A SUPERCOLLIDER FOR THE FAMILY
A scientist, working for the Military Industrial Entertainment Complex is given the mission to build a Supercollider for the family. We follow his globe-trotting exploits as he puts together the machine and meets various other agents. Meanwhile his wife is walking around the world on a tightrope and his feelings for her contrast with his thoughts about particle physics and his employers. But how will his Guardian angel bring everything together?
1997 had been a mad year. Since the previous year's festival I'd worked on 'You Don't Know Jack', Planet Mirth and done a month's run of "Twelve!" and so I only wanted to do a brief run at Edinburgh. Ted Smith offered me a week and a half before Mel and Sue would take over the slot with their 'Big Squeeze' show. I wanted to do something more sci-fi than "Twelve!" had been and as I had been reading a lot about the failure to build the Superconducting Super Collider at Waxahachie Texas, it seemed like an ideal match. Also I wanted to do something more romantic than the previous show had been and this story could include both.
The opening description of the guardian angel (with Simon Oakes' absolutely beautiful music playing underneath) is one of my favourite pieces from any of the shows. But the script pretty quickly moves from the pastoral to the scientific. I enjoyed writing the description of the accelerator, as it contained just pure science; equally the scenes in New York and Tripoli which are just pure silliness. Floating Bob and Boris, whose mood defines those around him as he controls the Bagpuss Effect, were neat characters, and the sequence at the hospital is a highlight too. The walking wife is based on Ffiona Campbell's globe-trot, with traits from various exes, and the final reunion in the canyon is something I'm very proud of.
I have to say, Supercollider is possibly my favourite of all the shows and it is a shame it didn't get the audience it deserved at Edinburgh and since. Running for only a week or so, and with a mediocre review from the Scotsman, it never pulled people in until the last couple of days. That was after The Times review that called it 'the best feel good movie that never got made' came out and word of mouth had spread well enough to let people know what sort of show it was. And then it came off. I ran it at The Old Red Lion pub theatre in early 1998.
The show was directed brilliantly by Erica Whyman. I had worked with her the previous year on 'Oblomov' and as well as being amazingly patient to work with me, she is extremely talented. I forget whose idea it was just to have a set of 3 chairs and various pieces of string of different lengths strewn around the floor, but she made some marvellous stage pictures with them. Malcolm Rippeth's lighting design was fabulous - the canyon especially. I've already mentioned Simon Oakes' music but let me repeat what a great job he did. The poster was by Joe McCleod using a picture by either Andy Lane or Kevin Dutton, I think probably Kev. Ted Smith produced for Stone Ranger, and they made badges and beermats designed by Paul Garner.
I brought the show back to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2001 for another limited run and performed it in 2007 at the Latitude Festival and in 2012 at the Green Man and Port Eliot Festivals.
A Supercollider for the Family is available as a short story in the collection MORE TREES TO CLIMB.
"WHEN HE SMILED, SUMMER ALWAYS SEEMED TO BEGIN"
Read a script extract from A Supercollider for the Family
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