This week I'm working with Significant Object in the room for the new show Circus 1903. It's a cirque show that will tour round Australia over November and December with life size Elephants, a mother and a calf (names to be decided).
I've joined the team at the beginning of their second week in the rehearsal room and although I always enjoy working with Mervyn, I'm particularly looking forward to this show. We're working out a couple of short but intricate sections and will be spending a lot of time breaking down the movements, mechanics as well as the thoughts of these creatures; which is what I found most intriguing today.
There's something utterly magical about something that is so ginormous having time to think and literally breathe. Elephants are so receptive and sensitive to their surroundings and yet there's the desire to make the movements and physicality of a large creature as huge and over-whelming as it's size. Today I could see that the gentle, thought-through movements and routines were the ones that's were most impressive and will give mummy elephant the most realism on stage.
Slight head turn to the right. Weight shifts in the back legs. Something small and circular has been placed on the table ahead. Trunk senses something edible. Forehead gently tilts forward. Front legs step. Back legs follow. Trunk raises and reaches forward. Legs come to a stop. Shudder. Balance is regained. The tip of the trunk lightly curls, reaching out. Fumbles slightly, tapping the table before a secure grip. In one swift motion the apple swoops downward and then flicks up and into the elephant's mouth. Satisfaction. Crunch, crunch.
There are lots of people in this rehearsal room and it is a pattern I'm sensing about work that ends up being smooth-running and excellent. You need people to look after each element of a production so everyone can look after their own. The detail of this kind of creativity comes when artists have the freedom to do their job well, rather than worrying about other elements or bits that they cannot control. Today as well as the director and puppeteers, we had three makers in the room, a stage manager and a fly operator. And me, able to work my eye and trying to preempt what's needed.
It is my favourite thing about assisting - that something ever so simple can make a ginormous difference if done in the right place at the right time; though not, perhaps, as ginormous as this elephant...