Paul Taylor-Mills is Artistic Director of the Turbine Theatre, located in London on the banks of the River Thames in the shadow of the gigantic grade II listed Battersea Power Station.
Nestled in the arches underneath Grosvenor Bridge, the thirty-something from Kidderminster launched the new 200-seat theatre at the back end of 2019 (they do say it’s all about timing).
In partnership with theatre impresario, Bill Kenwright, Taylor-Mills came straight from Victoria where he used to run The Other Palace in Victoria for Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Sardines caught up with the hard-working ex-amateur theatre member just as he was preparing to launch a number of Turbine initiatives, as well as the West End’s relaunched cult hit, Heathers the Musical.
How’s life at Battersea Power Station?
“It’s absolutely bloody wonderful! I feel very lucky and rehearsing in a room again – with real people – feels very, very odd. There’s a weird mixture of absolute fear but, at the same time, exhilarating excitement because we can actually get on with our jobs and do what we used to do.”
Was launching the Turbine Theatre been one of your best ideas to date?
“I wouldn’t go that far, ha ha! I’ve run other buildings before, such as The Other Palace in Victoria, and I always think you’re better set up the second time aren’t you, mainly because you learn how to do things. You learn who are the right people to put around you, and anyway opening any new building is always a challenge. With the Turbine, it was very interesting because we opened with Torch Song which was a huge hit, followed by High Fidelity which was less so. Then, we were just getting into our stride and understanding what the work was we were trying to make, who the audience were – and all of those kinds of things. And then the world stopped. Now we are able to properly continue it is so exciting. We have been active for the last fifteen months doing things online and outside, but we have finally got the opportunity to pick up where we left off.”
‘MT Fest UK’ and ‘Rally Fest’’… one might wonder how you are able to do so much?
“To be honest I’ve had over a year to sit down and plan everything out, haven’t I. I’ve been beavering away and if the last year has taught me anything it’s the opportunity to read and really access what I want to be doing, the kind of work that I want to be making; all of those kind of things. That means making some of the decisions in terms of the content of Rally Fest and MT Fest etc. I’ve been able to use the time – which I don’t normally have – to work with writers on their material, to talk with actors about the kind of work they want to make. I’m a firm believer in looking at the more joyful things that have come out of the last year and, for me, that has certainly been one of them. It’s given me the time to plot rather than doing the usual chasing around and trying to make stuff happen.”
The Other Palace position alone would be enough to satisfy most people, but not you?
“It was great and you learn things from everything you do. But we all have one shot at life don’t we and you need to find that one thing that wakes you up in the morning, particularly in theatre. What is that one thing that really gets you excited, that lights that fire in your belly? For me, it’s a challenge, it’s knowing that you’ve got a show that you believe in – but how do you cast it and market it? If you put the right people around the table then you give yourself the best possible of succeeding.”
Bill Kenwright and Andrew Lloyd Webber have obviously seen YOUR spark of success?
“I hope so. And I’ve been very lucky to have met such influential mentors. I have a huge amount of respect for Andrew, as a creative, I mean he’s probably the most famous living composer in the world. I’ve learned a huge amount about the landscape of musical theatre in this country. Bill has also been there for many, many years and has an incredible level of loyalty to me and respect for me. It’s amazing to know that I can call on him whenever I need to. I feel he’s really played the long game with me, which is one of the things he’s done incredibly well. I wish that every show we’ve worked on had been as successful as Heathers for example. But this is theatre and it’s not really the way it works. When we’ve been working on a show that hasn’t been as jolly as it was with Heathers, Bill has really been there for me.”
Heathers and In The Heights are obviously two musicals you must be very proud of. Is spotting the right show a gift?
“Perhaps, but I think it’s quite subjective isn’t it. It’s like your opinion of a musical; I always compare it to a chocolate box at Christmas. There are so many kinds of musicals that other people love that, for me, just don’t resonate. Different people respond to different work, and talent works the same. I’m interested in developing new audiences and so I’m always thinking about what I could do to engage younger people for instance. In fifty years’ time we still want to have people going to the theatre.”
Have you been involved in the filming of In The Heights at all?
