“The Balloon Ghost” was the third play belonging to the date-divorce-murder trilogy that started with “The Decent Date” and “The Divorce.”
I played the daughter of Mr Jones and Miss Brown, whom had lived inside the womb of Miss Jones for years without her knowing.
“I bore you a child in the end. Just like you said I was bound to. Trust me to be pregnant all those years and never even notice. And then, the moment you leave, she’s born. So beautiful and so sad. Always missing something, never quite there. Unable to care for me, won’t speak to me. She knows what I did to you, Jonas!”
The balloon ghost (aka. the ghost of Mr Jones) comes back to haunt/float around Miss Brown, who is still covered in the blood of her husband. The scene is creepy and it is weird. The previous scene had no music, so I needed to ease our audience back into the music accompaniment. The optimum solution revolved around a technique I absolutely adore; singing into a piano with the sustain pedal down.
This technique is beautiful. I love the way the sounds you sing catch into the piano and hold there. You can build chords and dissonances however you fancy, just by using your own voice/any other instrument.
To transition from the previous scene, I started to hum a few notes and moved my piano stool to the right-hand side of the piano. I sat cross-legged on the floor, and cupped my hands around my mouth to increase the volume of my singing. Like “The Divorce,” my music was a response to how Nora Murphy (Miss Brown) performed this monologue. Some nights would build in tension a lot quicker so I moved with Nora; no two nights were ever the same. It was a difficult piece to plan because it was so long, and the one piece of written music may not match the tone of the monologue. Also on the night if I heard the echo running out in the piano, I would sing louder and for longer to build up the sound again, which is something I wouldn’t have been able to judge on the night if I was following a score.
Most of it was improvised around this theme below.
My underscore resembled that of a weeping child, covering their ears with their hands as if to ignore the sound of their mother crying next door. In the writing stages of this piece, I recorded myself on my iPhone singing into the piano, building up chords and experimenting with different vowel sounds. You can hear below the very first time I workshopped these ideas, and you can actually hear when I think about using different vowel sounds to create larger echoes. Some sounds like “wah” had a natural accent and resonated a lot more than other sounds like “ooh,” and different pitches brought out different tones from the strings.
I got a bit cheeky in the underscoring too, to really combine the music with the monologue. Ben gave Nora the direction to pronounce the word “our” more like the word “hour” in this sentence:
“And in your letter you had replaced the word “my” with “our.””
At this point, I changed my singing the emphasise this “hour,” altering the “oo-oo-wa-ah-oo” melody to be “oo-oo-ho-ur-oo” at this point only. When I told people about this little Easter egg they nodded their heads in approval.
On the appearance of the balloon ghost, I ran the flat edge of a key up the lowest strings, creating a shocking boom to mark the entrance that made the audience jump. When the balloon ghost burst, the boom resonated wonderfully in the strings, really combining the music with the drama. You can watch the whole thing below!
Featured Image by Cordelia O’Driscoll