Last Hurdles

A quick post about the last week of production before my two shows at Festival VERS Vlees on the 28th and 29th of May.

After those two playtests, which unfortunately because of difficult planning were sort of last-minute, I managed to get priorities in order and start production on the “definitive” playtests in VERS Vlees. Vloedelingen is far from done, but I don’t see that as a problem, rather an opportunity to develop it further. It’s the good and bad side of making interactive theatre. You don’t know what’s going to happen each and every show. Actively playing audiences are unpredictable so it’s mainly about creating and perfecting a framework which allows you to improvise both dramatically and mechanically to what happens.

Anyway, with some help of Ernst-Jan, I refined the characters. The characters were edited down to much shorter snippets of text (with better Dutch!), and I added more relations, prejudices and especially ties with mechanics. The Dokter of the Vastelanders would be the guy to heal people should they get sick. The fishermen would fish twice as well as others. I had quite a lot of fun creating these characters, but due to time constraints they’re still a bit messy.

I ploughed through designing the visual printwork. All the locations got a big A3 poster. All the mechanics were explained as simply and concisely as possible, to be placed at the physical locations. The character cards were filled in, with a cheatsheet explaining game rules and game suggestions on the back. I made namebadges, and a plethora of events and missions which I as Game Master could slip into the audiences hands when needed to spice things up.
Example: “I don’t feel well. I think I have a fever” or “Last night, I heard a helicopter flying overhead” and “If we steal something from the Eilanders, we have more power to negotiate”.

With some help of my mate Sebastian, we ferried all the props, costumes, materials, technical stuff like lighting and audio equipment, all the way from HKU to NUtrecht, where VERS Vlees was. That was tuesday. On tuesday I also met with Nico and Eduard, where we did a dry walkthrough of the show, and cleaned up some last niggling questions they had.

Wednesday I finished up all the design work, put together a thunderstorm soundscape, and recruited our voice-actor-in-chief-extraordinaire Gerben van Melle to be the meteorologist’s voice announcing the storm through the radio.

Thursday morning it was printer time. Bought lots of biscuits and lunch, and cycled with a thousand tonnes of stuff to VERS Vlees. I had 3 hours to prepare and build up. Set up the lighting and sound first, tested that, and it worked fine. Set out the locations with masking tape (I think I used up a kilometre of masking tape in total!), placed the posters, arranged the props, had some last-minute briefing with the actors and my cameraman Roland Volbeda.

The Thursday show went extremely well! Still a bit chaotic, which I tried to fix on Friday, but it was amazing! Afterwards, discussion time and beer, then more beer, during which the discussion often shifted towards refugees, discrimination, and such. That alone, i think, leads me to believe I’ve reached the goals I wanted to reach.

Friday was even better. I didn’t change a lot to the show. The biggest change was that I had two cameramen: Niels and Alaine, so that I as a Game Master could be a lot more active to react to what the audience did.


More detailed analyses of the last two shows at VERS Vlees after this post!

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