Journal, Music, Projection, Stage Design

The Stage Swap

We move all our gear to the Theatre Studio, where the stage awaits the musicians. Lights and décor are all in place, but right before the sound engineers are coming in with their stuff, we decide to swap musicians’ positions and go for an asymmetrical layout. It enhances the visual experience for the audience, who has a better eye on the projection table. It also improves the communication among the players, but it’s a setback for the visual team. All the lightning has to be reprogrammed. The technical layout changes completely. All the crews move fast to make the switch happen. While Laurent Orseau is taking pictures, we wait for the sound guys to finish setting up channels and monitors, so we can comfortably play the whole show through. We do a stop-and-go rehearsal with the visual team, they need to figure out their musical cues, as the projection will be one continuous take throughout the show. After dinner we have a second go with percussionist Kobe Proesmans as an extra ear. He helps us weed out inconsistencies and streamline most of the music. It’s very valuable to have a second opinion at this point, since most of us playing don’t have enough distance to keep their judgments clear.

The visual aspect of the show proves to be tricky. Due to the last minute swap, there’s very little time to study all the camera movements or even set up all the lights and scale models for every song. Everybody works at full speed, but there are only 24 hours in a day. The true stars of the show, the jellyfish, have arrived. Instantly, they become the centre of attention backstage. They’re a tough bunch to please. Their living conditions are precarious, food and water need to be monitored closely.

The show opens with ‘Rain’, where all the musicians are dripping in and start making noise. When the lights go out, the noises turn into a theme, everybody joins in. A dripping branch is shown on the screen, it’s sprayed with water. Mirrors act as analogue video splitters, allowing for smooth transitions between images. If the mirror is backlit, we see the miniature Fujiyama in morning light, ready for ‘White Peaks’. ‘The Chrysanthemum Vow’ features a silk flower – what else? (Real Chrysanthemums are pretty hard to come by in May). The flower revolves in a kaleidoscope, allowing for mirrored images and optical effects. In ‘The Reed Choked House’ we play, once more, with the mirrored reflection of the Glows on a Japanese scale model house. Our friends the jellyfish will make a spectacular appearance in ‘The Car of My Dreams’, which is a pivot point in the show. The visuals will grow more abstract in the second half, only to get completely absent in ‘On Poverty and Wealth’. In ‘Kibitsu’ there’s the interior of a Japanese house, reflected in mirrors again. ‘A Serpent’s Lust’ features a snaky moiré pattern that revolves, in ‘The Blue Hood’ we go for psychedelic light effects and reflections, while ‘On Poverty and Wealth’, as said, will be devoid of projections. There are mirror balls over the heads of the audience, lighting up the room in bright golden light. A quiet coda for the uninterrupted stream of sound the audience has experienced for the better part of an hour.