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How frickin’ awesome are cardboard boxes…
March 9, 2010, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Experience

What could you do with:

  • Several cardboard boxes
  • Beach balls
  • An old bucket
  • A 1950s-era Dansette record player that can play vinyl discs at both 78 and 33 rpm?

If you’re Robin Hemmings and Oliver Millingham you use them to  bring to life the ”46 or 47” real and imaginary people,  in the play One Small Step, who were  involved in the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States.

”They’re all essential components of our rockets. You see, we have to fly to the moon several times while we’re in Sydney.”

Last year was the 40th anniversary of the moon landing – a defining moment in human history: something which would have engrossed the greatest scientific minds of the past 2500 years, from Aristotle to Copernicus, Galileo to Newton. Yet, just four decades on, the world was more interested in the antics of Paris Hilton and the death of Michael Jackson than recalling that thrilling vision

Steve Meachem, in his review “How to get to the moon – with just a little excess baggage”

Nevertheless, audiences have been moved by One Small Step, which relives the era when rival empires set themselves a seemingly impossible challenge, then raced to meet it via names like Sputnik, Gemini and Apollo.

”The whole show is like one big dare,” Hulse says. ”If it was just about technology it wouldn’t make good theatre. But it isn’t. It’s about human endeavour.”

I saw the show and I loved it. I was lucky enough (or rather I know @IanLyons …) to be able to take the creative team I work with to the show and this was their response:

How frickin‘ awesome are cardboard boxes…

What really came across was ingenuity- the passion and the playfulness of the storytelling. Cardboard boxes became rockets and jet packs and all kinds of gadgetry. Small children clapped and big  kids cheered and everyone got swept away with the energy and the notions behind the adventure of having a really big vision and committing to a huge challenge.

The teams that participated in the space race didn’t have anything thing they needed on the shelf to get there. And yet NASA sent astronauts to the Moon using less computing power than you will find in a modern family car – we’re not even talking top of the range models here.

I can’t help but think that with advertising creative we can forget the vast color, depth and variety of the human imagination- and how much more fun (and effective) it can be to inspire an experience in someone’s head rather than giving it to them on a plate.

Maker-uppering works best when the storyteller and the storytell-ee are feeding off each other. When you play together. When its participatory.

In realising our messaging to the n-th degree we can paint all the details and don’t allow our audiences imaginations to become involved. I can’t help but think that we might pre-digest our creative a little too much to allow a role for our audiences. We all know that kids can like the box better than the present: a toy is what it is while a box can be anything you want it to be. I wonder if instead of briefing “out of the box thinking” we might have more fun and invite more participation with “what could we do with this box” thought starters.

UPDATE: must share this Calvin and Hobbes’s transmogrifier from Simon

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How to get to the moon – with just a little excess baggage


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Yes, cardboard boxes are awesome. Just ask the Pratts!

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