The boat bow from the front.

Building The Beast

While Victorians families have been enjoying high adrenaline rides at the Royal Melbourne Show over the past week, our production team have been cooking up a little ride of their own for the cast of The Beast.

In the opening scene of play, a chartered fishing boat is being tossed and dumped at sea during terrible storm. A range of ideas for achieving this effect were discussed with Set Designer Luke Ede, with the winner being a life-sized, mechanized, severed boat bow, created from scratch by our production team.

First, the team built a steel frame onto which they fitted the decking boards, complete with hand cut edges meticulously recreated to match the severed design shown on the CAD drawing. Next they fitted the rig with a car air suspension kit – just something spare they had lying around in a store cupboard – to allow the bow to be raised and dropped. Steel cable and bungy cords underneath the platform secure the rig and hold everything steady while allowing it to roll and pitch – and pitch it most certainly does! A series of controls allow a backstage operator to toss our cast members up to 1.3 metres off the ground, and roll them up to 8 degrees side to side to create a true “caught in the storm” effect. For the uninitiated, it can be quite a lurching ride, as yours truly discovered when I popped down to production this week. Happily there were no bouts of seasickness… but I’m curious to see how our cast cope on stage!

With the addition of automated motors to allow the entire rig to move independently across the stage, and some finishing touches from our scenic art team, this is one not-so-little project that will bring Eddie Perfect’s script vividly to life on the Sumner stage.

You can see this and many other clever tricks from our production team on stage in The Beast from Thursday 3 October at Southbank Theatre.

Published on 30 September 2013