Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Castle of Dreams & Nightmares

After months of planning, preparations and sundry site visits, the interactive performance with enchanted garden installations which were our Halloween Tours for English Heritage at Old Wardour Castle are over. Done and dusted - and after all the stress and last-minute hassles, the gruelling nature of setting up and performing when it was around 3 degrees C on Saturday and colder in the night! and wet on Sunday, and all the rest, on Monday we woke to the rest of the packing. To talk of anti-climax would be understatement. Tuesday and (despite being tired and strangely averse to getting cold) finally the exhilaration came. Thrilled to the core, it washed over me at last. Strange as it may seem, beforehand (with everything to arrange, sort, co-ordinate and generally worry about) was not a helpful time for excitement. During it, as I kept walking across the courtyard lit up with shadowy creatures,
or went up the main staircase and to the upper hall with its lighting and shadow-tableau, it's prisoners at the grilles, or through the Grotto covered in unicorns/nightmares and goblin-faces, or across the lawn with its beautiful gobos and lit by the near-full moon, I had moments where I knew it was an amazing thing to be doing, a wondrous thing to have been commissioned to create...but of course, I had no time, or very little, to stop and admire. Hence the startling lack of good images of key vistas and moments, (or indeed the performances themselves). I was aware that Narcissus the Nightmare (most beautiful of the company's unicorns, and the one that's most wearable) on his stand at the topmost alcove of the Grotto's dry waterfall, with an organza cascade falling below him to level after level and lit by our finest colour-changing outdoor spotlight, and all around the glory of the structure of Joseph and Josiah Lane of Tisbury's magnificent rockwork Grotto of 1792, the viridian dappling of the gobo light on the lawn stretching away before the scene...was both astounding and (in my view at least) returning the Grotto folly and C18th garden to something of its original purpose. But still, I could not give myself to elation until (conversely) it was all over, and fully accomplished. On Tuesday it came - the realization fully that it was one of the projects that I had most wished to do, that we had been given a large enough canvas to test ourselves and had shown what we could do. The kind of exhilaration and thrill that rarely accompany a task. It was the kind of thing one is in this line of work for. Those moments that somehow vindicate one's artistic vision. 'The Castle of Dreams & Nightmares' comprised them both! The gods of Old Wardour Castle were with us that night, it seemed. Huge thanks to our amazing team, Mandy Rodgers (fabric master!) and Lewis Reford (tech supremo!), Andi Branston for turning up on Sunday to help take all the stuff back to Devon despite everything he'd just had to cope with, and all the English Heritage team who made us feel so welcome - Sally, Greg and company, and to Charlie for booking us. And lastly...Old Wardour itself. To quote the script - 'The only hexagonal castle in the country, Ladies and Gentlemen - and that is NO coincidence!'