It's only a matter of days until we spring into the next big stage of #404Journey - The rehearsals! That's right, the actual rehearsals, for the actual show. We have spent almost an entire year building up to this point; researching, making, planning, head scratching and diving head first into the world of Jules Verne's novel as proactively as possible...
The Journey began during our first research and development weekend in April 2018, when an enthusiastic group of creatives came together for a weekend of play. Our main focus during this time was generating ideas, writing scenes and songs, and discovering new and exciting ways to bring the book to life. The weekend allowed us to form a narrative structure and plan a feasible method for taking the show forward before the writing process began.
“‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ has been my first experience of writing a full play for a company and it was as exciting as it was daunting. The characters and the incredibly complex journey they take, both emotionally and physically, was exhilarating to explore and I found myself caught up in a range of curiosities and fun. Having Matt as a mentor and co-writer has been just brilliant due to the immense enthusiasm he brings to every project, and his knowledge and proactiveness has been inspiring. It is within this project I have developed and assured my passion for script and had a ball doing the thing I want to do for the rest of my life.” - Kayleigh Benham, 404 Young Associate Writer
“The writing process has been a fun one, and has rarely felt like work. It’s been great to work with Kayleigh, each throwing down ideas and mixing them up and finding our version of Jules Verne’s great story. Delving into the book and picking apart the moments and scenes that resonate with us has highlighted our similarities and differences as writers, and it’s been an exciting challenge to collaborate and tell this story together."
- Matt Beames, 404 Associate Writer
Keen to infuse the show with as much real science as possible, we met with Earth Sciences Professor, Dr Tamsin Mather of Oxford University. The time spent talking with Tamsin was invaluable as we were able to answer many fundamental questions about volcanoes, earth science and the natural forces that make the world work. All of this allowed us to really think about how the real science of this otherwise fantasy tale could be incorporated into the script, and getting young people excited about science through the performance.
In August the #404journey creative team and members of our young company had the opportunity to get creative in the mesmerising and unique setting of Wookey Hole Caves, as we spent a few hours within the famous chambers beneath the Somerset soil. We blocked through scenes, tested songs and plunged ourselves into darkness. This time allowed us to imagine a fraction of what the characters would have gone through as well as the fascinating sights and sounds that lie beneath our feet.
Thanks to the kind support of The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, we were lucky enough to have a whole extra week of discovery to aid the writing process, with another R&D in October 2018. During this period, we explored the first draft of the script, played with theatrical conventions, gained feedback and experimented to our heart’s content. Once the week was over, we had a solid foundation on to which to build and create the show.
“It's difficult to pick a favourite part of anything you thoroughly enjoy. Being involved in any capacity has been a fantastic experience, and being able to work with David on music and underscore has been hugely rewarding.”
- Aidan Cooper, Young Associate Composer
We are now finally about to embark upon the big scary bit - but also the exciting, really quite liberating bit - making the show happen. Rehearsals start on Monday 8th before our first performance in Wolverhampton on the 26th April!
"I feel a real affinity to Axel, Lidenbrock and Hans who delved into the unknown in the search for adventure and discovering the impossible. As our first touring show as 404 productions, I think Journey to the Centre of the Earth is a perfect mirror to hold up to ourselves our process and ambitions." - Daniel Hill, Director
Of course, absolutely none of this would have been possible without the generosity and support of so many. We owe thanks to all our wonderful collaborators; the many young creatives who have helped us through the research and development stages and our incredibly enthusiastic cast and creative team.
Thank you to The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre and The Arena Theatre, both of whom have hugely supported the project by so kindly providing rehearsal and production time/space. Thank you to Arts Council England for supporting the production through public funding, and thank you of course to you - the reader, the audience, for going on this journey with us. See you on the road!