THE TOUR PREP
It was back in April time that I was asked to work again on The War of the worlds and, of course I jumped at the chance!
For those of you that don’t know the story very well, The War of the Worlds is a tale about fictitious aliens who come to Britain in the early Victorian era and completely destroy the country. The story follows the account of a journalist and his escapade to find his beloved wife. His journey transports him through the country where he meets an array of different characters including, an artillery man, a Parson and his wife, Beth. In the end humanity prevails and all is saved by the red weed which destroys the aliens and Britain is saved... (That’s the short version anyway!)
The original story was first written by the infamous HG Wells, this has then been adapted into similar books, films and most famously an album created by Jeff Wayne which was released in the late 70’s. The album remains popular with its following still to this day and when the musical version was constructed into the wonderful theatre production it gained even more of a following.
It had been 2 years since the last tour and a lot had changed during that time. The last tour was the ‘New Generation’, with a re-worked album and big changes in how the show was run in previous years. I was excited for what the 2014 tour had in store! When Jeff (Wayne) and Damien (producer) had asked me back, of course I was game! Then, when they spoke to me about introducing a new character- HG wells, I was even more excited as this meant that I would be going on the WHOLE tour.
We started back in the spring of 2014 with the make-up tests. The idea was to have Callum (O'Neill) acting as HG in 3 different parts of the show and at 3 different ages. The first was him at 33 years old after he had just written the book. The second time we see him is at the beginning of the 2nd act and he is 59 years old and finally we see him closing the show at the age of 89.
We were asked to Jeff’s house to do the first make-up test on Callum. We were making the decision between having old age stage make-up or prosthetics. This was when I first met Mark Coulier and Stephen Murphy (both incredibly talented make-up artists) and Callum O’neill (actor who played HG Wells). Mark, who has been one of my idols since starting out in the industry, was so kind and genuine and seriously brilliant at what he does. I watched whilst him and Stephen worked their magic on making Callum look older with some stock old-age pieces, with amazing results. It was agreed that we would opt for using prosthetics in the show as this had the most natural look on and off camera. Jeff had said that it was essential that the ageing process looked realistic and as close as we could get to how the real HG looked.
Then the hard part arrived… figuring out whether the prosthetics could be done live whilst the show was happening and on such a tight time schedule. Originally the plan was for JUST ME to go on the tour and if it was possible for me to do it on my own? That question was quickly answered with a no and Stephen was booked as the second makeup artist. We had to do not one, but two lots of prosthetics each show and all within the 2 hours that the show was running. (We named them HG2 and HG3 for ease!)
To give you some idea of how much of a challenge it was- usually an old age prosthetic such as HG3 would take around 3-4 hours to get it up to HD film quality. We had round 35 minutes!
Yeah, I know… how the hell did we manage it?
Personally, I was sh*tting it! After not having touched prosthetics since I left uni I was totally thrown in at the deep end and my first time actually having a go at doing it was in front of Mark and Stephen (Oscar winning and bloody good make-up artists!) um…bricking it is an understatement! However I took my time with the first one and really got to know where the pieces fitted, what colours to use, blending it and how it all worked together. The second make-up test, Stephen and I had a go together… it’s safe to say we smashed it and were done in 32 minutes! Boom! After that I was quietly confident that the shows were going to be okay, however I didn't want to jinx it!
The following weeks were a bit of a blur. I was working all hours anyway to fit everything in before the tour but also I had a hell of a lot of prosthetic pieces to pre-paint! (72 individual pieces to be precise!) I pretty much lost all track of what day it was!
Then before I knew it, we were at LH2 (the rehearsal space) This was where the real test came… dress rehearsal. (Dramatic drum roll please…Dum dum duuuuuum!) I felt pretty nervous as this was not only an assessment of whether it would be done in time, on time. But also a test of mine and Stephen’s skills as everyone would see our work for the first time LIVE on stage.
Once again we were in business… HG2 was done in time as was HG3! It looked pretty fantastic, even if I did say so myself! Once we were over that hurdle of the time pressure, I felt I could actually start to enjoy the experience and everything that was about to happen...
[Image above: Make-up set up for rehearsals and Callum O'neill in HG2 make-up]
...to be continued.