Cunning Little Vixen

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Cunning Little Vixen
Vix.jpg
The Cunning Vixen And Mr Badger
Written by
Leoš Janáček
Director
Elaine Tyler-Hall
Venues
The Theatre Royal
The Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Following last year's sell out success of War and Peace, the annual collaboration between Scotland’s national conservatoire and Scotland’s national opera company was a revival of the landmark production of The Cunning Little Vixen created by David Pountney. It toured starting in the Theatre Royal Glasgow fininshing in the Edinburgh Festival Theatre.

Set

Construction

The set was constructed using a series of gates and tops. The gates were wooden frames and the tops were large flooring units, sculpted to have the appearance of hills.

Below is a daigram (not to scale) of how the gates were organised, and how the tops were laid out on top. Vixengates.jpg

Vixentops.jpg

Challenges

There were a number of challenges involved in constructing the set. Below is a bullet pointed list of some of the challenges and solutions.

- All the gates had a number of markups on them, including one set in Hebrew, as the set is over 20 years old and has toured many location, including Israel. After figuring out how the set went together we remarked everything and made a diagram to allow us to be able to rebuild the set when we needed.

- If we bolted the gates together first it was much harder to get the tops to fit into the gate. However, if we put the tops on first it was much harder to get the bolt holes to align. We decided for the most part to put the tops on the gates first then move the piece into position. Overall this was the more effective of the two methods.

- Many of the tops didn't fit flush inside the gates, even when square. On occasion we had to move guide block or attach hinges to ensure the tops stayed in place.

- The whole set had a habit of shifting after long periods of use. Hinges were put it attaching key gates to the deck to stop it moving.

- The DS 3 rows trucked open and shut. When they shut the tops didn't always stay flush all the way from DS to US, presenting a health and safety hazard. We spent a lot of time during fit up making sure the interior flooring was put down square, and making sure the trucks were square. However there was no perfect fix for this as over time the trucks would go squint as the tracks were too wide. For future perfomances of the production with the set was being used again I would suggest rebuilding the floor to make it span wider and building tighter tracks for the trucks.

- No matter how careful we were during fit up, the set always sat slightly differently, sometimes leaving gaps between tops. A lot of times the only way to fix this was to hit it with the big mallet.


There were a lot of little issues that arose with the set. Some were due to the age and condition of the set, and some were purely down to it's jigsaw nature. Very few could've been seen in advance and many could only be solved using brute force. This was not a complicated, technical set, just heavy and difficult.

Technical Elements

Masking

For this set, masking for the wings had already been built with the rest of the set. These were large black flats that went along in a line (DS to US) along each wing (each wing was symmetrical). On each side one flat had an entrance and exit for performers, and the rest had a line cut out in a wave for side lighting. The most DS flat on either side also had a gap at the bottom of the flat to allow for the truck to be moved on and offstage.

One of the main issues with the masking was that the audience could see into the wings through the mid-stage entrance and the cut outs in the flats. For the Theatre Royal in-house hard maskers were used in between each large masker to create 'booths', to hide the wings. For Edinburgh, soft masker legs were used for masking. Another issue was that the masking stopped the performer flying operators from being able to see the performers as cues were running. This wasn't much of a big problem as screens were set up and practise helped.

Other masking used was a full black to mask behind the set, a small hard masker to hide the banisters at the USC entrance, and black masking for inside the tunnel.

The Cyc

For this show a specially made cyclorama was used. It was made to curve around the set, and for the bottom of it to be wavy to match the rolling hills of the set. A structure was made with three lengths of scaff (one for each edge of the set) and rigged onto numourous counter-weight bars that all had to be flown together. This was done with 7m drifts and shackles. The cyc had small weights sewn in all along the bottom to help keep it streched.

The main problem we had with the cyc was that we had to make sure every flying element and electrics bar was rigged and correct before the cyc could be, as to bring in any bar to working height, the cyc would also have to be brought in and some of the masking flats removed.

Flying Pieces

The Trees

In the show there were three sets of trees hanged and flown in depending on the time of year the scene was set. These were a source of

The Birds

In the show there were three actors suspended above stage sat in arm chairs. The flying solution was designed by AFX a company that specialises in performer flying. The system was all attached to an in house flying bar which had had its cradle ratchet strapped down. This gave us a stationary rigging point that could be flown in when nessesary. The chairs had points at each corner for rigging

The birds above stage.