to ensure that her design was two steps ahead of what the play required, as well as having an important voice in how to define and support the production language.
In designing and choreographing the first transition we had to decide upon what story we wanted to tell and build on with the later transitions. We also needed to highlight Pig and Sissy’s defeat after each scene and their rally to continue – to try again. This felt like an appropriate (or satisfyingly inappropriate) moment for the tins of ‘Condensed Sex’ to invade the stage world. Beginning with trying out different ways for the company to sell their individual tin of sex, Oli and Caroline added various costumes, Max and Alex layered sound and composition and Abbi and Helen choreographed different drafts. And because we knew we wanted to bring on the tins in larger and larger quantities throughout the show, in this first transition it felt right for the company to sell them as luxury goods -somewhere between a perfume advert and the cheesiness of a Ferrere Roche advert. This is where the black suits and sunglasses originated from, showing an idea of capitalism as powerful, cleanly presented, unknowable, anonymous and unaccountable.
Finally, how set, props and costumes would be taken on and off meant some serious practical discussions with our stage management team John, Vicky and Sureene – all of which had to be achieved without sacrificing the work that all the creative team had put in.
We Want You To Watch is being performed in The Drum from Tuesday 6th to Saturday 10th October. Book your tickets here.