- Development of online packages in line with what MTN and MMD required for BEAM.
- Recording and production of digital pitch.
- Taking part in the online BEAM event
- Preparing the subsequent electronic folder contents that were to be sent to producers/industry contacts.
- This replaced the original digital pitches which were then taken offline (they were publicly available for three days)
- Everything that I subsequently produced during the rest of this project in terms of background, structure, and initial scene drafts superseded anything that I made for the digital pitch. All that information is available further down this document, so to avoid duplicating anything that then became more fully developed, I’ve included some screenshots here of some of my twitter activity from the day itself, instead.
- The digital writer/show profile pages were also made private after the event, and whilst I do not have direct access to them, anything contained in this week 1 section can happily be corroborated by MTN & MMD.
- Please also note that at the time of this event (27th March 2020), we were still of the mind that lockdown would be short and that the rest of my originally planned activity was still going to be able to take place after the first lockdown.
- Initial research about ‘place’, community
- Location and site research
- Walking tours and research photograpy
- Exploring Central/SE parts of the city as reference points both in terms of imagined locations and more generally to back up the research I had been doing about the urban generation that had taken place in different periods of time
- Areas for exploration included: Bermondsesy, Spitalfields, Shoreditch, Waterloo, Southwark etc.
I collected substantial photographs, both historical and present day. (All available on request)
Behind Waterloo station is a small area that I felt best captured the sort of location I envisaged The Butterfly Cafe to exist in.My attention had been drawn to the area in the past, before I started this project, as I had stumbled upon a street (Roupell Street) that contained a series of notices in the residents’ windows regarding protests and petitions against a regeneration project, that they inferred would put their residences in jepoardy. It is a street that still has a high number of For Sale signs and yet is representative of the most characterful pockets of that area of the city. It had been on my mind for a few years I think.
The adjoining street – Cornwell Road, has a pocket of establishments, including a barber shop, a cafe, and a pub with all of it’s internal and exteranal period features intact, and I had the strongest feeling that this would be a visual inspiration for the fictional community I would be creating.
Below are some photos of the area in question.
Right click on video to select ‘play’
- Reading/research week 1: Articles and stories research about:
- Female owned business
- ‘Hipster owned business’
- Businesses that were shut down/ lost because of regeneration in London incl Denmark Street, Centre Point and surrounding areas.
- Researching Crossrail and infrastructure based generation projects – e.g.arches at Brixton.
- Eras research looking for crossovers between themes, including:
- Sixites London
- Victorian London
- Stories about female landladies in taverns
- Female barbershops
- Also looking into Council capital projects and some of the documentatioin behind how they get green lit
- Looking at forced house purchase (when residents are offered money to leave their houses in order for them to be demolished for a big renovation project.
- Town Hall and local/regional council operations
Below is a selection of the articles and research I collated:
A comprehensive guide to the feminist waves | London Evening Standard
Female-Owned Barbershops Undo Toxic Masculinity One Cut at a Time | The New York Times Student Journalism Institute
Hipster Shoreditch spells end for London business which survived the Blitz
Sixties City – Bringin’ On Back The Good Times! Soho – The Heart of Swinging Sixties London
Listed Dalston buildings will no longer be demolished under Crossrail 2 plans | Hackney Gazette
Crossrail 2 ‘threatens’ historic London buildings, say campaigners – BBC News
Crossrail plan puts historic buildings on demolition list | The Times
Demolition of buildings in Moorgate complete – Crossrail
Listed London buildings threatened by Crossrail 2 proposal – The Spaces
The truth about property developers: how they are exploiting planning authorities and ruining our cities | Cities | The Guardian
Regenerating Neighborhoods with Cultural Heritage: Jeffrey Morgan at TEDxDesMoines City 2.0 – YouTube
More examples available on request
Weeks 4, 5 & 6
- Writing, sketching and developing the first half of the first act
- Opening scene and song.
- Preliminary character breakdowns and ideas for main characters as well as ideas for the multi-role characters they might also play
- Interrogating structure and overall narrative arcs
- Exploring musical themes in relation to my eras research
- Looking at artwork possibilities.
Gentrification is coming. It’s bulldozing the lot of us. It’s like a bulldozing tsunami. On one corner of one street in one family run coffee shop called The Butterfly, there’s two hours to go. But the people are not going to go quietly. There’s a totaliser up. There’s a display board of lots of photos – we don’t really see in detail (at the end they get shown as slides). There’s been a campaign. They’re worn out. It’s the last hurrah. They have two hours to go. The diggers are already outside and this colourful bunch of protesters stage a final sit-in in the hopes of reversing the decision. There’s the family who run The Butterfly, There’s a conflicted Local Counseller, who also happens to be a resident. There’s an elderly pensioner who’s lived in the area for the whole 90 years of her life.
