After playing the character of Stephen Wraysford in Rachel Wagstaff’s stage adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ best-selling novel Birdsong, OP Tom Kay (97-07) recently brought his stage role to online screen in a special adaptation filmed to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme whilst also raising money for the Royal British Legion.
Birdsong online was not like any ordinary production filmed for screen however, as it was put together during lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and filmed using video technology, live performance, sound design and music, all woven together to create a unique masterpiece. The 14 cast members were provided with historical prop weapons, period costumes and a crash course in hair and make-up before recording their performances in their own homes on tablet devices.
Speaking in an interview for the Mail on Sunday (7 June 2020), director Alastair Whatley admitted that the project had required some playful camera use and film making techniques to capture scenes which were pivotal to the storyline. First World War trench scenes were apparently created with the cast ‘writhing around on their kitchen floors’ in front of green screens, so the backgrounds could be added by computer later.
In the article in the Mail on Sunday, Sebastian Faulks who narrates during the production, praised the ingenuity of the film, saying: ‘I don’t begin to understand all the tech, but it’s a bit like making a feature film with all the actors in different places.’
The new production, from the Suffolk-based Original Theatre Company was screened online for three days at the beginning of July, to coincide with the 104th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme, in which more than 19,000 British troops died on the first day alone. The show will be released online again at 7pm on 16 July until midnight on 19 July. Ticket sales from the screening include a donation to the Royal British Legion. For further information, please visit the originaltheatreonline.com website.