Monday, 22 October 2012

Halloween Tours at Old Wardour Castle

Haven't meant to neglect the blog, but we have been so busy putting together preparations for the Halloween Tours at Old Wardour Castle for English Heritage! There's a lot of variation in this job, and this project is no exception! For four (!) tours a night for two nights (the weekend before Halloween) at four different sites throughout the Castle and Gardens, Widsith & Deor Storytelling Theatre will be presenting 'The Castle of Dreams & Nightmares'! Which will be an interactive performance tour with arty dream and nightmare themed installations, enchanted garden lighting, sound, special effects, sculptures (some life size), figures and masks, with storytelling and poetry woven into the plot, in magnificent historic surroundings. Old Wardour is one of the most atmospheric ruins in the country, and is Britain's only hexagonal castle. It is Mediaeval, but surrounded by a delightful C18th landscape including one of the finest Grottoes still extant, and a charming Banqueting House. It also overlooks a lake and is backed by glorious woodland.
   It has been months in preparation, and (despite all the writing of scripts, rehearsing, site visits, making maps of entrances, exits, passages and alcoves, making things/creatures/figures, buying and fitting of lighting of all kinds, spotlights, floodlights, fairylights, single small spots, lanterns, oil lamps, torches...! delivering stuff there, carting it all the over the site, making props lists etc.) of course there are always last minute issues. We thought that two of the core Collective members were definitely coming - but the sister of one has just passed away, sadly, and the funeral is the day before. We thought that another associate might have been coming, but conversely, his partner is about to deliver a baby. We had of course planned the whole thing so that (if we were to have no other cast or help at all) we could just about manage everything ourselves, at a push. However, we definitely have two members of the Collective coming, which is great, although again, one of them is without her vehicle! Which complicates camping and transport co-ordination.
   On the good side, we have been given permission to use the Banqueting House as our 'green room'! And when we have gone to try out the lights and visuals there, it has all looked rather amazing. So, while on the one hand one should only be excited, one is actually stressed, and will be relieved most of all, once it's all over, it is well to remember that elation (especially when something takes a lot of preparation and hard work) often comes afterward. If you manage to enjoy yourself while there, that will be a bonus! There has been so much 'lugging' and journeying involved in all this! But we have had moments of inspiration when putting the finishing touches to the Shadow Lord (all 6ft of him!) or putting together Dr. Cecelia Davenport's (one of our characters) study or Julius de Winter's (our other main character) props, or the moments when one of the figures' lights will come on that should take people's breath away, that has all made it quite an experience already. We have really had a chance to stretch ourselves with the special effects in a location that is finally a big enough canvas to encompass something of the full range of our ideas, and that has been (if stressful as things must have a work-like-clockwork element) rather wonderful in a way. We have got a lot out of the project already (despite swearing and lifting heavy and unwieldy things, packing and unpacking a lunatic number of times a crazy amount of stuff) due to those eureka! moments. Those times when you think 'that's perfect there!' or 'that will really work' or 'that fits exactly' whether a visual, a light, an effect or something included in the 'plot'.
    When we went around Kensington Palace earlier in the year and thought 'these visuals, these interactive performers! This is SO what we would have done ourselves!' I loved it completely, my only wish was that some promoter would give us that kind of huge canvas and a budget to see what we would do with it. Well here it is - a Medieval Castle with an C18th Grotto and many ways this is what the ongoing project that is Widsith & Deor productions has been lying in wait for... It's a very strange feeling. I am too cynical, or rather, too much of an experienced weather&event foot-soldier, hence too hard-bitten if you like, from all the mud-spattered, break-even, "wtf" events which we have done to feel exhilarated. But if this comes off, as I hope and think it might, then... Watch this space!