Features Published 13 August 2012

Animating the Night

Chloe Rodham is a freelance animator and designer whose projects are as varied as making music videos, illustrating political campaigns and using the medium of animation to help tackle issues, here she talks about her work with up and coming theatre company Fourth Monkey for their production Nights at the Circus, premiering at this years Edinburgh Fringe, and why animation is more than merely moving images.
Rosanna Hall

One of the things Rodham has carried from the novel into her animation is the way in which the language and events of the novel are able to quickly lurch from beautiful, decadent imagery, to full-on debauchery: as when a young Fevvers bathes as Lizzie washes her wings is juxtaposed with violent imagery of Ma Nelson losing an eye. The use of stop motion as a technique which creates slightly macabre movement works in tandem with what is happening onstage, denaturalising the human actors. With a similar colour palette to the stage lighting – overwhelming pinks and oranges for Ma Nelson’s brothel and cold, eerie blue and green stone walls of Madame Shreck’s museum of female oddities – the combination of the stage lights and colour-centric animation mark the different periods in Fevver’s life as recognisably separate, and help blur the boundaries between Fevver’s as a young woman and her supernatural aura.

Rosencrautz Table by Chloe Rodham.

Unlike in other pieces where animation can seem a bit of an add-on, a brief respite for the actors, or between scenes, within this production it not only informs the plot, adding background information which predates who the characters are when we pick them up onstage, but also tells the emotion it can convey. What this medium can offer is that animation is not merely making moving images but can be utilised to really convey the atmosphere of the novel, allowing at times events to be depicted as a story, but at others offering a wisp of an essence less tangible.

Fourth Monkey’s championing of producing theatre is clear in work with Rodham, treating animation as a dimension of storytelling, providing another way in which the audience can access the artists visions.  And it is a particular vehicle for vision, as Rodham describes, there is something spontaneous and uncontrollable about animation, as with acting, where often mistakes can breed the best art and the quirks and imperfections add to its handmade quality and its position as a craft. While careful planning and organisation are factors in helping the development of her creations run smoothly, like acting it is often the unplanned additions which can really offer the piece its strange and vital life.

Fourth Monkey have six shows currently in rep at Edinburgh Fringe.


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Rosanna Hall is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

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