Liz Lea is in residence at QL2, creating and rehearsing InFlight for premiere on the 31 May.
“One of the big challenges has been working out how to present a theatrical experience at the National Library of Australia (NLA) lecture theatre that surprises and delights the audience as well as paying homage to the historical material we are working with. As the theatre is not equipped with extensive lighting and is small is terms of a regular theatre space I was concerned as to how we achieve this. The theatre is also heritage listed, so there is a limit to what we can build.
So, when you cannot make a space bigger – make it smaller. This is why I am a dance maker and not an economist…
I decided we needed to build a life size small plane in the space. Simple.
Finding someone to design and build this plane and bring the madness to life took some time. I was then introduced to Christiane Nowak and she set off designing some beautiful concepts. Initial ideas proved to be too expensive to build and she then came up with a beautifully simple design and concept.
Christiane Nowak brought ‘Petal’ the plane into the studio, in bags ready for building. Cue consternation amongst the dancers that this was going to be a difficult process. She is a design wizz and the plane comes together easily – as long as I do not glue the worn pieces together. We had her up in minutes and then proceeded to fit the movement into the cockpit.
Next task – for the dancers to build it in four minutes as part of the work. They have it down pat in 2 ½ minutes, all carried out while Charles Ulm talks about the planning of one of their record breaking flights. One of the aims of creating this work — and making the most of the smaller space — is the hope that we will be able to tour the piece to other libraries and museums. All the film and sound footage that will be included in the show comes from the National Film and Sound Archive. The photographs edited into the film, and the written history comes from the National Library of Australia. I feel very strongly that it is important to tour these works and share the archival material, especially in a country as big as Australia – the majority of Australians do not have the opportnuity to come to Canberra and certainly do not have the time to spend months researching and reading through the amazing archives that these institutions hold.
We have been able to rehearse in the NLA theatre, and this has assisted in shaping the work – both in use of the space and bringing the scenes together. Costumes have also been weaving their way into the rehearsals. The dancers change costumes during the process – not as many times as for 120 Birds, but there are still some fast changes taking place on and off stage.
We have started to bring the story into the movement. The dancers have created some stunning movement and I have been tying it together so that, for my eye, it flows and works visually. From here we need to bring the story and emotion of the moment into the movement. A pure dance sequence of movement can work wonderfully but suddently make no sense if a story is meant to be running through it.
The first half of the show about aviators has been worked out; now we turn our focus to the second half – a world inhabited by birds. One more week in the studio and we are expecting delivery of Naomi Ota’s installation work — a beautifully delicate work of feathery strings.
We are in residence at QL2 Dance at the same time as the Soft Landing dancers and program leader Amelia McQueen – who was part of the initial research process in 2011. She will have a cameo in this work as Amelia Earhart.
Then its production week! Monday 27 May in the space laying the floor and preparing the space for dancers to arrive Tuesday. Karen Norris, our lighting designer, flies in from Sydney on the 29 May. On the Wednesday and Thursday I am also giving a talk for the Australia Theatre Forum about the work.
We open on Friday 31 May at 7pm. I clearly need to go and buy new shoes!