The Day Of The Triffids – A Gig Theatre Adventure In Sound and Music

Searching for something different for the weekend, I glanced through the event listings at our local Arts Centre, The Lighthouse Poole. Scrolling down the page I spotted that fantastic word, Triffids!. It couldn’t be anything else could it? It had to be those pesky carnivorous human-eating plant-life! Excitedly I read the tagline…

ATTENTION EARTH-PEOPLE Platform 4 Presents… A gig theatre adventure in sound and music. An inspired take on John Wyndham’s The Day Of The Triffids.”

As kids we had our little minds twisted and freaked out by the cult 1981 BBC television series where we followed Bill Masen’s (John Duttine) terrifying awakening to a world gone blind. He escaped the fate of sight-loss because when the rest of the world’s population was marveling at the celestial wonders of an incredible meteorite shower that filled the night skies in wondrous colours, he was laid up in a hospital bed with his eyes bandaged. The awesome spectacle on display was truly unfathomable and completely unmissable. People of the world joyfully gasped in pure wonder and awe at a spectacle never before seen. However, the next day, everyone who had enjoyed and witnessed those beautiful unearthly cosmic delights were now… blind!

Before that fateful day, some years back, a weirdly strange and oddly unique plant had started growing across the world. It was a hardy-looking species of vegetation that grew to a colossal 7 foot plus. Inside it’s flower head core, it held a venomous sting that could fly out and poison it’s victim. Luckily it was reasonably docile and as long as you kept your distance and wits about you, you could easily outmanoeuvre its dangerous reach. Soon it would be cultivated and used in all manner of products. Farms would grow fields of the giant flower ready to harvest. The strange plant had become the norm until that fateful night the comets came. With the night skies turning wild with magnificent technicolour across the lands, the Triffids would seize their moment. For humankind was now clumsy, frightened and vulnerable. They had been dropped into darkness. The Triffids would now have their feed. The world was now their feeding ground. They began to move!…

English science fiction writer John Wyndham wrote his post-apocalyptic novel, The Day Of The Triffids, way back in 1951. It fueled many an imagination, especially with this young Mikey. The TV series was terrifyingly exciting as I watched mesmerised from the hopeful safety of the sofa. That era of British television was the thing of amazing nightmares. See my article Dark British TV Thriller Opening Themes That Were Freaky As F… We were constantly abused by creative fear-inducing science fiction thrillers with freaky creatures, eerie story lines or end of the world, doomsday scenarios.

I had read the novel at school, watched my Mum’s favourite American heartthrob, Howard Keel, battle the blasted veggie vermin in the 1963 cinematic experience. “A Nightmare Come to Life! From the Novel That Frightened the World!” In 2009, a two part TV movie was made starring Dougray Scott, Joely Richardson and Eddie Izzard to name a few of the cast members. It was pretty bad to be fair but I happily sat and watched it. The word, Triffid, would even work itself into the English Dictionary.

So yes, I was pretty excited to go see whatever his theatre experience would bring…

Walking into the The Sherling Studio of The Lighthouse, I was greeted by what could be only be described as stepping into something akin to the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop. You half expected Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram and Dick Mills to appear. And wonderfully, when the cast of musicians did emerge from behind the curtain they were dressed in lab coats and clothes of the era. Spread out across the space was a marvellous mix of eclectic vintage electronic equipment and traditional instruments like violins, double bass, clarinet, an accordion and a pump organ. Dotted about on the set were a few instruments I had to look up, like a Dulcitone and a Hammer Dulcimer. I spotted the school classic, the recorder, sat on a stool next to a Melodica. The more your eyes scanned the room, the more you saw. A electric Vibraphone, the amazing Moog and to my delight that spooky and brilliant electronic wonder, the Theremin. But hang on! there is one more item of noise to hear about, The Cactus! Yes you read right and I kid you not. A spikey cactus was sat inside it’s plant pot ready to be played? The musical technician pulls a string like cord over the spikes to create an other-worldly sound. It really made me smile and fitted in well with the plant based media.

Surrounding the set was the backdrop of a huge arched, panoramic screen that showed visuals. Cuts of real footage, vocal samples and special effects flow through the story. Our survivor Bill has been changed to Jill and the focus of the narration. A pained determined performance that pushed the story arc through as each section of our heroine’s journey is set to a unique musical collage. Improvised jazz, to traditional folky sounds, a tune with a War of the Worlds feel, it kept changing, a blue grass number and then a more modern dance tune with crazy cuts of vegetable names! The two guys on synthesizers looked like Kraftwerk working in Arkwright’s shop from Open All Hours. All five band members worked in unison, effortlessly moving around each other, picking up instruments. Sad faces giving way to touching small smiles of hope as the foreboding low frequency of the Moog gave a bass of dread. The fairy tale sounds of the Dulcitone play out alongside the strings of a violin, together with a lullaby singing. The darkness of the narration then cuts through to move you once again. And when the Theremin comes into play, it filters though memories that evoke the mystery of science fiction soundscapes of 50s B-movies.

