Video projects

Magpies, shredders and pelvic thrusts: video production for theatre

That might just be the most clickbaity blog title I’ve ever written for this website. Before we get into the magpies and the pelvic thrusts of it all, I need to give you a brief summary of my history working with the brilliant theatre maker Wayne Steven Jackson. I first came across Wayne in Hull back in 2017, when I was producing City of Culture video content for the BBC and Wayne was performing a play from the passenger seat of his dad’s taxi.

He got back in touch three years later when, in the throes of COVID-induced lockdown he needed to rework a planned live performance into a video piece that people could stream at home. This project became From Me To Us, a breathtaking autobiographical piece that cut between an ‘as-live’ stage recording and surreal video cutaways filmed in various locations around Hull.

Teaser trailer for From Me To Us by Wayne Steven Jackson

From Me To Us was one of the most ambitious projects we’d taken on at the time, given the complexity of the edit and the fact that it was over an hour long. But it was nothing compared to the project that followed, called And Here I Find Myself.

In some ways, AHIFM was a sequel to FMTU, picking up the real-life story of Wayne’s journey to fatherhood as a single gay man. This new theatre piece also explored wider themes of life goals, disappointment and heteronormativity. One major theme involves Wayne being forced to “follow the rules”, which are sometimes arbitrary and humiliating instructions like “jump higher” and “do a pelvic thrust”.

Teaser trailer for And Here I Find Myself by Wayne Steven Jackson

The biggest challenge from a video production perspective was creating eight separate video streams, all projected onto different paper surfaces in the theatre. These are all in sync with each other and with an audio guide track playing in Wayne’s ear, cueing his movements and speech. There are three live action video streams, two of which are huge vertical replicas of Wayne himself, projected on paper hanging from rows of shredders. The third live action stream is Wayne in magpie make-up. The magpie mouths silently for most of the performance, except when given voice by the real-life Wayne.

Photo of a theatre performance. A man holds himself up in a plank position on a horizontal ladder. He is surrounded by shredded paper, and more reams of paper are hanging down from above him, some of them partly shredded.
Wayne in rehearsal for And Here I Find Myself, from

If all that sounds headache-inducingly complicated, that’s because it is. It’s the kind of project where one tiny change can accidentally throw everything out of sync. There’s no easy way to preview everything at once without either a lot of time or a lot of computing power, so the editing process requires patience, discipline and a good head for maths. I’m pretty proud of the fact that very few editors or video agencies are capable of delivering something this complex within a modest Arts Council-funded budget.

The piece premiered in a work-in-progress performance at the Lowry theatre in September 2022. After that, Wayne secured more funding to develop the piece further, ahead of a national tour in October 2023. We’d be really interested to hear from other performing artists who are interested in bringing pre-recorded video elements into their work. If that’s you, please get in touch and let’s have a chat about it.

By Ben Horrigan

I've been producing digital content since 2012, primarily for flagship BBC brands like Blue Peter and BBC News. Now I run Studio 91 Media, a video production agency on a mission: to create content that is good for platforms, good for people and good for the planet. When I'm not behind a camera, I can often be found playing cello at weddings or riding a three-wheeled cargo bike called Babs.