And there’s someone, who arrives, right at the last minute, from out of town, who wants to lend a hand. Not everything is as it seems though; not everybody is being totally honest about which side of the argument they’re on. And then The Butterfly itself starts to tell us some things…
‘In These Walls’ is a real-time immersive musical set during the last two and a bit hours in a coffee shop during a peaceful sit-in being undertaken by the owners, some of the patrons, staff and customers who are trying to prevent it from being demolished to make way for a high-speed rail link. The piece is performed in multi-role (similar in feel to Jim Cartwright’s ‘TWO’) and as we meet various people we being to realise that some of them are from different decades and periods in time and are connected to many of the previous incarnations of the building. (It might have been a tavern in the 1600’s, a barbershop, a 60’s jazz club, a hipster delicatessen and so on). As the clock ticks away and time passes moving us slowly towards the final deadline, these people intimately share their stories and we experience (as customers in the cafe ourselves) the emotional effects that urban regeneration has on us all, Bricks and mortar hold so many stories, connections, ties to communities, people, memories, our sense of belonging, individuality and mortality. What happens when they get taken away or reduced to dust?
I’ve been interested in the impacts of urban regeneration for a long time. As I passed my 22 year mark as a Londoner, I found myself retracing lots of steps, old haunts and places that meant something or which had connections to my own personal story and was suprised to find that whenever a building/site/route through town had gone, changed, been rennovated or was different, I really felt a palpable sense of loss in terms of my identity and the symbolism of what all those places had meant to me throughout my own evolution.
As a musician, I was distraught to read of the demolition that was to befall parts of Denmark Street in the wake of Crossrail and I started to research other stories of where capitalism, commerce and industry seemed to bulldoze its way through communites often leaving them with an irreperable sense of loss.
Quotes from my research:
Sometimes entire blocks have been flattened, sometimes fronts have been allowed to remain, propped up by girders and awaiting incoming flats or boutiques, the old facades acting like a kind of wallpaper for shiny new interiors. The usual vocabulary of planning seems insufficient. This isn’t regeneration, it is devastation; buildings aren’t being developed, they are being demolished and something alien raised in their place.
The developers argue they are bringing in money and cleaning it up, but the atmosphere and environment is being killed.
Unprotected entirely are the Korean cafes. The redevelopment has already seen them off. The campaign began too late to save them.
Crossrail has been culturally devastating,” says artist Cathy Ward, a local resident. “Those streets around St Giles felt like the deep veins of the city, those connecting historical veins that we’ve had for centuries. It’s extraordinary that they survived but now they are being erased, these places that hung on and housed extraordinary little businesses. We had no idea developers would be able to buy up a chunk of land and do whatever they want with it.
Attempts had been made to subdue St Giles before, when it was one of the most notorious of the slums known as rookeries. The Irish poor here were immortalised by Dickens; Hogarth’s famous satirical illustration Gin Lane depicts the squalor of the St Giles poor’s addiction to the spirit. Roads were driven through here in the 19th century but an outlaw air remained, even when Centre Point was plonked on top in the 1960s, like a wind-channelling watchtower.
Although my research has initially focussed on stories from London, this is a universal problem and as such IN THESE WALLS will be set in a fictional city that could be anywhere.
Below are some excerpts from both the background/character brainstorms and the script.
|Character Brainstorm 1|
The current owner of the Butterfly Cafe
Ava’s Father (ideas)
The Butterfly (ideas)
The Butterfly Cafe. A Storm rages outside.
Inside there is a door behind a serving counter that leads off into the kitchen. There’s also a door to the bathroom and also a fire-escape door, further on from that. People who are allowed in to The Butterfly come in and out of the fire-door. It’s always a bit of a rigmarole. There’s a type of ‘knock’ that people do. The inference being that the main entrance is blocked. That said, most of the people who are going to be there are already inside.
The full window/screen changes throughout, sometimes being a projection screen for other things and sometimes the main window as above. It is a very active piece of the set.
In the space are cafe tables, and an area with sofas and lower seats. Some audience members are on the outer areas of this seating and dispersed amongst the space.
The band are on stage, in the SR corner, but very much inside of the shop.
The feel is part celebration, part something else. (The band can be acknowledged in the scenes – they might have been hired for the afternoon). There’s a totaliser up – evidence of fundraising and publicity pasted on one wall in the corner, bits of bunting up. Lots of paper butterflies (as if the neighbourhood kids had made them a la origami birds)
SFX Lots of low-level chatter, and then as the music gathers a little pace, we hear the punters calling someone for a speech. This is a sound cue rather than in the room.
Lights up on DI centre.
As the prologue plays/is sung it is interspersed with flashback sequences of filmed footage, tv, radio reports, newspaper articles, photos – a visual back story of how we got where we are. This also includes news items on regeneration projects in general (stuff about cross rail?)
DI FIRSTLY TO SAY
Lights change, taking in more of the cafe. We see RORY and AVA moving amongst the punters. Saying hi, serving food, but also listening to what DI is saying and concurring with the sentiment. DI is really warm with everyone, and warm in this delivery. They’ve all been through a lot.
RORY AND AVA AND ME
THERE’S A BIG POT OF CHILLI ON THE GO
FOR THE NEXT COUPLE HOURS OR SO
OH, SO THAT LOT OUTSIDE CAN JUST – (she might have sworn, but changes her mind)
IF KARMA WAS A WEATHER CLOUD
YEA THERE’S TEA
She moves around the room a little as if greeting/thanking people who are sitting there (this includes the audience)
The phone rings and cuts off her last phrase.
