Thursday, 12 October 2017

Sawdust: review

Daily Info Oxford have reviewed the show - and they loved it!

"When adults and children embark into the big top they do so only to be entertained, and Sawdust definitely delivers. On top of being an absolute credit to the charities and individuals who have brought it to life, it is a piece that brings all the laughter and tears one expects when paying admission, with a splash of razzle-dazzle showmanship and plenty of truth to sink your teeth into. Come for the acrobats, and stay for the secrets of backstage, where the real show is only beginning."

Click here to read the full review.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Being a trainee

Ali is the Assistant Costume Designer for Sawdust. She tells us what it’s been like.

I’m the costume trainee. I first got involved when I attended the Hidden Spire design sessions in the Crisis Art Room at the Old Fire Station over the summer. I already had an interest in fashion and design, and after being interviewed and offered the role I was a mixture of excited and nervous.

Since the rehearsal period began, I’ve been working with Suzie Burlton, the costume designer, to realise her designs which she developed with input from Crisis clients including me. Suzie has been amazing to work with as she’s both kind and helpful.

During the production I’ve taken some of the responsibility for the lions, doing research and feeding in ideas before Suzie and Lizzy McBain, the director, made the final decision. The lions have been complicated. How human are they? How and when do their lion traits come out? How much are they individuals and how much are they a pack? From a design perspective we went into rehearsals to see the work the three actors and the direction team were doing to help us nail down the final designs. We’ve tried to create costumes to show humans dressed as lions who have been in Viva Vintage Circus for so long, and been so disempowered within the circus hierarchy, that they’re slowly becoming more feral. Alongside their individual fashion choices, they also each have manes, ears and tails of the animal they’re pretending to be.

I’ve learnt a lot during my involvement with Hidden Spire – how to do measurements, fittings and make alterations. As well as a lot of adding glitz and glam to each of the costumes before breaking them down again to give them a more lived-in, downtrodden feel in keeping with the rest of the show.

For me, the overall look of the costumes is fading glamour. If it was in good condition it would be bright and worthy of being on any stage in the world but after we’ve taken cheese-graters, spray-paint and generally broken them down they’re perfect for their home in the Sawdust world.

The project has meant that I have had an opportunity to gain experience in something I’d otherwise have little chance of getting into. This type of project is important as it’s a different thing to be a part of. A lot of homeless charities solely focus on your current difficulties and the everyday struggles rather than nurturing what someone has the potential to become.

Sawdust runs 11 – 14 October, 7.30pm. Tickets are £12/£10. Click here or ring 01865 263990.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Composing the music

Musical director Jon Ouin explains the process of composing the music for Sawdust.

When we think of the sound of the circus, a whole range of colourful musical instruments and noises instantly spring to mind.

All the music you hear in Sawdust is based on the creative ideas and input of Crisis clients over a series of musical workshops. Any ideas for vocal hooks or instrumental melodies, percussive rhythms - or even just a general sense of how the music should feel in terms of style and atmosphere - were captured as we went along and thrown into a large melting pot of musical ideas using laptops, phones and scraps of paper.

One of our first tasks was to settle on the kind of musical instruments which we could use which were practical (as in, not a full-sized calliope organ, for example) but which could still create the right musical atmosphere.

Nearly all the characters in the play had a song - or a ‘suggestion’ of a song - written into the script at one point or another. At these points, it’s a real opportunity for the audience to enter the headspace of, say, Pierrot or Lena, to scratch beneath the surface and encounter their ‘inner voice’, perhaps a bit of their backstory and their aspirations for the future.

So we started by reading through these short pieces of text, maybe chopping them up and playing around with the emphases. We quickly discovered that thanks to the way the words were written, they had a kind of inbuilt, poetic rhythm which lent themselves to certain musical styles or sounds. Another approach was to record noises which we might associate with that character (the sound of bottles or metallic clunks, for example) which could then be used as samples to be triggered by the performers.

Over the course of the music workshops, we worked hard to represent each character’s traits and quirks, and give them a kind of musical identity, all within the framework of the specific, wonky world of the Viva Vintage circus contained in the script.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Get-in day

On Sunday 1 October, the crew assembled to build the set in the theatre: