Day Twenty Seven

Posted: 2020-06-18 12:00:00


18th June

I’ve spent the last 36 hours largely driving around the south east of England which seems to be slowly recovering a sense of its former self, if the return of the nose to nose traffic is anything to go by. Its also been raining. Heavily.

I’m not sure I can wholly recommend the drive from Barnet to Bow, I certainly will not be recommending the one from Tooting to Oxford- but alas period weaponry needs picking up and personally escorting back to our military advisor and costume hire guru Tony Green in Wantage. 

Although much time has been spent at the wheel, it has allowed fleeting conversations and a chance to actually say hello in person to the cast with whom I have seen only through Zoom for the past few weeks. Bedrooms and living rooms previously seen only adorned with green screens and through the limited scope of a camera lens were now given the full panoramic effect as I picked up boxes of costumes and technology. 

Max in St Albans had both a rifle and a revolver which needed some careful camouflage before hiding  in the back of the car. You really don’t want to have to be explaining to an unsuspecting policeman why you have a veritable arsenal for weaponry on your back seat. I’m not wholly sure they’d believe me if I told them the truth-  it’s all getting increasingly unbelievable as the days go on.

Tony is playing a small but important role as an unnamed infantryman in the final moments of Act 1. We have saved his filming dates until the very last so he could use some of Max’s tech kit- being our man with a complete range of military uniforms from differing periods in his loft- he needed not help getting into his costume. 

As Tony changed out of civvies, I unloaded box after box into his living room as I noticed a framed shot of show posters on his wall. Starting with Henry V on the top left and working through a dozen of so shows completing a surprising walk down memory lane as many of those shows were ones we worked on together.

We have been through many a rehearsal period Tony and I- from that first production of Henry V in 2007 through Journey’s End in 2010 to Flare Path in 2016 and all the Birdsong incarnations from 2013 to today. All bring back strong memories. 

Being able to set up Tony’s ‘rig' with him out the room was wonderfully straightforward. I could frame it, check the phone settings, the lighting, do a test take and generally just get everything as we would want it. The amount of time we spent on this process trying to explain all the small nuances of this set up to the long suffering actors is hard to quantify- but I think it adds up to many days. So all the driving was worth it for this one final hurrah of pinning up his Green Screen betwixt his living room and kitchen doors and unplugging most of electrical items, stacking boxes, moving furniture and hanging lights. It took a matter of 15 minutes but I had certainly made my mark by the time Tony came back to take his position on camera. His living space a mess of wires, cardboard, costume and detritus. I apologise to Tracey his partner- although knowing Tony she has probably seen worse.

It brought home just how disruptive creating a film studio in your front room must have been. Although occupying a small window on our cameras looking in, that previously described wider panorama is chaotic and all consuming. But we enjoyed a short sharp 30 minutes of recreating the opening moments of the battle of the somme in his front room.

Tony is a serving TA Sergeant. He has served in Afghanistan and other war zones and now works for the civil service with a surprising side line as a military advisor, playwright and historian. He is, as you would expect, a completely top chap. The sort of person you would want by your side in a tricky spot, and we’ve been through a few together over the past 13 years.

As he said as we said our goodbyes, ‘Well we’ve done stranger things’.

I said I couldn’t recall what- before he promptly named at least 3 of our madder exploits. This maybe then just the cherry of a particularly eccentric cake.