A wicked time at Wicked
Audio description is just not for TV and film it is also for the visual arts and theatre. At the beginning of my Action blogging you may have heard me talk about the day job. Well now I thought it was time to let you all know what audio description in the theatre is all about and what it means to me personally and not just plug VocalEyes!
The other night Sara and I went to an audio described performance of the musical Wicked.
Wicked tells the story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two girls who first meet as sorcery students, Glinda the Good and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West and the story is the prequel to The Wizard of Oz.
There is one main difference to audio description in theatre, which may be obvious but I am going to mention it anyway, and it’s that the description is live, in the same way that theatre is live! The description is part of a normal performance.
About a week before the audio described performance I received an introductory audio CD in the post with descriptions of the set and the main characters for Wicked, along with more information about the show and the theatre.
I knew from the CD that Glinda’s character was slender and delicate and appearing to be innocent. Whilst Elphaba is very different not only her character but her skin all over is a brilliant emerald green.
The notes described the look of the show and the set as the story moved from the Land of Oz, to Schizz University, the Emerald City and to the Great Hall of the Wizard’s Palace where Glinda and Elphaba first meet the Wizard of Oz.
There is also a touch tour of the set about an hour before curtain up. The touch tour is fantastic as not only do you have the chance to meet some of the cast in costume and explore the set but there is the opportunity to handle some of the props like the wheelchair that belongs to Elphaba’s sister Nessarose which in one scene magically moves on its own.
The show starts in the Land of Oz and the describers Roz and Bridget describe what is happening on stage and what the citizens of Oz look like being dressed in Victorian-style outfits, in autumn colours of browns and russet reds.
The description has to fit in between the dialogue and singing of the production which is an art that takes a lot of training and experience to master and I must say that the audio description was top notch at Wicked.
There are some wonderful pieces of description in Wicked which gave me the tools to make my own images in my mind of what the show is all about.
When Elphaba is presented with her sorcerer’s hat for the first time the description tells me how she is thinking and what it is like for her to see and touch this object.
"Elphaba stands, turning the hat in her hands. The ghost of a smile lights her face."
Which just says so much to me about what this means to her.
There are dance scenes in Wicked and they are described too.
"The dancers frame Galinda and Fiyero with short, jerky moves, quick pointed toes, sharp jabbing arms, high kicks to the side, crisp flicks of the head. Galinda starts to move, her hands gracefully weaving, her hips swaying. She lifts her arms and flows into the music."
At the end of Wicked there is a bit of a twist but I will not give that away!
Sara and I came out of the theatre with smiles on our faces having enjoyed such a great show and although musicals aren’t really my thing I really enjoyed it. With the description I knew just as much about the show as Sara did from seeing it with her eyes.
I’m looking forward to our next night out and maybe I will get Sara to go to something at the Royal Court or the Almeida!
If you want to find out more about audio described performances visit the VocalEyes website www.vocaleyes.co.uk