whale
 

whale rain 3D

As easy as it is to explain and accomplish, the whale may be the biggest challenge of the show. The challenge is just to find the properties. Moby Dick has been done many times. Directors always consider fooling with "the whale". Experience from all the incarnations of the show demonstrates that the more realistic Moby is made to be, the worse it is for the story and the show. As always, trust the audience.

The whale in the story swims close, dives, goes away at a moment's notice and can and does attack the ship and AHAB without warning. All that is done with dialogue. But the whale also devours AHAB after destroying THE PEQUOD and AHAB'S whaling boat. For this one needs to face the challenge of how to get an instant huge white whale on stage. Okay, enough teasing, here comes the answer. Fortunately, it is actually very simple. Before you are let in on this secret you have to promise to not reveal it to anyone except those who you also swear to secrecy!

The Secret of the Whale

Moby Dick has been done many times across the world. Different directors have attempted to improve on the whale challenge, but the answer was invented by one of the authors, Robert Longden, who first directed the show.

LARGE White Beach Umbrellas

This is dramatic when performed properly. Its the way they did it in the West End. The whale making cast members are blocked to open their umbrellas in a whale shaped design. There are two eyes on the ones in the center. AHAB does a bit of struggling acting to get eaten as he is pulled by cast members legs first into the mouth area. One cast member waves a huge white tail (remember whales go up and down, fish go side to side) as the others shudder when AHAB is ingested (probably he is sour meat). Lighting should not be too bright to heighten the drama.

Start working on this when you first start your production. It is good to have the umbrellas early for blocking purposes. Scour the internet for available purchases. They should only weigh about 5 to 7 pounds each and each cost about $10-20 American (2003 funds). They should be five to six feet in diameter. They can be patched up old ones, but need to be all white on the rain side. Painting them white is fine although better yet is to find pure white ones for then backlighting in maybe a red light will "bleed" through nicely..

Search the internet for white umbrellas. The following sites were found in early January 2004: 

http://www.dollardays.com/detailview.asp?itemid=106167
http://setshop.com/default.php?cPath=74_120

Beware, some companies call the outdoor patio furniture umbrella a "beach umbrella". Don't be stuck with a heavy unwieldy pole.

A Note From Another Producer

With regard to Moby Dick and the creation of the whale. In our performance we searched high and low for white umbrellas and Robert was right, most appear on web sites on the orient. However I contacted several umbrella printing companies who have vast stocks of white umbrellas and they agreed to sell me them for eight pounds each (which I thought was a little excessive -- I'm a 'Scrooge' producer).
 
However, due to an excellent stage manager, we found a shop that sold large golfing umbrellas for 2 pounds each. Most towns have a cheap shop that sells anything in, so I would advise looking there first. Any color will do as we have a tried and tested system that turns the umbrellas into the Moby Color.
 
Our umbrellas started out as black and white with a logo on. We sprayed white primer car paint onto the black panels of the umbrella. We then sprayed grey car paint onto all panels of the umbrella (to give it depth). Once this had all dried we re-sprayed the umbrella blotchy white (to merge in with the grey.....even white whales are not perfectly white). Every now and again we add more grey and white (because the paint will eventually flake as you open the brollies [sic]). Two big eyes were pained on to two of the umbrellas and there was our Moby Dick.
 
Stephen Langston - Producer of the first Amateur Production of Moby Dick in the UK.