It was an incredible performance from the theatre group Platform 4 which brought back so many memories of this story from my youth.

All the best…. Mikey Wolfman

14 thoughts on “The Day Of The Triffids – A Gig Theatre Adventure In Sound and Music

  1. Ha, at first I thought you were going to a screening of ‘Day of the Triffids’, and I thought, I bet it’s the 1963 version! NOPE! So this sounds like more a concert than a movie experience, but an interesting one just the same. I’m assuming at some point there were images of triffids on the screen…or was that left to the imagination?

    I probably would’ve walked into it blind (!), sat down, then after ten minutes wondered where Howard Keel was…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Todd, there are many images of Triffids, along with tons of other amazing videos, including John Wyndham himself talking about how he came up with some of his ideas, on our 30 feet widescreen backdrop!

      Matt – violins and cactus

      Liked by 1 person

      • That was one great screen Matt. Thank you to introducing to me the wonders of the cactus!! Like I said it really brought a smile to my face. What a great noise you summons conjured and more than anything just the idea of it was truly fantastic. The violins weren’t bad either hehe, they were superb, you and the whole crew. Thanks for dropping by my blog.
        All the best
        Mikey

        Liked by 1 person

    • Haha “Where’s Howard!!”
      I know right Todd I switched it up. It was live and direct and away from the silver screen for a change. Yes there were many Triffids on the screen. The pesky scoundrels were scurrying around being a right menace to society!
      You know what? I’ll pop in to see my Mum at the weekend and tell what I’d been up to. She’d be like. “What the Howard Keel one!”… “No Mum a new one with music and everything”…. “Why didn’t you watch the Howard Keel one? He’s right dreamy that one, a real man’s man.”. She’d then go off on one… “Oooo Seven Brides for seven brothers with hair the colour of fire and oooo Wild Bill Hickok in Calamity Jane OOoo.” And I’ll be like, quickly pointing outside. “Shit Mum there’s a Triffid!!!!” as I leg it through to the front door. hehe

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  2. Hubby berated me over this. He can’t believe I’ve never seen it. “It’s a cult classic!” he ranted, “You haven’t seen it?!”
    I mean, I was afraid of repeating myself, no, I haven’t seen it. I thought he might have a stroke!!
    Now I’m interested and feeling left out at the same time. FOMO !! Thanks for that riveting review!
    Also–shot of you in full Wolf with blindfold–
    LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • ” I thought he might have a stroke!!” lol… TBF Triffids is quite a British thing, so I wasn’t too sure if it had crossed over that well? Even the Howard Keel one I believe is a British production. Most of it is filmed around the UK. Though the director and scriptwriters are American. Who changed the novel a fair bit I must add!. It was always gonna be overshadowed by War Of The World for sure. The thought of giant plants wandering around eating people was always gonna be silly. Somehow Invasion of the Body-snatchers pulled off the plant-life to horrifying effect. As I say above, Triffids was part of my childhood and I was fascinated by it. It’s campy fun yet the 1981 TV show was pretty tough. I’ve often wondered whether to revisit it but worried it was actually super cheesy lol… PS The opening scene inspired the writer, for Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later.
      Hehe thank you, a Wolfy act-out was long over due 🙂

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  3. This sounds great. I would have been excited to see they had a theremin too, what an amazing instrument that is. But the cactus must surely top it?!

    I saw the 1980s tv series three or four years ago. It’s actually not bad, I liked it more than the film. The triffids are not that threatening, it’s more about how people cope when society breaks down. I didn’t bother with the new one as no one seemed to like it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh that’s reassuring that you saw the 80s one recently and it holds up. That’s good enough for me cause I love those old ones anyway so it will be nostalgic too. Yeah I had to watch the new one, it was only two episodes I think. Recall it start well and promising but just got silly. Though tbf it’s hard to pull off rampaging plants nowadays… (sure there’s a website for that LOL)

      The theremin is so awesome. Have you seen Clara Rockmore play it? So incredible 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, I know the feeling, coming across old shows I haven’t seen in eons and cringing and thinking, “Omg…can’t believe I liked this once!”
    But the inspiration for 28 Days Later….genius !!! One of our favorites, staring the angelically beautiful Cillian Murphy, who my husband even admits is beautiful, lol !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah I agree, Cillian Murphy has a unique head. I sit him in the same head camp as Paul Dano and Eamon Farren. Very unique looking dudes with Cillian sitting pretty at the top.
      It’s been a while since seeing 28 Days Later but if memory serves me right you have the opening scene of CM waking in the hospital after an accident to an empty London. Plus I think they both make their way to the coast.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Had to look up Paul Dano (even though his name sounded familiar) and Farren. Oh, yeah, Dano, odd, odd, odd guy. Really good in There Will Be Blood. Farren I’m not familiar with, but I see what you mean!

    Liked by 1 person

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