Day Twenty Eight

Posted: 2020-06-19 12:00:00


19th June

It’s hard to describe pressure, it’s something people who work in theatre tend to be quite at handling. Rightly or wrongly it is something that comes with the territory of having a paying audience of hundreds of people sitting and waiting expectantly for whatever it is you are going to perform for them. The pressure is felt from all the unknown quantities that might go wrong- from the set malfunctioning, to an actor error, a technical glitch or simply that audience don’t like what it is they are seeing. It is live and quite literally almost anything can happen, and often it does. It is exciting of course, if you like the sense of adrenaline pumping around your bloodstream it can even be recommended but it is something you learn to deal with if you make a career in this industry.

As the countdown to the 1st July continues there is a daily build of pressure on the team that remains to make this production of Birdsong. Yet this pressure extends to all sorts of new areas as well the usual neighbourhoods where nerves jangles and shred in the darker enclaves. We are building a new platform for sharing and streaming this as well as dealing with the completely unknown territory of selling the show on top of all that we are managing a budget which has already sky rocketed due to the completely unexpected demands of what is now a pretty unique undertaking.

Yet as we gathered at 5pm today the obvious pressure was simply felt in the balance of time set against its often sworn brother Artistic Endeavour. Time is shouting at us saying she is running out, her clock is ticking and cannot cope with any more demands. Meanwhile Artistic Endeavour is crying out for more attention, more love and a nurturing caress to be able to complete all our hopes which are pinned on the success of the end project.

Alas, and ’twas ever thus. Time and Artistic Endeavour have rarely been compatible. It takes a skilled producer to balance these two often opposing family members together to create art. In the theatre world the producer can cede to Time’s demands by delaying the opening night or cancelling previews, you can put the cast and crew on overtime and risk tiring them to the point of burnout- all these things cost money but they are options. With our concrete wall of July 1st looking fast, we cannot shift it- all the money in the world will not stop the earth from turning and the clock from ticking. Under lockdown conditions we still cannot all meet and bunker down taking shifts on the editing suite to work in shifts 24/7. Tristan probably wouldn’t want that anyway- and we don’t have the skills to do what he does. In short all the producer can do now is to manage what time we have left and soothe Artistic Endeavour’s wrath as we start to cherry pick the key areas for improvement and inevitably leave some of his colleagues on the road side waiting forlornly for a lift that may never come to the front line.

Tristan is pulling of a Herculean shift and Dom is limbering up in the corner ready to tag team in, with his trademark curly locks he sports the looks of a great wrestler - limbering up to jump in to the ring to take on this untamed beast of a production. To stop for a moment with the analogy as they are taking too much time to reach from the recess of tired brain- we have split Act 1 into 2- Tristan is handing over that first part tomorrow to Dom who will wrestle with it, add sound and finesse the actors dialogue before returning to Tristan for we hope a final pass before it gets added to what we hope is the finished film. As Dom does Sound, Tristan starts work on part 2 and as Dom relays back with the complete part 1 receives part 2 - and we continue until Act 2 is complete before we all rest up and sit back and watch the finished product on July 1st.


Although of course it’s not, not least because ferrying such large files across Londons limited bandwidth takes time- lots of time. The simple relay of information on this scale requires bigger set ups than our home brew film making suites. Further more the actual deadline is in just over a week on Sunday 28th June- when we need to deliver the film to upload in time to the streaming platform provider.

So to come back to my initial point, there is pressure. I can feel it like a dead weight sat somewhere on my upper body just beginning to exert itself, making its presence felt. Hopefully our theatre training will allow us to deal with it, to acknowledge it, to nod politely to it and to get on doing what we can and not worrying too much about the things we can’t. The work is good- we can feel it, that quieter voice under the surface that is sometimes imperceptible, sometimes inaudible and intermittent, but when it’s there it whispers that it’s good- maybe very good. So we hold our nerve a little longer as the clock ticks down.