“I haven’t, although I have been sending them all the love and respect in the world. I’ve seen all of the trailers of course and they’ve really moved me. When I produced In the Heights the world was pre-Hamilton of course… I think it was probably just a distant idea back then. The world has changed since those days and, I have to say I’m still friendly with Lin [Manuel Miranda] who is an incredible man – without whom I don’t think I’d have the career that I have. When we did In The Heights I was a wee boy looking to find my fortune as it were. So I’m very grateful to him for giving me that opportunity because it put me on the map and have people take notice of me. It was an incredible show to have been a part of.
“Going back to Lin, he’s hugely inspiring to everyone who meets him and he’s got this unfaltering passion, and to see his progress to world domination, whether it be film or theatre, is amazing. He keeps his feet on the ground, he’s hugely humble and, speaking of social media, Lin uses those platforms for good. It’s a great opportunity to use a great example of the digital world we now find ourselves in – and that’s been very important to all of us over the last fifteen months.”
The ability to befriend the industry is a powerful talent to have in this age of social media, yes?
“Yes, and I think I’m probably part of that generation that you can market using social media. It was only really with In The Heights that I found out that social media could be used in that way, the same way that we might use print, newspaper adverts and billboards. So it’s quite important that people see me as somebody who’s quite open. I really have a love-hate relationship with social media, but there is definitely an intangible value to what it can bring. It can of course also be very noisy and, in many ways, really hurtful and hard. So I feel that to use social media in my work I have to maintain that healthy relationship with it. It needs to be used alongside your work though rather than like a personal diary. We’re in an age where everything is shared and I can speak very honestly about the value of it.
“With Heathers, for instance, there’s an online community that stays connected through social media and buys tickets to my shows simply because it’s been seen on social media.”
I read somewhere that you used to be heavily involved in amateur theatre before becoming professional?
“Yes! And these are some of my favourite memories. Actually, the reason I’m so proud to talk about it – as someone who was brought up by a single mum, so we never had any money – is that when you’re broke, the only access to the arts and theatre can be via amateur dramatics. For me, growing up was really hard at times and amateur dramatics was my absolute escape that, in many ways, taught me my craft and what it was like to walk into a rehearsal room. It ignited my passion for the theatre. And I think that other kids who are out there now, perhaps even in Kidderminster where I’m from, may also be in the position that without amateur theatre I certainly wouldn’t be where I am now.
“It’s so important that we never underestimate the power of amateur theatre and how meeting the right person at the right time could make something happen. The difference between living your dream or dreaming of living, experiences that amateur theatre can give you are so, so valuable.
“Mum could never have afforded for me to go to a private stage school, and am-dram allowed me to do that. For those kids also from a working class background and who don’t have a disposable income it is a lifeline.”
It’s apparent that your programming leans very much towards diversity and LGBTQ+?
“I do kind of think it’s what I’m kind of doing with the musicals work in lots of ways. Again, being a boy from a small town, if you’re gay and coming to terms with who you are as a person, it’s very easy to be frightened to face up to your own space and be yourself. I was in a very unique environment where my mum encouraged me to be me and I just think as I’ve got older I’ve had some incredible experiences thanks to the generosity of the people who I’ve met.
“I can actually give more opportunities to under-represented voices to bring them into the spotlight a bit more. I’m going to try and open conversations that, at times, are difficult. In doing Rally Fest at The Turbine in the spring, I’ve been giving work to trans artists, gay men, lesbian artists and every single conversation I have with these people, I’m learning, and I think it’s crucial to allow for these opportunities to happen so we can all learn. Then we can enter into a safe space where we’re allowed to ask questions, make mistakes… but with an underlying respect and sensitivity. I think I’m in a very privileged position where I’m able to do something like that; that’s really why I came up with the idea of Rally Fest. I think I have to do that.”
Many auditions, rehearsals, training courses and conferences begin by asking participants to consider their hopes and fears.
These typically get listed in two columns and sometimes are briefly discussed.
But inviting people to articulate their fears can derail and potentially ruin your ‘event’.
What’s the difference and why does it matter?
It’s both useful and constructive to hear what people want.
As well as tapping into aspirations, people are receiving a clear signal that they are being heard, and you are now in a position to adapt what happens, in light of what’s stated. The hopes are alive and active in the room!
Equally in my view – which runs counter to current conventional thinking – it’s a poor idea to hear what people fear. Or, to be more accurate, to invite them to think about or express fears when they’ve not shown any indication that fears are already on their mind.
A fear in this context is usually something that the participant would rather not happen. Typically you’ll hear that people don’t want to be put on the spot, or made to look silly when they ask a basic question. Sometimes it’s that they don’t want to be judged in front of the group, or they are concerned that they won’t be offered a much-coveted role.
