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Day Thirty

Posted: 2020-06-23 12:00:00

23/06/2020

23rd June

The baton has passed from one heatwave to another, and once again it has hit us at a time of wild activity largely consisting of being sat in front of a computer screen. The cloudless skies and stifling heat are not necessarily conducive to these irregular home office hours we are keeping. Communication now is done by our group chat. Decisions made swiftly, frustrations shared and problems solved by text message. It’s a very odd way to work. But it seems to be working.

The heat, the pressure and the general surreal nature of the enterprise frequently threaten to bubble over. Yet actually for a process so fraught, it has also been one of great harmony- whilst it would make better reading to hear about us coming to blows via zoom, the reality has been a generous and supportive if sometimes curt interchange of ideas. Professional people doing a job in really rather exceptional conditions. Possibly this is all borne from an unsaid perspective and joy at being able to work and ply our trades at all. Every day theatres and the arts industry in general reports more closures and redundancies. There is a very real fear that there will  not be much of a theatre industry to return to when the pandemic finally passes.

Meanwhile in rural Oxfordshire our military man on the ground, Tony has kitted himself up in full khaki uniform and complete with bayonet and rifle  negotiated access to a field from a friendly farmer and persuaded his partner to film him walking across it. Many times. In 30 degree heat.

In so doing we created our first second unit and indeed our first and only location shoot. The reason behind this slightly hair brain plan was to attempt to solve the thorny issue of what visual element will support Sebastian’s reading from the novel between Acts 1 and 2. It transpired that our grand plan to seek out original archive pictures to accompany the reading proved both expensive as the pictures are all owned by stock footage companies and also unwieldy as not unsurprisingly there are few pictures of the Somme offensive itself. Any dissonance between the narration we are hearing and the visuals we are seeing is hugely distracting. Thus in lay terms- it wasn’t working.

Short of time to find a solution and keen to avoid black screening Sebastian’s words- we hatched plan to see an unnamed solider walking across no mans land entirely on his own in a field of poppies. I could see it, but didn’t know how in 24 hours we might achieve it. Especially as all the costumes have been returned.

So naturally I called Tony who naturally volunteered himself for the starring role. So after a day in the office he hot footed it to a Wantage field somewhere in Oxfordshire and in full military uniform, webbing and with a bayonet in his hands filmed himself with the help of Tracey his partner. By 7pm the film footage had landed in our online storage system and think with some cunning editing it might have solved the problem. Just another day at the office.

The countdown is really on now. The film must be signed off by Sunday. Much as it’s all going well… we also have not started on Act 2. Which should really worry us. But instead like Tony we will continue putting one foot in front of the other. Fortunately it’s too hot to seep so we can at least work. Midsummer Madness indeed.