RORY Impatient. Thinking the call’s going to drop.
DI Hello? Yep.
A really long time. Lots being said at the other end. We hear the voice, distant at the other end.
Another long speech from the caller.
AVA puts down the tray she’s holding and tries to get closer to the receiver.
No. I suppose not.
A third long speech.
She hangs up.
An audible groan.
Weeks 7 & 8
- Completing orchestrations and band parts for the rest of what would have been Zedel’s concert programme.
- It was always the plan to present up to three new songs from In these walls along with new iterations of existing and recent works
- This was to ensure my existing fan base would be attracted enough by the familiarity of part of the programme that they knew.
- My reasoning is that this work has now been done and will not be need to be refunded when my concert can finally happen, hopefully in 2021
Score examples available on request.
- Working on overall structure for In These Walls
- Four online scheduled check-ins wwith my director (Comprising nearly one day’s worth of hours, and spread out over the ful project term
- Narrative, storyboard and scene ideas
- My process is such that the bulk of this work happens in har copy – I write, brainstorm and plan on paper
- Once I start to formulate that I being to build it into my scriptwriting software.
- This is what that looks like:
- Remote Recording
- Demo production
Here are a couple of examples
- Reading week 2
- Exploring the technical aspects of the concept.
- Reading Jim Cartwright’s TWO (the staging and casting reference piece)
- Analysing the writing techniques and staging that allow for multi-roling within a small cast.
- Looking at technical possibilities from a sound, music and time point of view.
- Real time aspect throws up all sorts of challenges.
- Researched examples of extreme use and reliance on sound design and tech such as with Complicite’s Encounter, which was sound designed by a colleague of mine Gareth Fry who has many resources available to study both on his website and in his book, which I bought and read.
- I also spent some time talking to him
My main point of focus are centred around explorations into how to trigger and cue live music on an exact time check.
The piece will have a visible clock and beats, scenes and sequences will have to fit within very specific time periods. As an experienced Musical Director, I’m more than used to working with to using click tracks, but exploring plans regarding how to build in margin for error is a new challlenge.
For example, if there is any electircal failure or tecnical delay with any scene changes, how do we build in a sort of ‘escape sequence’ so that we can pause anything that is working to time and also pick up again whenever need.
There are always hiccups in live performance.
I’ve alos been doing some preliminary exploring into whether loop pedals can be triggered by the sound desk or by the MD – or in anyway remotely. Loop pedals were used a lot in Complicite’s Encounter, but they were triggered by the actor on stage.
We wouldn’t be able to employ this technique – it would be too complex, but if there was another way to do it, this would allow us to , for example, trigger loops in order to incorporate the voices of all the other characters the three actors play simultaneously in the finale number etc.
This would give a remarkably special effect of ensemble singing with only three visible people, and yet you will have seen them sing each loop line in each respective character they play. It could be quite magical.
My research with regards to these possibilities is ongoing and will most likely inform most of what we work on when the time comes for us to undertake our in depth in-person R&D workshop, sometime in the future.
- Musical explorations for In These Walls
- Creating some sound world snippets
- Thinking about eras that might be covered and how that might affect the orchestration and band set up.
- My process during this week is how I normally start with my composition ideas
- It involves capturing ‘brain dumps’ and picking out themes and sections to develop where possible
- This is mainly done at the piano and recorded live into the studio
- I can often capture quite a lot of material this way
- Therefore it takes quite a while to go through.
- I also never share this work.
I have screenshots from my studio sessions and handwritten scoring notes available on request.
- Looking at future plans
- How will my originally intended themes and story be affected by what’s currently happening in the world.
- Where will this story sit in a post-pandemic world?
- Within that thinking about the situation with theatre in general – how likely is new work to receive support from potential producers in the next two years?
- How does that affect what we do in our next stage?
- What is the most useful next stage for us?
Notes on the thinking I’m doing.
During the early stages of this extended exploration I had started to consider some alternative casting ideas early which involved having five people in the cast rather than three. This was mainly because of some the complexities with the plotting and the numbers of people needed to be in a scene whilst others were changing into a different role.
During the latter stages, as the impact of the pandemic on the theatre and arts industries as well as the world in general, I realised it was now it is safe to say, that for at least the next two years (and even then it depends on the date we can actually genuinely return to normal) theatres/venues/producers are now way less likely to take chances on anything other than chamber sized pieces that are cost efficient and very portable…
From a plotting point of view, as I mentioned in my report, the drivers for a narrative have completely changed, and it’s impossible in the immediate future to understand completely how to weave this reality into my contemporary story.
The job going forward, once we have some of that data is to continue to explore more inventive uses of the tech stuff, in order to make the production more fleet of foot and cost efficient, and that poses a whole set of challenges and questions that we will start to compile as the world picture becomesm more solidified.
All the answers we collate to these questions will inform what we do in the future iteration of the R&D workshop, whenever that is able to happen.
Thanks for reading.