A Digital Show - from rehearsals to filming!!
The day I picked up my rucksack, sanitiser and face covering and headed for my local station was a joyous day indeed! Finally, after nearly six months, I was going to be back in a rehearsal room - this time with two hats on - as Musical Director and one of three cast members for C4K's new venture: a Digital Show!
We had toured 'Benson's Christmas Letter' to 47 hospice venues back in 2017, and it had a good story, lots of scope for music and interactive elements and was a real hit when we played it live, so it felt like the right choice for our first digital production. I was really looking forward to playing Maurice the Geordie Monkey (thank goodness that our Director, Claire, is from Newcastle and could help me with all things accent!), Jaqueline Frost who is a Christmas Rapper, and the rather mysterious Wise Wanderer, who is the final character our puppet hero, Benson, meets on his journey to deliver his Christmas list to Santa.
But first, the music! We realised quite early on that in order to rehearse, we needed the music in place - recorded and ready to go, so our first day of rehearsal was a whistle-stop tour through our magical musical landscape, featuring traditional nursery rhymes, Christmas classics and the odd pop song! The cast - Brendan, Lizzie and I (all former C4K touring alumni) - had our work cut out with the different styles and also managing to hear each other well enough for the close harmony work whilst distanced over 3m apart! But we managed and we couldn't wait to get into the studio the following week to record everything.
So began our first experience with recording at Porcupine Studios - and we had such a wonderful guide in the form of engineer Nick Taylor. He loved the songs, was fully socially distanced in the studio and even had a much needed air-con unit, because recording in the height of summer is HOT (and more than a bit strange!!).
Firmly in the Christmas mood, we headed back to the rehearsal room a month later, this time under the expert guidance of our director Claire Sundin, who will tell you all about that process in our next blog. After an intensive, but joyous week of puppetry, silly characters and lots of hand sanitising, we were tightly rehearsed and ready for our filming days at Camberwell Studios.
We had set aside a very tight schedule of two ten-hour days to get the whole 40-minute show filmed. It was tense at times, and we had to focus A LOT, but we all pulled together (whilst keeping suitably apart) and achieved what we needed to to get the show footage in the can. The puppets did an amazing job too, although it turns out that fluffy monster and monkey puppets need a LOT of grooming for Green Screen work! We were really excited by the images our Director of Photography showed us on his laptop - the combination of live action and animation is going to be really special.
Our brilliant Puppetry Advisor, Chris Thatcher, had warned us that puppetry filming was far from glamorous, and sometimes downright painful - and he was not wrong, as you can see below with poor Lizzie in a position that no-one would enjoy for several takes!!
As we sipped a socially distanced prosecco outside to toast the wrap on our filming days at Camberwell Studios, I was struck with a huge sense of pride with what we were managing to achieve in the midst of a global pandemic, which will prevent us from visiting a single hospice in person this year. But, the show will go on! It will have music, dancing, interactive elements and lots of silliness as ever, aiming to remind us all that even in the dark times, there is still a special kind of magic around at Christmas.