We’re not usually dealing with existential fears such as falling from a great height, being consumed by flames or dying of starvation – unless our event happens to be parachuting, fire-fighting or survival skills.
we don’t want doesn’t always have a logical connection with what we do want. You can know that you don’t want to be caught in a fire and still have no idea what you want.
Discovering what PEOPLE really want… ask them!
You might say, ‘Well I do know what they want: it’s detailed on my website what this is about.’ Or, ‘I’ve been briefed on what’s required.’ While both of these may guide your planning, each participant will also have their own expectations, which will influence how they interact.
The way to find out what they do want is to ask them about it – then we can directly proceed to producing it. People invariably want to be treated with consideration: to feel physically and psychologically safe, have choices about how much or how little to contribute, and feel that the event – whatever it may be – is a good use of their time.
It’s worth noting that providing all the conditions that people do want will automatically ensure the absence of what they don’t want, which then means listing fears would probably be redundant.
How is such a switch possible with what seems like a relatively trivial linguistic adjustment?
Ideas about what we do and don’t want are equally constructions or stories about an as-yet unrealised future. And the stories we invite to take shape affect how that future emerges.
If we talk about what we do want, we have all the information we need to start creating that atmosphere, those conditions and the desired results. But people have fears and anxieties and they want to express them, you might say.
No, they don’t, they construct them, and that difference that is more than semantic. When asked about concerns, someone will probably join in that conversation and come up with: ‘Oh, yes, now you mention it, I’m concerned about the timing of the coffee breaks’. They didn’t ‘have’ that concern before.
Co-creating a different dialogue
Generate a positive atmosphere by co-creating a different dialogue – perhaps about our readiness to set off on an exploratory adventure together.
If you have already promised air time to ‘find out their fears about what your event is about’, then keep it brief, and decide what to do with them. In my first book, before realising there’s no need to conjure up stories about fears, I suggested people write them on a piece of paper and ceremonially put them into a bucket, from which they were invited to collect them later if they still wanted them.
So, if you control the agenda, resist the temptation. If you have negative thoughts yourself, try to turn them around rather than passing them onto the group. For example, instead of: ‘I’m worried you’ll be late to the rehearsal’, you might suggest: ‘Can we agree we’ll be starting on time?’
Instead of: ‘I fear you are all going to be distracted’, let’s switch to: ‘What’s going to keep us focused today?
To most people when they think of auditions, they think of X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. No matter what level you perform at, auditions are part of an actor’s life – the school nativity, part-time drama group, local amateur dramatics society or even West End professional, one thing that remains consistent throughout is auditioning. Whether you love or hate them, thrive under the pressure, or crumble every time, the reality is, auditions will always exist for actors. According to Wikipedia: ‘Audition’ is rooted in the Latin verb ‘audire’, meaning ‘to hear’, and was first used in the late 16th Century to refer to the power or sense of hearing. … It wasn’t until late 19th Century that the noun ‘audition’ began being used for an entertainer’s trial performance.
I love the description ‘trial performance’ it conjures up the image of proving yourself to a jury, which is exactly how an audition can sometimes feel!
What is an audition?
If you are reading this, I imagine you are very familiar with auditions. If you have never had to audition… lucky you!
The format of auditions remains exactly the same no matter what level you are at.
They tend to follow this pattern:
Wait outside audition room pacing nervously.
Walking in the room – it suddenly feels the length of a football pitch.
Couple of minutes of awkward nervous chat.
Three to five minutes performing your songs, scenes or monologues – at this point your own internal monologue is going haywire. Clogging your brain with a series of unhelpful
Awkward goodbye and long walk to exit.
Spend the next few days agonising over what you should or could have done better.
Sound familiar? The problem with auditions is there is no real alternative to them. Many directors and casting directors have expressed that they feel auditions sometimes don’t get the best out of actors, but they just don’t have another viable alternative. I say viable with caution as that word can be triggering to actors… remember Fatima?
Self-tapes have become more and more popular for professional actors and drama schools. They are great as a first round as they allow casting directors to see more actors and save money on room-hire costs, meaning more people get the opportunity to audition even if it is remotely.
Don’t know what a self-tape is? Here is a tutorial I did to make a professional looking self-tape…
A lot of professional actors prefer self-tape auditions because you get the chance to re-do them if you aren’t happy with how you perform.
