It seems as though the advent of the jukebox musical knows no end. Sure, it's obvious to use the music of the Beach Boys (Good Vibrations), ABBA (Mamma Mia!), or Billy Joel (Movin' Out), but who would've considered using the music of The Smiths, those dark alt-rockers from the ‘80s? Some Girls are Bigger Than Others, featuring the music of The Smiths, had its world premiere at the Hammersmith Lyric Theatre and will transfer to the Dublin International Theatre Festival prior to a UK tour.
Produced by the Anonymous Society (Andrew Wale and Perrin Manzer), the show features the design of cinematographer Jon Driscoll who worked with XL Video to create footage especially for the show. Paul Wood is project managing for XL, who supplied the video hardware including a Barco G5 projector, a High End Systems Catalyst™ digital media server, and a Wholehog® 500 lighting desk to run all the video cues.
The desk was programmed by Steve Parkinson, a regular XL/Driscoll collaborator. They took full advantage of the Catalyst to produce effects like varying the aspect ratio of the video clips, which were shot in a variety of film formats: 1:1.77, 1:1.85, and 1:1.33. The majority of the film playback was locked in to sync to the sound track via MIDI time code transmitted from the sound console. At other times without music or where visual cues were taken from the action onstage, manual cues were triggered by projectionist Tim Perrett.
Unravelling a tense and convoluted tale of the real and psychological interaction between six people, Some Girls is an often abstract and evocative piece detailing the disintegration of relationships through violence, drinking, physical and sexual abuse, distrust, and miscommunication — all leading to a murderous denouement. The video projections are central to the narrative and a cerebral key to understanding the story through most of the 90-minute show.
Images are interwoven with a harsh, almost industrial multi-layered soundtrack, a live string quartet, and the six main characters who sing and dance. The songs, including Smiths classics like “Barbarism Begins At Home,” “I Started Something I Couldn't Finish,” and “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” are not literal translations, but rather new treatments and interpretations, transcending the boundaries of traditional musical theatre to create a mind-challenging, sensitive piece of physical theatre.
The set was designed by Wale and Nicolai Hart Hansen, and the projections were developed as an integrated scenic element of this. “It was all a very organic process,” says Driscoll. Wale and Manzer had very specific ideas for what the projections should convey as each song was to have its own piece of film. Driscoll also had the freedom to add his own ideas and express himself through the camera. Together they created a storyboard and a shot list for each song, much of it inspired by rehearsals and as the work developed day-to-day. “It was a very invigorating way to work,” says Driscoll.
Driscoll waited until the last possible moment in rehearsals before starting to shoot the footage, so he could gauge how each segment was developing. They visited several different locations during the two-week shooting period and discovered an abundance of excellent locations nearby in Hammersmith. Child actor Patrick Harper was cast to be an onscreen character, and Driscoll and Wale shot a series of sequences with him over two days using an Arriflex SRIII high-speed Super 16 camera on color negative film. After processing at Soho Images, the negative went to Pepper Post Production in Covent Garden where it was graded for projection by Pete Harrow, transferring it from 16mm to digital Betacam using a Phillips Spirit telecine machine.
The soundtrack was synched to the images as the projection team worked alongside the company during rehearsals, resulting in a seamless rhythm. The final projections were beamed onto a mottled plaster-effect surface onstage, which softened the images, making them appear more like film. They subtly blended into the on-stage action, creating a thought provoking medium reinforcing, challenging, and creating impressions.