Monday, 24 November 2008

The Set Box
The String Machine Thingy!

More pictures from the Oily Team

Pictures from the design team for 'How long is a piece of String'

20th November

The string team are back at the local primary school - but this time with a different reception class. A few changes have been made for this group. The first being how the children are brought into the space - before they were seated in a circle but today a rope lies on the floor and they are asked to sit behind it in an 'end-on' fashion. The string babies were given out and the 'How to hold a baby song 'sung. In this set up the children seem immediately more responsive to the discussion following the song. I wonder if this is down to a difference in the class or because the children are more used to sitting end on with one focus rather than in a circle. When asked what the babies can do after eating many suggestions come forward notably 'Burping' and 'teeth brushing'.

It comes to our attention that not all the children keep hold of their babies which leads to an interesting discussion on how to invest the string babies with worth to increase the likelihood that they will be kept hold of. Naturally there will be some children who won't want to hold on to their babies - which is absolutely fine - but the challenge of investing these babies with as much worth as possible is fascinating. At the end of the school session - I noted that the majority of the children were keen to whisper to their teacher the names they had given their babies - This seems like a brilliant way of investing worth - inviting the children to share with everyone the names of their babies and not just that - but also making it a habit for the actors to constantly check in with the children regarding the state of their baby - 'Is your baby happy?' 'How does your baby feel now?' - the hope being that the more we enter into the world of the string babies - the more the children will enter into that world and therefore be less likely to leave their babies lonely on the side :-(

18th November

Today  the String team went to a local primary school to try out some parts of the play on a reception class. The play features a host of string babies that the young audience interact with. The babies have been beautifully made by the Oily design team. The children immediately took to the babies and believed in them, this was evident from the first song sung with the children 'How do you hold a baby' a song that demonstrates how best to look after a little stringy baba. After the song the children were asked what their babies like to eat and drink - now normally Tim Webb (director and co-writer) and I play the role of  'big kids' interacting with the actors as if we were two-six year olds. When we are asked what our babies like to drink we normally say things like Ribena or milk or hot chocolate the children however proved to be far more up to date - their babies like to drink coke! And when asked what they like to eat, there was no mention of sausages, or pancakes or jelly or any other kiddy food - no, these babies were eating their own legs!

After a little discussion on the well-being of their babies the children were taken on a journey down a Windy Path, across a Stringy Bridge and finally in a Ropey Boat all with sung instructions. To our relief the children quickly cottoned on to the "rules" of the game and had great fun following the path, swinging from the bridge, and sailing in the boat.

Finally the string babies were put to bed with their string mummy and daddy and the children were asked to tip toe back to class so as not to wake the  stringy sleepers and this they did diligently, tip toeing all the way across the hall and silently into their classrooms.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

How long is a piece of String - Rehearsals

Rehearsals have been in full swing for a few days but unfortunately I have missed them due to the dreaded lurgy which appears to be taking London by storm.  On arrival I am greatly pleased to see a rehearsal room festooned in strings and the rehearsal version of the String Machine Thingy that makes up a major part of the story. The actors show me their new warm-up with a song they have invented called 'How Long is a Piece of String' which is a swinging blues/jazz number complete with bee bops. Whilst they've been rehearsing I have been putting the final touches to The String Booklet, a booklet of poetry and exercises to accompany the show and which features a poem also called 'How Long is a Piece of String'.

Todays rehearsals are focusing on the songs - I have so far only heard rough recordings of the songs from MD Max Reinhardt - Hearing the songs live is beautiful. It's very touching to hear these pieces that only a couple of weeks ago were poetic explorations on my computer screen. Both Max and Musician Nik Ammar have done a great job setting the poetry to music and the vocal talents of the actors make the pieces... well.... sing!

After lunch I get to play baby as the actors perform the first half of the show to me - already without all the gubbins the show is looking great and part of me is wishing I was  3 years old so that I could be led over the stringy bridge by Ropey or take charge of a very stringy doggie.

Joseph Coelho