Way back in December, when my friend Sarah asked me if I wanted to interview as a member of the production team for Spring Awakening, I had no idea what a huge part of my life it was going to become.
‘It’ll all be done with before the start of the Easter Holidays’ I was told. And so I signed up, something to fill the time for a bit while I was still furloughed.
Nearly 6 months later, and only 1 day before we stream the full-length musical film that over 35 people have been working on day and night since December, and I can honestly say I never imagined it would be as big a part of my life as it has been.
With the announcement of lockdown 3 all the way back in January, we knew creating a theatre production was pretty much off the cards from the start, but the confusing information and lack of certainty produced by the new rules threw the first of many spanners into the works. Only a week after our ‘dream show meeting’ a Zoom call in which every member of the production team screamed their ideas about the show at each other for 2 hours while others frantically tried to make coherent notes (Some of which entailed ensuring Frau Gabor, the mother of one of the characters gave off the same vibes as the mum in Sex Education), the announcement of the lockdown immediately scuppered many of our initial plans.
Zoe and I, who made up the visual team, had already got plans of sourcing costumes from charity shops (both for budget and sustainability reasons) and already this plan was up in the air with no clear ideas of when shops were open. Casting and rehearsals suddenly had to go ahead entirely over Zoom, and it was late March before any of us had actually met in person. We began collating all our work onto a very chaotic Google Drive (which despite weekly organisation, is still pretty impossible to navigate) and having weekly meetings which ranged from ecstatic plans that got us all exciting to essentially screaming into the void as we tried to figure out how a show about intimacy was going to work when no one was allowed to touch.
Thankfully our application to postpone the streaming dates to mid-May was accepted, as well as us being allocated some grant money from the SU and Drama and Musical Theatre society in late March which put us back on the right track, especially when many of us were finally able to return to Norwich to start preparing what we could.
I can only speak from the perspective of the visual and production team, but a lot of the initial ideas were extremely chaotic and others were downright ridiculous – a conversation about having some of the characters be almost entirely covered in mud for one song springs to mind, and at that point, we assumed that everyone would be filming themselves at home – so glad we came to our senses with that one!
Other crazy ideas stuck, however, maybe the most memorable one being to film our final number ‘Song of Purple Summer’ at dawn. Had we been allowed to film indoors, I’m sure this would have happened in a well-heated studio with soft dawn lighting and filters (and likely at a reasonable time of day), but as everything had to be filmed outdoors in the end (including classroom and office scenes!) groups of six of us traipsed out to campus at 4:30 am at a time in order to get the most effective shots, despite us all shivering, and the fresh flowers we used as props freezing solid and having to be defrosted on my radiator for the next day’s shoot.
Dawn shoots weren’t the strangest thing any of us had to do as part of the filming and set-up process either. I myself designed and customised a really quintessential Spring Awakening dress, designed makeup and produced tutorials for the cast to follow (since we couldn’t physically do anyone’s makeup), which included details of bruising and other injuries and sticking pressed flowers onto their faces. Others had to prepare gravestones (and dig graves!) to appear in a scene or stick flowers into the ground with a pen (this was on the 4:30 am shoot too). Definitely, the weirdest parts for me were the three page illustrated essay I wrote about sex and anatomy for one of the props, and making the bottle of – well, I’ll not say, but if you buy tickets you’ll know it when you see it.
We filmed the entire musical in about 10 days, dawn till dusk pretty much everyone. I met some of the most hard-working and creative people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing during the process, and we couldn’t have done any of it without our amazing director, Charlie Bench. She was on set pretty much every day, keeping everyone on track, running warm-ups, providing Covid safe procedures and making sure everyone was having a good time (which consisted of a lot of handing out sweets and red bull). Filming the show was so much fun; 10 solid days of running about, setting up locations, chatting with the production team, watching an incredible cast perform what they’d been working on for months and dancing to Cha Cha Slide or Abba as a warm-up anytime anyone complained that they were cold. If any member of the team hadn’t been involved the show wouldn’t be what it is today, every single person involved is phenomenally talented and the creative challenge posed by the constant lockdown related hurdles has only made our ideas stronger.
Collectively, we organised fundraiser as Spring Awakening deals with themes of sexual abuse and violence, so we decided to all join in with a sponsored 97km move to raise money for Lifecentre UK, who provide support for victims of rape and sexual abuse. (Details in the links down below)
The cast and crew are a bunch of incredible, talented people and now I can’t wait to see the final show in action. It’s been such a pleasure to work with such an insanely talented group of people, and it’s easily one of the best things I’ve been involved with at university. The show is going to be amazing, and the setbacks and challenges we’ve faced have only made us more creative in our approach to producing an entire film in less than a month!
We have worked incredibly hard to produce something which is truly amazing, especially given the circumstances. The show is completely wonderful, from the carefully edited soundtrack (all songs home recorded) to the choreography and movement of intimate scenes where social distancing was still in place. Fresh flowers were chosen for their correspondences to scenes and characters and the colour palette evolves as the play develops through the scenes. It’s been a monumental feat but the end product is truly ethereal, and I can’t wait for opening night (tomorrow)!
So what are you waiting for? Grab your tickets now!
Spring Awakening is available for streaming Thursday 20th, Friday 21st, and Saturday 22nd May 2021
Thursday Tickets: https://www.uea.su/events/7071/14769/
Friday Tickets: https://www.uea.su/events/7071/14768/
Saturday Tickets: https://www.uea.su/events/7071/14770/
For more info or donations on Lifecentre UK https://lifecentre.uk.com/
Follow UEA Drama and Musical Theatre Soc on Instagram for updates! : @ueadramamtsoc