Dolls of New Albion – Week 2

And just like that, the show is over.

With eight days worth of rehearsal and four performances, we were always that we were short on time. But when you put so much effort, time and life into a short intense period it feels weird when it all comes to an end. It isn’t just the rehearsal and devising process that we managed to pack in, but the emotional/cognitive process and performer go through: Learning the ryhtmns of the show, feeling uncertain, learning blocking and then finally relaxing and trusting ourselves with the performance.

But we bloody well managed it.

After a days break, we were straight back to the Oval House Theatre and working hard. For me and Faith Brandon (fellow puppeteer), Sunday involved having another chance to tackle the City of New Albion and it’s realisation of it through shadow art and puppetry (Jasper the puppet was drying against a radiator after having some last finishing touches being made to his appearance) With the OHP, a coat rail, a gauze and many different props myself and Faith had five hours to find what the City of New Albion looked like, how we would bring it to life and what was our role; we’re we merely puppeteers, or scavengers of these objects? What objects cast what shadows, what does a bottle cast, how can we combine them and how could we use perspective? Then we had to find a fluid way of building the city with the same rhythm that it is describe in with the first song (In a future version the City would be continually broken down and rebuilt at the beginning of each Act representing the passage of time through the generations)

Sunday also involved our first look at the Oval House Theatre Upstairs. We were told it was small. I had could never have guessed it was this small. It was definitely the dinkiest space I’ve ever been and there was a lot of worry and frantic thinking how we would fit the shadow puppetry would fit in. Eventually, after some negotiation, we were placed in the middle between the band. There wasn’t much space but enough.

Later on in the week we would find that the cityscape we had created in the rehearsal room didn’t necessarily translate in the theatre space and looked like a selection of objects and not the city skyline we were hoping for. We ended up building half of a static city that would then be revealed and the other half was built live in the space. Not the most perfect version I had hope for, but it was a compromise between time and creating an animated opening for the show.

Space-wise I wasn’t worried about Jasper. His blocking had been kept fairly simple, trusting that the puppet would be able to express and emote through mirco-movement. And I had a lot of faith in our puppet.

Wednesday meant one thing: dress run and then the first show in front of a paying audience. Little bits and pieces changed, such as ditching the costume us puppeteers were given and keeping to basic blacks (perfect in the black box) and a green ribbon to link us with Mikey Shearer, who was the voice of Jasper, who wore a green tie. We also finally had to attach an iPod with a short excerpt of Jasper’s voice on, to a speaker and into a puppet. We only had a few hours to practise with it.

Any worries I had had about the show were dispelled that Wednesday night.

(Apart from the iPod, which ran out of battery halfway through and so did not work for the Elysian Night scene, an accident that was incredibly well covered for. It worked every other night though!)

We received some brilliant feedback from the audience during a Q&A session we held after every night. We had some positive comments and there was some constructive criticism that was understandable. It was really useful to find out what how well the show was conveyed.

This was the reaction we got every night and I was thrilled to know that people (And quit a few of my friends) had enjoyed it so much.

People fell in love with Jasper, a good friend of mine was brought to tears and wanted to see more shadow art. Oh the ideas are there, but we just needed the time and the money to implement them.

Which, with any luck, someone will be able to offer to us. This was one of the goals of the performance. I think we showed them there’s potential in the show and I hope I’ll be there is realise it.

(I have now added a new page on Dolls of New Albion where I have posted more photos and videos)

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