Confession: I HATE scene changes. That moment when everything comes to a standstill, the magic disappears, the lights go dim and people in black clothes start whoosing around the stage moving bits of the set on and off. I hate it even more if the tabs (curtains) are closed to disguise the event, cutting the audience out altogther (as if we don’t know what’s going on).
Then, after the scene change break, it starts up again and we try to pick up the thread. I will do almost anything to avoid that scenario – I will not have scene changes if I’m directing. I will not have people in black infiltrating the production….
Scenes do change though and there are times when the table really does have to go off – but there are many ways of not stopping the action while that happens. Using a revolve is one of them. So, you’re wondering, who turns the revolve? Well, in Beauty and the Beast (see pic above) the set was a curious mixture of fantasy and steampunk. I loved the whole mechanical aspect of the steampunk design so I had my crew in steampunk costumes acting (yep, they had to act) whilst turning the revolves. It became part of the storytelling mechanism. My storyteller and the musicians also adopted the steampunk look and the steampunk team became the backbone of the storytelling process. They also acted as extras for odd scenes and there was no need to pretend they weren’t there or have any unnecessary and embarrassing breaks in the action when the revolves were turned. Because of the magical nature of the play the turns were always marked with music and light changes (some very dramatic), creating an exciting part of the action and story – not just a scene change. In fact, many people mentioned that when the revolves turned it was really exciting – the magic worked.
A few years ago I directed James and the Giant Peach. Now there’s a show that needs a revolve if ever I saw one! The design was engineered by Offbeat’s Jim Rolt who made the most fantastic job of it. The Peach sat on an 8′ square revolve and occupied centre stage with a couple of screens either side for projections (another really elegant way of changing the scenery). The revolve was not only the peach, but we attached a façade to one side at the beginnging to create the Aunts’ house. That was removed from the back of the stage after the peach turned for the first time. One side was a cross section so the actors could be inside the peach – the other was the outside with ‘windows’ so they could all look out.
It worked brilliantly! We worked out a cunning design for turning the peach that involved hooks and poles and it could be carried out from behind without the crew impacting on the action. Again, the turns were always moments of magic – music, lights and action all taking place – no stopping, no pauses! Of course you don’t need to use BIG revolves. The 2 smaller ones at stage right & left in Beauty and the Beast were reminiscent of fairground waltzers. They were perfect for quickly changing from ‘interior scene with table and chair’ to ‘exterior stone wall with statue’ in a matter of seconds. If you’ve never considered using one before – why not give it a try?
PS. The Giant Peach is still out there gracing many stages and enhancing many productions! If you want to HIRE the Giant Peach you can do so by emailing Rob Flowers on firstname.lastname@example.org (this is not a link! Please copy & paste into email)
If you want to hire our costumes please take a look at our Peachy costume page.