Katherine Doré: They do it with wires

The producer of Adventures in Motion Pictures' <i>The Car Man </i> talks about blending the old with the new
Click to follow

We are an adventurous company and always looking for new ideas, which usually means creating something a bit barmy. We often end up with unique technical equipment, such as our counterweight-assisted flying system for The Car Man.

We are an adventurous company and always looking for new ideas, which usually means creating something a bit barmy. We often end up with unique technical equipment, such as our counterweight-assisted flying system for The Car Man.

The mechanism for moving scenery is traditionally part of the theatre, part of the fabric of the building. With The Car Man, though, we wanted a production that didn't rely on the vagaries of different theatres' counterweight systems. In particular, we wanted our scenery to fly diagonally across the stage, but most counterweight systems run straight across and it's complex to change them. We decided to build our own flying system and make it part of the show.

I haven't heard of any other production that has created its own counterweight system, partly because most productions tend to not tour as much as we do and can, therefore, spend more time changing the theatre round.

By this stage we had already designed the show, though technical and creative considerations tend to go hand in glove. In the first instance, there is a vision, and a good designer solves the technical problem as they move along with the production.

An example of this process is that we could have made the counterweight system automated, but we decided a manual mechanism was more in keeping with the style of the production, which is set in a garage and is about car mechanics. A stage manager in costume operates the system in view of the audience.

Having a manual system that's our own assures the quality of production isn't jeopardised. That's even more important when we are touring abroad. You might not expect it, but even in America with our production of Swan Lake, for instance,we had a whole range of technical difficulties because everywhere works differently.

Often in Europe the facilities aren't even up to scratch, and if they are old-fashioned and dated it causes immense problems, especially on the electrical side.

As a company we have always kept abreast of technology, and its main use is helping us operate internationally. The most beneficial technology I've used for running the company in the last 12 years has been e-mail, which has completely revolutionised producing a show.

If the show is in LA then all artwork and programme copy can be sent through, whereas before it was late-night phone calls or land mail. It means we have control over not just the layout and artistic integrity of our promotional material, but simple things like getting names spelt right.

Its impact has been felt on every single aspect of the company. I'm one of those horrible early risers, and now I can check the e-mail and get a show report from the previous night's performance. I know straight away if there's any issue to deal with and have done it by 7am.

'The Car Man' is on at the Old Vic, London, SE1 (020-7369 1762)

Comments