Super cool! Let’s go into space!

A couple of notes/thoughts before bed.

I’m listening to bits of the brilliant new music that David Edwards has made for Mission To Mars. My references and his influences for this project have included LCD Soundsystem, Pattern is Movement, Los Campesinos, They Might Be Giants and everything by John Barry. Fun, up tempo, epic, spacey with massive bass drops. He’s good, David is.

I should be sleeping, really (it’s midnight on Sunday night and it’s a big week this week with our first show on Friday) – but the internet is on, kids are asleep and wife is away working on another continent. So it was either write this or watch Top Gun. It took all the will power I possess to not watch Top Gun. Sebastien and Clare have been working in as many Top Gun High Fives as possible during the show so it’d almost be research. Wouldn’t it?

I’ve got one final, dedicated day with the actors left before we head into my favourite part of any rehearsal process I’m directing – technical rehearsals. When all the sound, music, video and lights get programmed and rehearsed into everything else we’ve made. It’s amazing really – there is a HUGE amount of tech in this show. On Friday, lighting design wizard Ben Pacey was getting down to the details of wiring in LED button lights to the set (or space ship as I described it to my kids when they Skyped into rehearsals and I showed them round) that operate airlocks and the dedicated (and tired) production team have now cabled in the computers, mixing desks and software that will control feeds to eight speakers, five onstage video monitors and the projector that will create our ‘window’ at the back of the space ship. Mic Pool (video and sound design wizard) has created some truly awesome sights for the children that come and see. One of those sights was created on Thursday of last week and was yet another instance in my working life of being reminded why I love working in theatre…

There’s one scene in the show when the character Stefan leaves the space ship and performs an EVA – Extra Vehicular Activity. Spacewalk, innit. And because we’ve got a window in the vehicle/ship, we can see Stefan doing this. So we needed to do a bit more green screen filming. There is a process to this that involves many people achieving many things. An example…

Polka’s wonderful costume maker Annie had to make the costume that Rhys had designed in time for the filming. This is a proper work of art…
[vimeo 15266644]

See? And full of practicality too. For example – it has “ballet gussets” in stretchy places to allow the actors to spin and move unrestricted in “micro gravity”. And the helmet (lovingly made by Modelmaker Max and featuring 11 LED lights plus battery pack) needs to locate onto a fixing that won’t risk the actors hurting themselves when they’re doing the aerial work. A lot of love, work, thought has gone into it.

In the room on the day of filming we had Annie, Rhys, Max, Sebastien (playing Stefan), Ellie (Stage Manager), Layla (choreographer), Mic (filming) and me. All of whom have contributed masses of time and brilliance to allow us to spend the 4 hours that we can afford to pay Wimbledon School of Art in their green screen studio. But when we turned up, expecting to be able to walk into and film in the green screened studio that we’d hired, we found that what Wimbledon School of Art had allowed us access to was… well, a room. Which yes had some green material shoddily hung at one end but the set up was far from what we’d been led to expect and was an obstacle that we simply hadn’t budgeted time to hurdle. What ensued was the reminder. Of why I love working in this sector and with these people. Because we could have been cross and refused to work under these conditions and not achieved what we’d come to do. But really, that would never have happened. Not with this group of people. They don’t get cross. Instead everyone pitched in – rehanging material, focussing lights, building trolleys for tracking the fully suited and very hot Sebastien across the ‘screen’ by screwing tables into projector stands and fixing pulley systems to them made out of rope discovered in other rooms. Space boots were mended with glue guns. Space gloves had residual branding obscured for high definition film with marker pen. Everyone got hot enough to want to take their clothes off (we resisted).

And by the end of the session we had everything we’d come for and I even managed to squeeze in a bit of extra filming for the accompanying schools project we’ve made with our collaborators Coney.

The result is a five minute space walking sequence immaculately filmed, edited and rendered by the wizard Mic Pool. That this week I will get to layer into the show in technical rehearsals. And if you want to see it… you’ll have to come see the show…

Right. Really is time for bed.

Wish us luck.