About the Wall - Jonathan Park


By the time I came on board, Roger's ideas for staging the show and Gerald Scarfe's designs were essentially complete. My job, along with Mark Fisher's, was to turn the ideas into practical realities: to work out how we coudl succesfully re-create them on stage. I think what struck us both was that it was a great opportunity to do something new and bold and wonderful. Something on a grand theatrical scale.

The actual staging concept was remarkably simple and we moved quite swiftly to make it viable. Mark took on the project of getting the inflatable objects (the walking teacher, the wife, etc) modelled and built from Gerald's drawings, whilst I dealt with the wall and the problem of how to get it built and broken down during the show.

The thing about touring with a show is that you have to be able to move relatively easily. I can't recall how many bricks we eventually needed for the construction, but let's say four of five hundred. That presented an immediate logistical difficulty. I'd toyed with the idea of slotting plywood panels together to make the bricks, but I realised this would make them too heavy and we'd already rejected anything moulded as too big. The solution finally came to us in a pub. Someone suddenly remembered that cardboard boxes are delivered in flat packs, then unfolded into shape. Mark went off to work out the details (how to key the boxes together for the actual building process), then we did a great deal of research to find cardboard which was both durable and fireproof.

Meanwhile, I tried to devise ways the wall could be built on stage. The bricklayers had to be able to move up and down so we needed some mechanisms that could spring up to a height of 25 feet. The standard pieces of lifting equipment in those days were genie hoists which were made by a company in Seattle. I went over there, camped out in the managing director's office for four or five weeks and re-designed the hoists so that I could couple them together to make hydraulic lifting platforms that could go up to the necessary height.

The wall also had to come down in performances and we realised that if we just knocked it over it would crush the first rows of the audience. It had to be taken down from the top, so on one of the telescopic hoists we built a knocker, an arm that you could programme to knock the bricks off from the top downwards. This operated on a system of air cylinders which I devised. The point is, weeks would be spent on finding an architectural or engineering solutions to various problems and the process was intensely satisfying.

There were only 29 performances of The Wall and I never saw one of them out front. I always felt the electricity, though. Being involved gave you a sense that you were helping to establish a kind of legend. Even then it had that epic and epoch making quality.


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