Concentration time

Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2013

Director John Fulljames introduces The Firework Maker's Daughter



Rehearsals got under way this week. It's both a relief and a terror to have matters out of my hands now. I trust John's process completely and also trust my complete lack of certainty about what will and won't work at this stage, in terms of how the piece is staged. You formulate thoughts as you write the opera, a certain way you expect things will go, and its sometimes a bit startling when you see the director taking a different path. But I've learned over the years to watch and learn and inevitably it turns out to be the right way to do it.

I think I learned that lesson on day one of my very first opera rehearsal. The 10 minute opera I wrote for Tete a Tete back in 1999 featured a spider, a caterpillar and a dung beetle, and I'd pictured in my mind a naturalistic approach. Then designer Tim Meacock came along and showed me his sketches - the caterpillar in a sleeping bag, and the beetle in a black wheelie bin with a cut-out hole for his legs. I was quite shocked, it wasn't what I expected at all. But you stick with it because you don't have any choice, and because you know this isn't your domain of specialisation. In the end the wheelie-bin etc gave the show an added edge, a sort of Beckett-esque feeling, which definitely added a lot to the overall effect.

This production of FWMD (as we know it) is, as John says in the video above, drawing on traditions of shadow theatre from the far East, and the one impression I'm left with so far is how incredibly intricate it is going to be to get it all right. You shine a light in the wrong place and suddenly an ungainly giant hand appears in the middle of the screen. And some of the smaller effects involve a singer tracking a small light source as it moves through the air - while singing of course! Given that the performers, including the shadow puppetteers will be onstage through the entire show, I think for all of them it will be no mean feat of concentration.



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