Theatre of the Damned Blog

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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Diary of the Damned part 2 - The Film Shoot

- Being an occasional production diary chronicling the run-up to Revenge of the Grand Guignol  -

As Theatre of the Damned are currently buried in rehearsals and admin alike, it was a pleasant change of pace to instead spend a day buried in Kent. Two of this year's plays contain a pre-filmed element, and one of these involved the carting of an actor out to Edenbridge, the hospitality of the extraordinarily generous and tolerant Gilbert family and the digging of a grave in a hillock of evil rocks and rubble. As usual with film shoots, the setup took all day and the resulting footage is probably less than 30 seconds. It's a vital 30 seconds, though, so it had to be just right.

Tom and I set off for Kent early on Sunday morning, after a brief overnight panic in which I realised that I had never actually noted down the address of the shoot and so didn't actually know for sure where we should be going for our graveside location. Luckily, a helpful friend provided me with a GPS reference and we were on our way, spades in tow, to a beautiful garden in Edenbridge.

Tools of the trade...

After the usual fiasco of Sunday trains, of missed changes and unexplained cancellations, Tom and I eventually reached Edenbridge a little after lunchtime and made our slightly bumbling way to the location. The garden of a friend's parents' house, it was ideal for our purposes, and as said friend was until recently an archeology student and had used their extensive garden for esoteric experiments in the past, they were accustomed to strange people digging holes in it.

After 45 minutes...
We'd figured that with the recent run of insanely hot weather the ground would be baked pretty hard, what we hadn't reckoned on was that the small rising we selected to dig our grave in had in fact previously been dug up, turned over and filled in during one of the aforementioned archeological experiments. For every shovel of earth we dug, there was a shard of kiln-fired clay or vast paving slab to be prised from the soil. Some of these were manageable lumps of rubble, some were preposterous.

One of the preposterous ones...
We were under considerable time pressure as both our camera-man/shoot director Liam and performer were on their way and we wanted to have everything ready for their arrival. The grave didn't have to be 6-feet dep, but it had to be deep enough to sell the illusion that a body had been dumped in it, and wide enough to fit the body down. There was a whole lot of digging, and once it was done, we tried dragging the fake body along the ground and dropping it into the hole.

It looked pretty fantastic when it was actually down there, but it didn't really drag properly, basically because it wasn't heavy enough. What we needed was something to weigh it down with, something roughly the weight of a human body and which would shift and twist in the sack in a realistic way. We looked at filling it with rocks or with earth, we looked at putting compost in it or bracken. Then we settled on filling it with me.

All the glamour of showbusiness...
So I was stuffed into a sack and spent the rest of the afternoon lying on the ground, occasionally being dragged across it by our actor Jeffrey Mayhew, who arrived just as we put the finishing touches on the grave, now several inches deeper to accomodate our new bulkier (well, a little bit bulkier) corpse. After padding the grave with a little cut grass and compost, we managed to get a variety of successful takes of me being dumped, rolled and dragged into the shallow resting place.

Sort of a Burke and Hare themed field trip for the Theatre of the Damned crew, see if you can spot the fruits of our labour bleeding through the airwaves in our upcoming show.

- Stewart Pringle

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