Black Box located and touching down soon at QPAC

The black box device transformed aviation safety and is worthy of a show, a musical even, which will be flying into QPAC this May

Apr 02, 2024, updated Apr 02, 2024
Paul Hodge has turned the story of aviation's black box into a cutting-edge musical, coming soon to QPAC.

Paul Hodge has turned the story of aviation's black box into a cutting-edge musical, coming soon to QPAC.

The incredible confluence of events that led to the creation of the black box flight recorder should make for a good story, as the invention revolutionised aviation safety and now the device is on every plane around the globe. But is there a show in that?

There sure is, a musical even, which has its world premiere at Brisbane’s QPAC in May.

Black Box the musical has been created by homegrown and internationally recognised writer, composer and lyricist Paul Hodge, who has progressed from completing his PhD in song composition at the University of Queensland to creating productions Off Broadway, on London’s West End and in Edinburgh.

Hodge says he’s thrilled that Black Box will be world premiered in Brisbane because in many ways David Warren’s pivotal invention is an intrinsically Brisbane story.

“I think it was maybe seven or eight years ago that I came across an article about the 20 greatest inventions that Australia has given the world,” Hodge says.

“Number one on the list was the black box. I didn’t know that an Australian had invented it. The article talked about how David Warren invented it and how his father had died in a plane crash when he was eight.

“It was the result of a crash that happened in Queensland and an inquiry that happened in Brisbane after that crash. That’s the reason Australia became the first country in the world to mandate the black box.”

Old hands are steering the ship in the cast and direction – with Michael Cormick taking on the role of Warren and Helen Dallimore as his wife Ruth. David Berthold, former artistic director of La Boite and Brisbane Festival, is directing.

It seemed only fitting to Hodge that, given the innate links to music that Warren used to design the technology, the story had to be told as a musical.

“It was through David’s love of music that he came up with the idea,” Hodge explains. “At the time he was in a seminar about why the world’s first commercial jet airliners were crashing. He was daydreaming about recording music to teach himself clarinet. And that merged in his mind … and that’s how he came up with the idea. The whole idea came from music, all about sound.”

Hodge says he wanted to create a musical that was as innovative as the idea. He chose the format of two actors on stage interacting with recorded voices, suggestive of the black box which, surprisingly, is no longer black but a fluorescent orange.

The auditory world that inspired Warren to create his invention will shape the audience’s experience. Hodge decided to emphasise Warren’s love of sound and music further by making this the first musical to use binaural technology.

All audience members will wear headphones so they are immersed in the world of sound yet have the ability to determine the origin of those sounds.

“It’s quite unprecedented,” Hodge says. “How are we going to do this? As our director David Berthold said in the first week of rehearsal, we’re pioneers in this endeavour. It’s been fun to work all of that out.”

Berthold says he was excited to attend an early development showing of the work in 2019.

“What immediately struck me was that Paul had arrived at a form for the show that reflected its content,” Berthold says.

“This intriguing story of the invention of the black box flight recorder was to be told in the black box of a theatre of sound. Much like the collected sounds and data of a black box flight recorder, the stage was here – a collection of characters that were voices, augmented by the sounds and music of the world around the two in-the-flesh characters, David and Ruth. The story was great and the music was brilliant.”

Berthold says the binaural sound is incredibly intimate – and working with sound designer Daniel Herten has been eye-opening.

“Rehearsing the show has been so unusual,” he says. “Most of the characters are invisible – but we are blessed with two hugely experienced performers who have utterly embraced the challenge. Michael Cormick and Helen Dallimore are just wonderful in these roles.”

Black Box plays the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, May 10-19.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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