This Arts Council England funded project about the life and imminent closure of the Coronet theatre, has resulted in a unique and exciting fusion of art forms and collaboration. Primarily performance and drawing, but now we can highlight the role played by music and digital animation.
The Bedlam Dance was a wonderful scene scripted by theatre director, John Whelan and choreographed by three members of People's Company (Nina Atesh, Rawlene Evelyn and Sonja Doubleday) that is at the heart of the stage play for The Melodramatic Elephant in the Haunted Castle. It was based on archive research into Marie Henderson, the Victorian actress of melodrama, who was reported as having gone made when the Elephant and Castle Theatre burnt down in 1878 and she lost all her costumes. She subsequently ended up in the mental hospital Bedlam, although medical records reveal that she was suffering from the unknown and untreatable effects of syphilis.
The emotional heartbeat of the scene was based on an original composition written by Laurence Lysergide. Here are his exhibition programme notes on how the work was produced.
I knew from the minute I was told about composing a score for this melodramatic project, that I would be stepping out my comfort zone as I usually produce 200 – 400 BPM Hardcore Techno, the music used in the rave scene for the play.
Thankfully, I was supplied with a script with detailed musical notes and many examples of music from the 1800’s. I was kept up to date with video clips from the actors performing to get more ideas. I still had to do a lot of research on instruments used during this period and on melodrama as this was all new to me!
The majority of the pieces I produced were dark, eerie and atmospheric. I did a lot of layering with different instruments and pitches to achieve the sound I wanted. Everything was recorded with Ableton Live on either keyboard or guitar.
It did not take me long to come up with the main theme tune for the play as I felt comfortable after preparations. I recorded a few pieces and Constantine Gras chose the Atmos piece. This 8 minute composition was scored with 22 different instruments but the main tune theme is a mixture of violin and cello. It ended up being used in two sections of the play, the Bedlam dance scene and for Sandra Crisp’s animated movie.
What I enjoyed most about this project was that I had to write everything from scratch. There was no sampling. This really pushed me and I have a lot of material now for other projects. Some of my first DJ sets were at the Coronet and so I feel a strong connection to the venue.
Laurence's score can be heard on Soundcloud.
Another important element of the play was an exquisite digital film made by Sandra Crisp. This was screened at the beginning of Act 2 and captured the preceding "madness" of Marie Henderson. The fly through visuals also projected into the future and illustrated how her ghostly figure would become part of the theatrical structure that was once home to her creativity and performances.
This is a description of Sandra's art practice and her work on the project:
I use appropriated online visuals, stored in a digital archive and reworked over time. Through a process of continual sampling/recycling/layering, new connections evolve between the diverse elements of media images from the internet to smart phones. Today’s constant saturation of images and information via 24/7 news and the continually updating web where one image or blog post or Tweet is rapidly replaced by the next, is a central theme running through my practice.
For "The Melodramatic Elephant in the Haunted Castle' I used Constantine Gras' drawings, photos of the Coronet interior, archive photos and borrowed online visuals to form a dynamic 3D collage textured onto a 3D rendered architectural model.
To fully appreciate the quality of Laurence and Sandra's work they should be seen in the context of the wider project at The Art Academy Gallery from 9-20 December 2017:
155 Walworth Road, London, SE17 1RS
Gallery opening hours:
SATURDAY AND SUNDAY 12.00-17.00
MONDAY TO FRIDAY 15.00-19.00
Reflecting the views of artists, actors, residents
and participants in
The Melodramatic Elephant in the Haunted Castle.
An art project about the Coronet from 1872-2017.
Past present future
Music and animation
Euan Vincent on Horror
Tiberius Chis on Chaplin
Final Curtain Call
Directing and acting
Jacko at the Coronet?
Ale and steak pies
This Is Where I Came In
Pollock's Toy Museum
Adventure with the Mayor
Reach for the stars
Ghost of Marie Henderson
Shop till the zombie drops
Faith, Hope and Charity
Singing and sketching
History and legacy
Dark Side of Metropolis
Walworth Street Festival
Interview with Sam Porter
Blood and Thunder
Culture and Capital