Monthly Archives: May 2010

Graeme Rose's Blog: Vesalius: rehearsals, week two

Energy and excitement as we launch into production weekend, with the Various People team at full stretch – whether in the construction of an auditorium for the space at RiAus, the finalisation of backing tracks (I can hear man Chew tapping away furiously at the keyboard in his basement cave), Choir rehearsals, Lighting/Technical plot, or the rounding up of the props and furnishings from medical institutions from around the City.

(Further details of the show or how to book can be found at the RiAus site.)

In the meantime, here are a few glimpses at the past week’s activities;

…Von Hagens, anonymous body donor & Albinus for lunch. Performer/singer Philip Griffin spends his breaktime genning up on the specifics of human dissection. Iron-clad stomachs a prerequisite for this job.

The early dissectors procured their working materials either from the gibbet or out of unsecured graves. Fearing a controversy and in respect to our public funders, we decided to commission sculptor Diwani Oak to create ‘Jack’ instead. After each visceration, Jack has to be ‘stitched back up’ for a rehearsal or performance.

Resurrection men Chew and Rose  after a radio interview on South Australia’s EBC (Ethnic Broadcasting Co.), Adelaide. A calm before the storm?

Watch this space for further updates on progress.


Off Stage & On-line: Off Stage & On-line 2010-05-26 14:37:44

Two days’ researching at Oxford’s Bodleian Library and the National Archives in London. Our production of Bleak House will be accompanied by an exhibition exploring some of the aspects of the novel, and I’ve been collecting ideas, information and especially images. It’s been a fascinating journey. I’ve looked at the formation of the earliest police force (not at all popular when created) and its earliest detective division (eight men including Inspector Whicher, who I read of last year in an entertaining bestseller); disease and sanitation in early Victorian London; crossing sweepers, child labour and begging (it was illegal in the nineteenth century). Researching the period gives a picture of increasing state intervention turning free-for-all society into a clean, equitable society. It certainly highlights the significance of this story in our brave new world of light-touch government.

Graeme Rose's Blog: Vesalius: an incomplete jigsaw

We’re piecing together Vesalius – a Requiem, from fragments – scratchy video excerpts, musical manuscript, leftover props, pamphlets and notebooks; photos taken by Martin in the police mortuary in Southwark, typed-out texts from Alan, scribbled texts from me…

…and memories. Memories which often contradict or fail. There was no single clean documentation of a performance, no complete script. Over the course of the 24 or so previous performances of this work – in Birmingham, London and Bologna – the piece changed. Scripts were edited and rewritten; props were tested, broken, remade or abandoned.

What seems strange, coming back to it now, is that despite its elusive quality the show inspires an almost blind faith in it for Richard and myself – which isn’t always helpful. Cheryl is directing, and it’s been a struggle to relinquish our ideas from the past, even when they don’t stand up to much rational scrutiny. It’s been a process of reinvestigating the validity of the ideas.

Week One of rehearsals was spent re-finding, researching and embedding the autopsy-related content. Visits to the South Australia Police Dept. Forensic Science Section (morgue) and the Flinders Medical Centre (anatomy / dissection dept.) together with bed-time viewings of Von Hagens Pathology Lessons. To be given the opportunity to see with your own eyes the viscera of another human being feels an enormous privilege, because the body is without question an astonishing machine – full of colour, form and wonder. Ethical debates will continue to rage as to whether this territory should stay the privilege of the licensed few – the death professionals; morticians, pathologists, funeral directors, etc. – but I remain convinced that our contemporary sensibilities deny us a community with death. Seeing a dead person may not yield all the mysteries of the universe, but I believe it a life education in itself and after visiting Flinders Med Centre I have the greatest respect for those who have chosen to bequeath their mortal remains for the advancement of medical knowledge. Like our guide-dissector Corey, I’m not yet ready to make that commitment myself, but the experience certainly reminded me to update the organ donor card.

With some powerful mental images to take away for the weekend, the show’s specially-assembled 16-strong choir came together for the first time on saturday, working their way coolly through Rick’s score. Here’s a tiny fragment from the Pie Jesu – which for a first rehearsal holds up pretty well, I think.

Created in Birmingham » Theatre: The REP’s autumn/winter season

The REP have put tickets on sale for the second half of the year. What’s more, they’ve written an eminently copy/paste-able  round-up in a blog post about it. That’s always good to see.

Highlights include:

Tickets for all productions are onsale now – see the full programme of events.

© chrisunitt for Created in Birmingham, 2010. | Add a comment |

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Graeme Rose's Blog: the world turned upside down

One of the more lasting gifts of knowledge acquired from the Scouts was learning how to turn your watch into a compass. This pearl has earned praise or bewilderment on a number of occasions – but, as someone who invariably takes ‘the path less trodden’ it has also helped me navigate my way out of a few sticky corners. This is how it works: Holding your wrist flat and rotate your watch until the hour hand is pointing directly towards the sun. then split the difference between the hour hand and the 12 (this is for GMT, use the 1 for BST daylight saving) and this marker on the watch face indicates due South. A line directly through the centre and beyond leads to North. Easy peasy.

If there’s no sun (or clouds) at night, locate the Pole Star (North) with this other Boy’s Own favourite:

Find The Plough and take a straight line upwards through the front two stars of the ‘pan’ end (as opposed to the tail end) and upwards. Now find Cassopeia (the sideways ‘W’) and extend a straight line directly, as if upwards from the ‘W’. At the point where the imagined lines from The Plough and Cassopeia meet….you will find the Pole Star (not the brightest in the sky)…and therefore North.

Granted, I have no daily need for these tricks, but I rely on intuition for a sense of direction and the idea of Satnav I find disconcerting. Anyway, here in Adelaide, my old World wisdom is useless. The desert or bush would’ve consumed me already. The sun passes across the sky in completely the wrong direction, because it’s in the North….weird. At night a stunningly impressive starry sky is utterly unrecognisable. The new Moon is still new, but on the wrong side. I would never have known, but it just looks ….odd.

It’s the middle of May and late Autumn. Day is night and night is day – but to make the time conversions even more difficult, Adelaide is 9 and a half hours ahead of Blighty. I wake up in the middle of the night and it’s too hard to do the maths.

An unfamiliar dawn chorus heralds the day, as does a scorpion in the bathtub.

Birmingham Hippodrome Blog: “Joan Collins in Panto?! Oh, yes she is…”

Rob Macpherson, Director of Marketing and Development, blogs about our recent panto cast announcement:  The title for this blog post was pretty much echoed by the many interested media players across the world last week when we announced that Joan Collins would indeed make her Pantomime debut here at Birmingham Hippodrome this Christmas. The legendary [...]