So after four incredible performances (and several post show drinks), I’ve finally found some time to reflect on our production of The Pillowman.
When asked to offer a brief response to Aberdeen Performing Arts, this is what I came up with:
“For me, the cast and crew involved in this production exceeded what might be traditionally expected form a Young Person’s theatre company. They proved that, as young adults, they were more than capable of dealing with some very challenging material. The actors were engaged with every dimension of the play from when rehearsals first began, bringing their own personal idiosyncrasies to their characters, and ultimately creating convincing and passionate performances. This was clearly evident from the overwhelmingly enthusiastic responses of audience members after each show. On a personal level, working on the music and video for this play and being part of a such an imaginative and dynamic team, has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
I’ve now made the videos that I did for the play available on YouTube:
The Writer and the Writer’s Brother
The Little Jesus Girl
Michal Wachucik got some truly wonderful photos during the final performance. I think this one is my favourite:
With any luck this won’t be the last time that this show is seen….
I’ve spent the last two nights at the final rehearsals for The Pillowman. Last night we did a complete run-through. Because I’ve spent so much time creating freaky sounds and videos for the darker elements of the play, I’d forgotten how much humour there actually is. One minute you’re curled up in horror and the next you’re howling with laughter. It was definitely a twisted mind that created this thing.
Tonight we went through the lighting cues and checked sound levels for the music and soundscape. All the cast were in full costume and the set is now (more or less) complete. It looks amazing! There is a scene in the first act that is beautifully choreographed and climaxes in an utterly chilling finale. I can’t wait to see the audience’s reaction.
Michal Wachucik has been documenting the entire process, from early rehearsals to performance. He got some really great photos tonight. I took the opportunity to do a quick photo shoot in the interrogation room under a coolie light. I should have a copy to share soon. In the meantime, check out his website: http://www.photomw.co.uk/
The highlight of tonight’s rehearsal for me was getting to be a stand-in for the lead character, Katurian while the lighting cues were prepared. This is the closest I’ve got to acting since I was in a panto in primary school. I think I might demand a dressing room…
This morning I wandered through the back entrance of the Lemon Tee, up a dark staircase and onto the set of The Pillowman. I immediately felt like I was reliving a scene from David Lynch’s INLANDEMPIRE. Anyone who has seen the film will know what I’m talking about.
Rehearsals today were quite exciting. They were the first that we’ve done with video projection. For me personally, it’s a terrific experience to see my stuff be projected on such a large scale while the (brilliant!) performances take place.
Here’s the projector:
and here’s the projection screen:
In-keeping with the surreal nature of this play, I am now sitting in the Belmont Cinema bar editing Pillowman video clips while impossibly beautiful-looking young people are dancing to swing music. If the video for Act 1 Scene 2 has a jitterbug feel, then that’s why…
Work continued last night on “The Little Jesus Girl” scene. For various reasons, this seems to be the trickiest scene in the play to bring to life – it’s not quite a dream sequence and not quite a flashback…and a lot happens in a fairly short space of time.
I’ve more or less finished the music for this part and am quite happy with it. The next step for me is to put together the video which will be back-projected at the rear of the stage. This will include a combination of still images of religious imagery and abstract filmed elements.
So much of this sequence requires incredibly careful planning and attention to detail on everyone’s part. Our director, Paul Hudson, has been great at inviting ideas and suggestions from his cast and crew. I find it a bit relieving that some of the other members’ ideas are just as dark and twisted as mine!
By the end of the night, I think we had managed to put together something fairly solid, and that audiences will be impressed with what they see and, hopefully, hear.
Documenting the remaining rehearsals, as well as the performances, is photographer Michal Wachucik. Here is a shot from last night (via the APA Facebook page):
“Can you possibly conceive it. The unendurable oppression of the lungs, the stifling fumes of the earth, the rigid embrace of the coffin, the blackness of absolute night and the silence, like an overwhelming sea.”
My latest delivery from Lovefilm was quite timely: Premature Burial, directed by Roger Corman, which was adapted from the short story by Edgar Allan Poe. Today I’ve been working on the music and sound design for ‘The Little Jesus Girl’ scene from The Pillowman. Watching the adaptation of Poe’s short story, I was struck by the opening image of bloodstains on the underside of a coffin lid caused by the desperate scratching of the prematurely buried victim…and I wondered how that horror could be translated to sound.
This particular scene from The Pillowman is reminiscent of Poe’s gothic horror, but loaded with black humour. At first I wanted to write and record a big choral piece, but, given the surreal and darly funny nature of the events, I chose to go with a mellotron effect (see The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever or Radiohead’s Exit Music (For a Film)). Hopefully, the effect will work.
Yesterday’s rehearsal was the first one that we’ve done with music. The two scenes that I’ve been asked to compose for are intense to say the least. What kind of music is best suited to provide a soundtrack to torture, parental abuse and a terrifying re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion? Well…mine!!
I bumped into a music student on my way to the rehearsal and we chatted a bit about the play. When I gave him a brief synopsis, he mentioned a scene that appears in the recent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy movie (the scene where Mark Strong’s character is tortured in a room covered in child-like wallpaper; he is played intermittent bursts of horrifying sounds through headphones while nearby, a woman sits casually reading her newspaper). Coincidentally, I had seen the film for the first time a couple of nights before, and was struck by how the score that I’m currently putting together for The Pillowman was reminiscent of the sounds played through that character’s headphones – the difference being that it isn’t intermittent – it’s fairly full-on for the duration of both scenes.
Anyway, I think that the rehearsals went well. I took some recordings of dialogue that will be played back during performance. I had a lot of fun today trying to make those recordings sound even more eerie. I share an office with a few postgraduate musicologists and composers – I’m not sure what they made of the strange drones, religious dialogues and blood-curdling screams that must have been emitting from my headphones. But when I first signed up for this project, I was prepared for a few stange looks!