After eight weeks of rehearsals in the cold and wet, the weekend of filming at the end of May was hot and sunny. So unprepared were some of us for the unexpected good weather, that we got sunburn! In the above photo, I’m using one of our ubiquitous broomstick props as a marker, so the actors know at which point they’re on or off camera if they have an entrance or exit during a scene.
Otherwise, we discovered that entrances and exits become far less of a deal when you’re filming, as the actors are almost always in place as each scene begins. Live performances need to factor in time (and background music) for getting actors and props on and offstage. The film can cut slickly and speedily from one scene to the next.
Live performances require us to limit use of ground-level acting, unless you’re standing up. If someone sits or lies down, it has to be on raised staging or the audience can’t see, and even then it can be problematic. Sight-lines are crucial. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there are no fewer than six characters asleep, supposedly on the ground, at one point in the play – a staging challenge for any company. Filming permitted easy solutions to this problem – our sleepers really were able to do so “on the ground,” and the camera angle could be changed to whatever worked best. In addition, we were able to film in varied locations in two different gardens, instead of having to work with one backdrop.
Productions over a large outdoor staging area (and Covid regulations!) demand that the actors keep well distanced whilst performing – ‘move further apart’ has been a common stage direction in our previous shows. Film works well with close-ups, allowing the actors to drop their voices in more intimate scenes without being told to speak up! In fact, we were often encouraging them to move closer together (within the restrictions of social distancing rules, of course). We have never previously performed a play where the actors can’t touch each other!
The sound quality is so good that watching this film is just like being at one of our outdoor performances (without the risk of cold and rain). You’ll be able to hear all the usual Wivenhoe background noises: birdsong, buses, trains and planes – and lawnmowers – just as normal!