As 2017 gets into full swing we thought we’d take a look back at some of our favourite theatre trailers from 2016 for some inspiration and talk about why they work so well.
There are a number of common challenges you’ll encounter when producing a theatre trailer. Often, you won’t have access to the cast or the show itself, as rehearsals will not have started when you’re making the video, and even if you do have access to this footage, you may find that material that is striking and powerful on a stage does not always translate so effectively to the small screen.
The following are great examples of highly engaging videos that successfully wrestle with these challenges to generate real excitement in the productions they are promoting.
Let’s start with the Royal Court’s brilliantly disturbing video for Caryl Churchill’s acclaimed new play. It’s such a simple setup. A genteel, white china teacup against a plain, white background. But this teacup is not filled with tea, oh no. Instead a thick, viscous black liquid, oil perhaps, bubbles away, gently enough at first, but with increasing violence and by the video’s conclusion it’s spewing over the teacup’s edge like an erupting volcano.
The contrast between the refined and the menacing makes for a wonderfully sinister and disorientating image that sits in the memory long after the video has finished. We are told nothing about the play itself beyond the cryptic ‘tea and catastrophe’ line, but it doesn’t matter. The video is so strange and haunting you feel desperate to find out more about it.
As we mentioned in our introduction, even if you do have access to the staged production itself, capturing footage that works on screen as well as it does on stage is often quite challenging. The National Theatre however, have managed to create a trailer made up almost entirely of performance footage that feels edgy, bold and visually striking.
They’ve kept dialogue to a minimum, instead presenting a series of quick cuts that focus on striking imagery, often in close up, and the more physically expressive aspects of the performance which gives the edit real energy, pace and momentum. The final result is a breathless, disorientating and very cinematic journey into the world of the play that generates a real sense of excitement in the viewer.
The Truck Theatre’s approach is very simple but hugely effective. The whole video is one static, mid shot of the play’s main character delivering a short monologue to camera, and with a play like Educating Rita, based as it is around a loveable central character with a great line in witty dialogue, it makes a lot of sense to make this the focal point of your trailer.
By taking the character off the stage, and placing her in a real environment (a hair salon), we get a short, intimate vignette that works really well on video and draws us right into the heart of the Rita’s world. It’s funny, likeable and has a great payoff that really makes you smile. If you’ve got a play that will make an audience laugh you don’t want to be shy about letting them know, and this video works a great teaser for the production itself.
If you have a star name in your production it makes sense to make them the focus of your trailer and the Barbican have done just that in this beautifully shot trailer for their production of Obsession.
Once again, the action is transferred away from the stage, this time to the interior of a car that has just been involved in a terrible accident. A traumatised and bloody Law cradles the head of his companion in a short and disturbingly vivid vignette that is thick with atmosphere, and a sense of dread that locks itself in the mind.
It doesn’t matter that little is revealed of the plot or setting of the play. The combination of an internationally renowned actor and a dramatic, intriguing set piece is enough to convince an audience that this show is a must see.
And whilst we’re here, we thought we’d show you one of our own recent trailers of which we are particularly proud.
Junkyard is a musical coming-of-age story about friendship and standing up for what matters. Written by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, This is England ‘90), with a score by Stephen Warbeck (Shakespeare in Love, Wolf Hall, Jerusalem), and directed by Jeremy Herrin (People, Places and Things, This House).
A co-production of Headlong with Bristol Old Vic, Rose Theatre Kingston and Theatr Clwyd.
We hope you’ll have as much fun watching it as we had making it!
Need a trailer for your next production? Get in touch today to discuss your ideas with firstname.lastname@example.org