sloats, stilts and a fool on Planet Circus

August 8, 2008

So some excitement in the first show; due to the some technical difficulties over the last couple of shows related to the computer controlling the lifts a decision was made to cut one part of the lift moving which meant some changes to the show including the central lift during strawberry fields to be set higher than usual. Parade follows this. Owing to the fact that it was set higher it took that much longer for the sequence to follow through. In the build up to the parade I march around blow whistle to signal the start of parade and all the performers move into position and I go to very specifically designated points. I continue to march around, then give the command to begin the parade. Continue marching and then in preparing for the last but one move notice that ‘oh the sloat (a particular lift) is already in position must be because the one lift isn’t working.’ I merrily march onto it. Something feels a bit funny and then I notice that I am moving and that’s when I lose balance slightly and realize that I have stepped onto a moving piece of floor which is closing gap over the twenty foot drop to the basement. I gather my bearings and step off the sloat and back onto solid stage. The eyes of fellow performers around me are wider than a very wide thing. By this time the stage manager running the show has seen me on the moving sloat and called a total stop of all technical equipment. So we have to wait until the computer can reboot and continue which it does. And the show recovers its pace. But offstage the concern shown by all the performers was quite moving. I realised that it must have looked a bit scary with me losing balance near such a drop. But totally my fault for not being properly aware. I just looked up and saw the piece of stage in position which I normally walk on and so stepped onto it. Only trouble was it wasn’t the piece I thought it was. . This cleared up very quickly however and the second show much better. Good lesson. Last night before the first show I felt thirsty and wanting sugar and fell for the stupid call. And so a carbonated sugar laced cool drink from the vending machine was consumed and the sugar low at the beginning of the show was like a short sharp blow with a short sharp plank. No energy and down emotionally. My body is responding so quickly and evidently to any diet change. It’s great. Had a few agonizing sessions of stilt training or rather stilt rehearsals on the stage. Well how shall we put it?

So I have been training on stilts for going on two months at two or three sessions a w eek and progressed swiftly from low to mid to the now performance height four foot – foot to floor. Good progress and the occasional jaunt on stage meant it was time to add the costume pants. Worked with these for a few weeks. Struggled with the new weight and not being able to see the feet. But soon got the hang and started to move around in the westwing much more confidently. Focus began lifting as well then onto stage and moving toward the integration into the scene within a couple of weeks. Well these integration rehearsals involves putting me in the stilts and big funny concertina pants in the basement and then me walking onto the lift and then during the song it rises, through smoke and very active lighting changes and effects, revealing amongst other characters and physical images which contribute to the ‘nightmare tone’ of the whole stage, Mr Kite who is ten feet tall . Basically he strides up and down, waltzes around and then the lift goes down again. This is before we work out the character and motivation of Mr Kite. Not that it will be discernable because he wears a uniform mask which blanks out the face. Its funny all the artistic staff refer to the character as Sgt Pepper, yet with the mask on, there is absolutely nothing to identify the character as a version of Sgt Pepper. In fact in the designs themselves he is Mr Kite who just happens to be have been played by the same actor that is all. Must clear that up. (After all how can you expect me to perform this role when I don’t now what the character’s motivation is?!) So I do it and find that walking onto the confined space of the lift in the basement and waiting to go to stage level is totally unnerving and I am sweating and swearing and have lost all the confident rhythm I have had in training. We try a couple of times but each one is worse… no not altogether true. But the attempts are nowhere near performance level. Kati and Don say very supportively, ‘Wow yes, that was great. Looked good.’ So I say, maybe a bit loudly, because of my frustration with myself. ‘No it was terrible! It felt terrible, it looked worse. Totally without merit. The only positive about the rehearsal was the fact it made clear that the mask would hide from the audience the sweat on my face and the terror in my eyes as I struggle to relax and find a rhythm in the steps required to stay upright. Suddenly have found myself getting nervous in these rehearsals. Need more practice. a lot more. Not quite as fearless as I would have myself. Also had a session on the Korean ropes. The first climb was on the button, and very exciting. The second, when I started to think about how to do it, I fucked it up and looked like a fool as Jeff sweetly let slip during strength and conditioning training. More work there too.

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