Thoughts of a Creative Cleaner

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

How cleaning a toliet, lead the next idea.

I like a good “What if...” it is the basis of each creative decision I do, both on stage and off. People who work with me in the arts are very careful saying these words around me as I will explore the option, if its going to help the production I am working on.

I started thinking about “What if...” scenarios three weeks ago, as I cleaned a holiday house, in order to find an idea as a follow up to The Coat.

Scrubbing one of three toilets, I asked myself “What if...I recorded the sketches from Charles Dickens, from my book called “the old time stars' book of Comedy Sketches”, and this time the voices came from an antique book.” This idea excited me, more than my previous ones.

It may seem weird mentioning that I was scrubbing toilets, but the toilet, or the throne as some call it, has often been the one place where good ideas start!

I pondered this idea as I moved onto toilet number 2 and thought about how everyone was doing monologues on the net, and as always, I wanted to do something different. Charles Dickens created some of the best-known fictional characters, and 12 of these could be found as monologues, under the chapter “Character Sketches from Charles Dickens".

These pieces were once performed by a man called Bransby Williams, a British actor, comedian, and monologist who was known as "The Irving of the music halls" from 1903 – 1929. It’s interesting to note he also toured Australia performing these Dickens monologues in 1924.

So taken by the idea, I set forth to record 4 of the 12 monologues from the book, but it seemed a different “What if...” would be asked, that would see me use two of the four recordings as Guinea pigs for something far more exciting.

Over a cup of tea, Lee, the co-creator for most of my audio work, and myself were talking about another project we are about to start (something I’m equally excited about & will reveal very soon).

We were just working out the main aspects of the project when he asked “What if...we could make the voice and sound travel not just from ear to ear, but all around the listener via headphones or surround sound?”

Now I'm sure there will be people reading this who will say “of course this can be done” etc, but you must remember we are two local creatives working with what we got, and trying to challenge the norm at the moment.

We aren’t wealthy Hollywood types with large budgets or big independent theatre companies working off government grants in order to experiment on our ideas. We are two passionate guys virtually using our jobs to help pay for our creative endeavours and time.

Excited about this idea, Lee set out to do a little research whilst I was busy putting together the final product of The Radioplay Hour for its first online show. Sure, enough Lee found the software we needed, which was free, and also learnt that others had experimented in what we were setting out to create.

Nevertheless, we were still excited to employ and experiment with this particular “What if...” for our up and coming project. But it would seem using two of the four monologues I had already recorded - Mr Fagin's last night alive, voiced by Joel Beskin, and Mr Squeers opens the School voiced by Barry Gibson; two stalwarts of the Gold Coast Community Theatre Scene – would be our test subjects.

We set to work last Monday night on the Fagin monologue and the whole process reminded us of how Foley artists put sound to film... except there was no film for us to watch just our imagination and the actors vocal performance.

We also had a bit of fun working out how to move Joel’s voice between the speakers and earphones.

The sound effects used for Mr. Fagin's last night

It took us 4-5hrs, but we managed to turn our first experiment Mr. Fagin's Last night alive into an what we think is an imaginative experience.

Heard through headphones, or surround sound, with the lights off, you, the listener, need to imagine yourself sitting in a cell in London’s infamous Newgate prison, listening to Mr. Fagin's ghostly words fill the darkness around you.

Tonight, Lee and I start on Mr. Squeers opens school, which is set in a class room, and continue to experiment with the audio with what we learnt from the Fagin monologue.

The other Dickens monologues will be loaded up from time to time to complete the Dickens sketches. And although it is mainly male based, I am also working on set monologues involving women, one beginning with Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca.

Also hopefully by the beginning of next year I will have The Willowlogues, based on the story The Wind in the Willows, ready to record and some current work from other writers as well.

Found under Entr’acte Character Sketches from Charles Dickens - Mr. Fagin’s Last night alive & Mr. Squeers opens school will be ready to listen to on Wednesday afternoon, 17th June from 4:00pm.

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