Behind the scenes: The Vacuum Cleaner Project

14th February 2017 at 11:57

After successfully navigating their way to the Nuffield Theatre, unloading three hoovers from the boot of the car and escorting said hoovers to their room for the day, Sarah Punshon and her team (Simon, Jess and Hannah) have arrived safely at Lancaster Arts. Now you may think three hoovers is an unhealthy number of hoovers to drive around with in your car but when one is about to begin workshopping a show provisionally titled The Vacuum Cleaner Project, things begin to make sense.

First order of the day: coffee. Sat on the floor with caffeine cups safely in hand, Sarah begins to recount to her team the delightful sessions she has spent deconstructing hoovers with the help of 10 year olds. Certainly of use as the fragments of these past conversations are sufficient enough to ignite creative sparks within the team and the talk is alive with possibility. This is only stoked further by a visit to the Nuffield as the possibilities begin to mould around the realities of the space.

Returning to the room, their eagerness to get properly sucked into their task (pardon the pun) is contagious and I find myself just as eager to see what this week will bring.


The second day of rehearsals began with the ritual circling of the campus in search of the ever elusive parking space. Once acquired, work begins in earnest in the Minor Hall, the team’s new home for the week. As Simon and Jess begin their warm up (at least I presume that is their reason for planking), Hannah and I hunt for an extension cord in an attempt to bring the walls of this cavernous room just that little bit closer.

Even on day two, the need for a larger space has become apparent by the influx of packages that are being delivered. From pink baby ear defenders to nine metre long hose to a tabletop Henry hoover, the unboxing of each new package is becoming a piece of durational art in itself.

An interesting addition to the list of props today was a box of eggs. It would appear that a hoover has the capacity to hold an unbroken egg with suction. This is not a theory I would have doubted but it is certainly not one I had ever thought to prove. However, it would seem the old mantra holds true, ‘it is impossible to make theatre without breaking a few eggs’. Despite these losses, I am assured that they broke doing what they loved and are now reunited with their legions of toasted soldiers in the sky.


In my experience, I have found that midweek rehearsals can go one of two ways. Either the fatigue has started to set in and making headway is like wading through melted marshmallows or the looming deadline of the weekend ramps the passion up into the next gear and progress is as slick as spaghetti. Fortunately, for Sarah and her team it appears that the latter path has triumphed.

Having moved from eggs to marshmallows and spaghetti, it appears that the Vacuum Cleaner Project is pushing the hoovers to even wilder extremes. For a brief moment, I consider moving away from theatre and contemplate a new vocation as a food blogger. However, when I see a stack of tables built in a way that resembles a tunnel in a room littered with scraps of balloon amongst several dismantled and somewhat bemused-looking Henry (and Hetty) hoovers, I am reminded of why I can’t leave this crazy theatre world, at least not yet. There are far too many questions that still need to be asked and I don’t know any of the answers...


Liz Duggan