Force Majeure's Not In A Million Years

Behind the scenes with Kate Champion and Force Majeure
Award‐winning, internationally acclaimed, dance theatre company Force Majeure returned to CarriageWorks in November 2010 with a world première of their new work Not In A Million Years. For the first time, Kate Champion and the company of Force Majeure opened up their rehearsal room and documented the process of creating a brand new work from conception through to opening night.

Respected journalist and broadcaster Caroline Baum joined Force Majeure during rehearsals posting regular ‘fly on the wall’ pieces. Wk 1 | Wk 3 | Wk 4 | Wk 5 | Wk 6 | Wk 7

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The content and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone; they do not represent the views or opinions of any organisation, artist, group or any other individual.
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Nov 2 '10
Week Four: Caroline Baum’s rehearsal room notes
The cards are on the table: that trail of index cards is now the reference point for the next part of the process. Are the cards in the right order? Are there too many scenes? What could go? Where to start and what to end with? There’s a lot of shuffling. I love the simple manual business of sticking the cards down with a bit of Blu-tack when the rest of the production is being run through a series of laptops (Apple definitely the brand of choice here) and the day is punctuated with ‘where is your dongle?’  Max pops in and out of final run-throughs for STC’s True West to get a shopping list of what is needed: an explosion here, some building applause (he has several different types in different rhythms), a rumble there. He’s got three laptops going to access his library but eventually when he’s mixed everything, he’ll be working off one.This week it’s all about entrances and exits. Transitions.  Now that most of the scenes have been created and plotted, the pressing question is how to get out of one to get ready for the next and how to move the set from one side of the stage to the other. Kate is now choreographing angled cardboard panels as much as people and it takes time. SJ, Vince, Josh and Liz double up as stagehands and they have to be precise so that projections line up perfectly on the walls that become screens.  These shiftings seem inconsequential but an awkward move can break the spell of what’s gone before and distract the viewer with the mechanics of the show.Even when there are setbacks and frustrations, Kate remains calm. I expected tension, drama, histrionics. Why no stamping of feet, no swearing, no fights? These guys have been together for long enough for that not to happen. So when the long awaited projector is not delivered, everyone stays cool.  And when it turns out that the shade cloth can’t be used as part of the set because it’s not flame retardant, there’s a seamless shift to Plan B. It will have to be a traditional scrim, even though it costs three times as much, creating a budget issue. We’re up top bag thirty four of the polystyrene flakes. But somehow, no matter how much gets poured on, the more it just seems to settle and find the same level. Maybe that’s just me suffering from a kind of snow blindness.When I come back into the room after a couple of days away, fragments of conversation make little or no sense. Vince saying ‘Yes, we can still put a rock up my arse’ is one memorable example.   Selecting props for a scene with Vince, there is discussion about what kind: the ubiquitous green shopping version? String? ‘I think plastic is sadder’ he decides. He’s right. There’s something limp, forlorn and anonymous about it.Thursday is one of those examples of collective colour consciousness: several people turn up wearing red, as if by prior agreement.  Maybe it shows how much these guys are thinking in unison, even unconsciously.  And finally - hallelujah! - the projector turns up. It’s white, like a microwave, and, to everyone’s relief, it delivers visual punch with crisp images. It’s swiftly given a name - Hans - which is some kind of in-joke referring to a scene called, in team shorthand, Hands with Clouds. Definitely a case of you had to be there.
Caroline Baum
Image above of Sarah Jayne Howard by Stu Spence

Have you booked your tickets yet? Not in A Million  Years is at CarriageWorks 17 - 27 November.  Click   here to book online.

Week Four: Caroline Baum’s rehearsal room notes

The cards are on the table: that trail of index cards is now the reference point for the next part of the process. Are the cards in the right order? Are there too many scenes? What could go? Where to start and what to end with? There’s a lot of shuffling. I love the simple manual business of sticking the cards down with a bit of Blu-tack when the rest of the production is being run through a series of laptops (Apple definitely the brand of choice here) and the day is punctuated with ‘where is your dongle?’ 

Max pops in and out of final run-throughs for STC’s True West to get a shopping list of what is needed: an explosion here, some building applause (he has several different types in different rhythms), a rumble there. He’s got three laptops going to access his library but eventually when he’s mixed everything, he’ll be working off one.

This week it’s all about entrances and exits. Transitions.  Now that most of the scenes have been created and plotted, the pressing question is how to get out of one to get ready for the next and how to move the set from one side of the stage to the other. Kate is now choreographing angled cardboard panels as much as people and it takes time. SJ, Vince, Josh and Liz double up as stagehands and they have to be precise so that projections line up perfectly on the walls that become screens.  These shiftings seem inconsequential but an awkward move can break the spell of what’s gone before and distract the viewer with the mechanics of the show.

Even when there are setbacks and frustrations, Kate remains calm. I expected tension, drama, histrionics. Why no stamping of feet, no swearing, no fights? These guys have been together for long enough for that not to happen. So when the long awaited projector is not delivered, everyone stays cool.  And when it turns out that the shade cloth can’t be used as part of the set because it’s not flame retardant, there’s a seamless shift to Plan B. It will have to be a traditional scrim, even though it costs three times as much, creating a budget issue.

We’re up top bag thirty four of the polystyrene flakes. But somehow, no matter how much gets poured on, the more it just seems to settle and find the same level. Maybe that’s just me suffering from a kind of snow blindness.

When I come back into the room after a couple of days away, fragments of conversation make little or no sense. Vince saying ‘Yes, we can still put a rock up my arse’ is one memorable example.  

Selecting props for a scene with Vince, there is discussion about what kind: the ubiquitous green shopping version? String? ‘I think plastic is sadder’ he decides. He’s right. There’s something limp, forlorn and anonymous about it.

Thursday is one of those examples of collective colour consciousness: several people turn up wearing red, as if by prior agreement.  Maybe it shows how much these guys are thinking in unison, even unconsciously. 

And finally - hallelujah! - the projector turns up. It’s white, like a microwave, and, to everyone’s relief, it delivers visual punch with crisp images. It’s swiftly given a name - Hans - which is some kind of in-joke referring to a scene called, in team shorthand, Hands with Clouds. Definitely a case of you had to be there.

Caroline Baum

Image above of Sarah Jayne Howard by Stu Spence

Have you booked your tickets yet? Not in A Million Years is at CarriageWorks 17 - 27 November.  Click here to book online.

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