Nearly in rehearsals…

This week saw the first production meeting and modelbox presentation:


And excitingly, all songs scored and typeset!


Rehearsals begin next week…

Demoing new songs for the directors

We demo some new songs to the directors. It would be fair to say that we are not singers, but I am comforted by the story of Todd Duncan, the original Porgy, who recalls hearing the opera for the first time when George and Ira Gershwin “stood there with their awful, rotten, bad voices and sang the whole score”…

Meanwhile the storyboard continues to take shape:


Research trip to the Old Operating Theatre

A fascinating trip to the Old Operating Theatre with one of our scientific collaborators Dr Alan Bates, Senior Lecturer in Pathology at UCL, seen here describing a typical autopsy:

Many interesting discoveries made, but here are some of the key points we took away from our discussions:

On conducting an autopsy:

  • Showed us how he would conduct an autopsy (see above) – pulling the guts up with considerable force and removing them as a whole, sawing off the top of the skull and removing the ‘blancmange’ like brain. ‘I’m old enough to have done this without electric saws’.
  • Has a preference for a short sharp knife – some of his friends prefer long ones – he uses a long one for the brain, as they’re so easy to slice.
  • ‘I sometimes feel that I don’t produce anything. Sometimes you wonder have I actually made a difference?’

On operations:

  • No anaesthetic at the time – the doctor’s assistants (‘dressers’) had to physically restrain the patient. Alan talked about the sheer brute force it took to operate or conduct autopsies (this is still true for autopsies), which got us thinking about the character of the doctor – he’ll need to be physically large, and his physicality when treating Tarrare and conducting the autopsy needs to be strong, brutish, heavy.
  • Patients were often blindfolded and/or gagged; Alan pointed out a surgeon’s walking cane that was used as a gag and was therefore bowed in the middle.
    • On this point – when we discussed wanting to show how horrible/painful pre-anaestetic treatments: ‘You really can’t overemphasise how horrible it was.’

On Tarrare’s specific condition:

  • At the time there was a particular fear of that which crossed from animal to human – a fear of French revolution unleashing ‘barbaric’, ‘animalistic’ characteristics in the revolutionaries. Both surgeons and Tarrare played into this fear of cannibalism/transgressing the human body.

Wellcome Trust Small Arts Award

Delighted to have been successful in our application for a Wellcome Trust Small Arts award. This will support both the creation of the show as well as meetings with medical and scientific advisors and a series of related events (post-show discussions and Performing the Freak – A Dialogue between Theatre and Science about Monstrosity), an 8 page programme with information about the research and scientific collaboration underpinning the show, and a project website.