Tom Stoppard's Jumpers, currently playing on London's West End and slated for a Broadway transfer this spring, is another in a series of new plays in the UK with a strong video component. And once again XL Video is involved, supplying the video hardware for Jumpers for its run at the Piccadilly Theatre.
The production was originally staged at the National Theatre, where the video system was designed by Dick Straker and Sven Ortel of Mesmer Productions. When it moved to the Piccadilly, an equipment upgrade became necessary, which was overseen by Mesmer, working closely with XL Video project manager Malcolm Mellows.
Video runs throughout the show, and is used primarily in a non-literal and often abstract way. Projection is via two Barco G5s onto an upstage screen, with a Doremi hard drive used for storage, and a Dataton Trax control system. Cues are either triggered manually by the sound operator, or MIDI activated along with certain sound cues.
Video projection also plays a scenic role during specific scene changes, when four screens on runners are revealed onstage, dividing the space in a number of different combinations, which are then back projected with images.
Jumpersis a thought-provoking dramatic mix of darkish comedy with a lunar theme. While one character philosophises about the moon landings in 1969, his partner, a singer, struggles with the destruction of her special romantic moon fantasies. The myths of this unique interplanetary space are blown open with the arrival of human beings and science in a hitherto untouched environment. The rest of the design team includes sets by Vicki Mortimer, costumes by Nicky Gillibrand, lights by Paule Constable, and sound by John Leonard.
Video plays an important psychic and psychological role in the stage action. Material includes archive NASA footage of moon landings, space exploration programs and images of astronauts and spacecraft, mixed in with specially created animated images of the moon’s produced by Mesmer from 3D models.
The TV is also recreated "live" with video, with the footage seen by the characters on the TV screen sometimes going across the main screen to be viewed by the audience.
For Mesmer, the major challenge was in ensuring the footage they produced retained the special period feel and texture of the late 1960s. Much detail went into amassing, editing and treating it to look appropriate and to make it work as a non literal multi-dimensional medium demanded by the production.