Planking - Theatrically!
Planking (otherwise known as the Lying Down Game, particularly in the UK) first hit the headlines in 2009 when seven doctors and nurses from the Great Western Hospital in Swindon were suspended when their supervisors saw pictures on facebook of them planking whilst on duty. Since then it has well and truly become a viral phenomenon with photographs of people planking in various circumstances still uploaded daily. It seems that the Australians are big fans and take the game to the extreme, in 2011 a twenty year old man was arrested for planking on a police car and the first reported casualty of planking came in May of the same year when a twenty year old male tried to plank on a seventh floor balcony and fell to his death. Planking now comes with a public health warning and experts urge us to take care in our choice of location in which to plank. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t be daft enough to attempt a balcony several stories up or railway tracks (I know!), it’s down to common sense.
For those of you who don’t know, and I can’t imagine there are many of you out there, planking involves lying face down on any surface or across anything you can balance on – the more bizarre the better - in a rigid flat position with both arms by your sides and your feet pointing downwards. An integral part of the game is that someone will photograph or film you doing this and share it over the internet all the time trying to outdo any other planking pranksters.
I was unaware of planking as a game or even something viral and popular until I joined the stage management team of Mamma Mia in autumn 2009. Our sound team were very much into planking and it wasn’t long before stage management, wardrobe and the cast joined in and we started to take photos of each in either at the theatre or on social occasions planking wherever we could. Planking spread through the west end and further like wild fire and before we knew it a facebook group had been set up for us theatrical types “The Lying Down Game (Theatrical Styleeeee)”.
Show’s from all over Europe posted photos, tame at first and then more and more obscure. The “normal” planking pics of people in bathrooms and in bars were there but we all started to use our theatres more and of course our biggest playground – the stage! The turning point came when Sister Act, playing at the London Palladium, filmed themselves planking, put it to music and posted in the group with the title ‘Upping the Ante’.
Sister Act well and truly threw down the gauntlet!
Upping The Ante...! feat. the crew of Sister Act
We at Mamma Mia set about making our video response and managed to get the whole building involved, from the stage door keeper to technical staff to the cast, and over one matinee filmed our planking movie. We had to be careful, the audience could know nothing of what we were doing, and it could not compromise the performance. We rode the top of the trucks whilst planking in the reset, Ben climbed to the top of the sound racks, Nick balanced on the perch and Nathan bravely laid face first in low smoke. It was a brilliant show, enjoyed by all and expertly filmed and edited by Nathan and posted on facebook to the soundtrack of Snow Patrol’s ‘If I Lay Here’ that same night. Sadly we broke the rules by using a piece of popular music without license and our video was removed along with all of the wonderful comments from people who enjoyed it. Since then the rules have changed and the video has now been published on YouTube and facebook and remains there today. I hope you enjoy it, and remember, plank safe!