R&D Diary – Week 2
First up, a huge thank you to all of you for your replies last week. Part 1 of my R&D Diary ended up being the most popular Tape I’ve ever sent in terms of striking a chord with people and receiving lots of replies. I’m very sorry that happened to coincide with a very busy week where I didn’t have time to send personal replies, but I read through all your thoughts and reflections and found them really interesting, and will have more time to reply properly to people this week! I’m really glad sharing a bit about my R&D process gave you all a bit of stuff to think about. As of yesterday, that 2-week R&D is now finished, and I’ve been left with a huge number of thoughts, ideas, theories, next steps and so on, as well as a huge amount of gratitude to everyone who worked on the project and a huge amount of pride in what we built together over the two weeks. However, more in-depth reflections on all that should probably wait until I’ve had more time to wrap my head around them, so in the meantime, I’ll just share the second half of my day-by-day diary of how the process panned out:
Day 7 – A day with Ben Target and Roisin & Chiara recording voices for the show’s audio soundscapes. The characters the three of them found were amazing and really enriched the show, although frustratingly, we’ll have to re-record most of it as we made further discoveries later in the R&D about other things that needed to be there, as well as changes we needed to make to what we recorded. Ultimately, we wouldn’t have been able to make those discoveries without a work-in-progress template soundscape to play with, so there would always have needed to be a first draft version and then a later final draft version, so it’s not too big a problem. I just feel bad asking them to come back and do it again!
Day 8 – A day by myself editing the vocal tracks from Day 7 into the rough template soundscape we used for the last third of the R&D. Again, errors were made this day that were only discovered later when it came to putting the tech in the space, and a lot of that soundscape needed to be redesigned and re-edited, but this was essentially a day choosing the right takes, putting them in the right order, and assembling them into some sort of coherent playlist so that they were relatively easy to chop up and reassemble when it came to running it in the space.
Day 9 – Final day at the Bill Murray, with Ben and Miranda Holms. Started with a discussion about tone and practicalities – specifics of certain prop builds, certain aesthetic choices for costume etc, and a discussion of how to strike the right tone in the show’s finale through the practical staging of it. Identified specific beats in the show that could tip the tone towards something uncomfortable for the audience, and identified methods for hitting those beats in a spirit of kindness, safety and playfulness so as not to confuse what the show is doing. Did an on-its-feet stagger-through of the entire script to try and pin down the structure and get the beats of the show clear in our heads. Mapped out a sequence that had been missing from the show so far focusing on how to make it impactful and a natural development of the story.
Grace Gibson teaching me how to stand in a way that looks normal.
Day 10 – First day at Soho Theatre. Spent the day building a comprehensive QLab file for the show with Robert Wells. The QLab will be operated by Ben in his role as Joz’s “assistant,” so the file needed to be intuitive, simple and easy to master. Took Robert through all the soundscapes I edited on Day 8 and reassembled them into a sequence that interacted neatly with the content of the show, hitting clear comic beats and leaving no pauses or muddy, confused moments. Did a cue-to-cue run-through with Ben to help him master the tech.
Day 11 – First day in the Upstairs space at Soho, with Ben, Robert, Miranda and Alex Hardy. Programmed the show’s lighting states into the space, and incorporated them into the QLab. More specifically choreographed the new sequence conceived on Day 9 so that it worked in the space. Figured out how to use the space itself to expand upon the content of the show, and figured out practicalities of where all props and costumes need to be hidden and retrieved from. Looked at a specific lighting effect to see if it worked to cause the intended reaction. Did a full run-through, then discussed and gave notes on it.
Day 12 – Final day of the R&D. Robert and Ben drilled tech elements of the show to get them as comfortable as possible. Worked with Grace Gibson on three specific sequences that required more choreography and movement to make the most of the internal rhythms of those sequences. Performed and filmed a full run-through for Lee Griffiths and Kat Bond, who then gave comprehensive notes, feedback and guidance for next steps. Felt proud.
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – The second series of nonsense genius Spencer Jones’s wonderful mini-sitcom The Mind Of Herbert Clunkerdunk is out on iPlayer. It co-stars legends like Lucy Pearman and Will Seaward, and is just delightful, so give it a watch.
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – I’ve been trying not to give too many spoilers for my show in these R&D diaries, but there was a moment on Day 12 when Grace and I tried to explore the space while Robert played fart sounds at us which just resulted in both of us falling over because we were laughing too much. I know that means this section of the newsletter has been occupied by farts two weeks in a row now, but they’ve been a central part of my research.
Book Of The Week – Just started The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, which my brother got me for Christmas. To be honest, I know nothing about it other than that she also wrote a book about falling in love with the colour blue, but the cover says it’s a “genre-bending memoir about motherhood and identity,” and that makes it sound like it’ll fit in the same world as Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy, or Deborah Levy’s living memoir trilogy, and those are two of my favourite ever reads, so I’m excited about this.
Album Of The Week – Jethro Tull just brought out a new album called The Zealot Gene. I know, right? Crazy. That’s the first full Tull album since 2003’s festive masterpiece The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. This new one has exactly the same personnel lineup as every solo album Ian Anderson has made since Jethro Tull disbanded, so I think the only reason it’s credited as a Jethro Tull album is because he needs some money, but hey, whatever. It’s not great, sadly. Jury’s still out.
Film Of The Week – Still not seen any films. Really wanna watch The Lighthouse. Anybody seen it? Is it good?
That’s all for this week! As ever, if you’ve enjoyed it I’d love to hear your thoughts, or for you to send it to a friend or recommend people to subscribe. Take care of yourselves, and see you next time,
PS Here’s me and Ben at the Soho, making this show.