The majority of the time you will still be required to have an in-person audition to secure the job/part/ role or a place at drama school.
An in-person audition gives the creative team/panel a chance to see what your working relationship would be like and how you respond to direction and notes. This is especially important in drama school auditions where they will be working with you for three years.
Why are auditions important?
Auditions allow every actor an equal opportunity to secure a role. We all get our five mins to show what we would do with the part, or in a college audition situation we get five mins to showcase what skills we have to offer.
Yes, in drama groups or amateur societies, often, it turns out that the same people get all the best roles, but having an audition process means that occasionally someone gets cast in a part you would never expect. Without holding an audition this wouldn’t be possible.
So how do you get more comfortable and confident with auditions?
Here are my… ‘Top-5 Audition Tips’
When it comes to auditions at any level I believe the the old saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin and used by the army: “failing to prepare is preparing to fail” is key.
You can never do too much preparation before your audition. What that preparation would need to include, depends on the situation.
If you are auditioning for a role you should do some general research:
Next, you want to read the full script. Too many actors at every level make the mistake of only reading the section of the production that they have to perform for their auditions.
Take the time to source and read the full play. It will contain all the information you need about your character.
I can’t emphasis this point enough – read the full script!
The script will give you an idea of the style of the piece and the time period it is set in. You want to be looking for things like your characters:
This information will influence your physicality and the way you talk to others in the scene.
Everything the writer believes is important for your character will be in the writing.
It is essential to note where in the play your scene takes place and how it fits within the story arch. This will guide you to what the main objective of the scene is.
Whatever action has happened just before a scene can sometimes be the biggest influence to your characters mood, energy and motivation.
For classic plays like Shakespeare, reading the play can often be arduous, time-consuming work or, with some old musicals, finding a copy of the script can be difficult. In these situations you could watch a movie version – but be warned don’t copy the acting. You have to create your own character for a memorable performance.
Drama school audition preparation
Each college has their own audition specifications. Make sure you double-check that the pieces you choose match those requirements. Some colleges can be very specific – a play written post-1990 by a British playwright for example. If you are planning on auditioning for multiple colleges I would recommend you source all the requirements from the various schools before picking your monologues so you can use the same piece at multiple auditions.
I would also recommend doing some research on the college. Recent graduates, full-time teaching faculty, course content. Most of this information is available from their websites. Often you will be asked about this at the interview stage.
Don’t overlook the audition interview, it can be the deciding factor on whether you get a place or not. Knowing information about the college and teachers will convey the image of a professional, conscientious applicant.
I can’t overstate the importance of preparation. It is often the difference between failure and success.
Ignore the panel
The panel can be unbelievably distracting during your audition. If they start talking to each other as you perform, your internal monologue will start going crazy.
“They look bored”, “they hate me”, “I am rubbish” … (Very rarely does your internal monologue give you praise.)
Don’t worry. If the panel starts to talk, it is normally a good thing – they are discussing where they think you would fit within the production or they could be saying they like your energy and are seeing if the others panellists agree.
Panels don’t need to talk if they aren’t interested as there is nothing to discuss. Or if they have time on their side they will discuss you once you leave the room. You really never can tell, so don’t look into what you think the panel are thinking.
My top tip is to place your focus and eyeline just above the panels heads. That will mean they will be in softer focus and less distracting.
Stay present in the room
It can be easy to become distracted in the room. Your mind can start to wander thinking “that bit wasn’t very good” or “maybe I need to do a gesture.”
If you find these thoughts flying around your head you aren’t present in the moment.
The more you concentrate on the words and story of the monologue/song you are performing, the more you will stay in the moment. This will lead to a more engaging truthful performance.
To help get into character or in ‘the zone’ take your time before you start. Auditions can be nerve wracking which leads to a surge of adrenaline and increased heart rate. This can cause you to rush and get over excited. Take a few breaths and a moment to get into character before you start. Taking ten secs to prepare will feel like an eternity to you in the room but the panel won’t notice.
Be brave and take that time as it can make a big difference.
Think about it as a performance
Auditions are a chance to perform. We act because we like to escape and play characters. Most of us start to act because above all it is fun and enjoyable. If you treat auditions as a chance to enjoy acting and performing, the pressure on them immediately decreases.
Acting and art is subjective. What someone thinks about your performance is down to their personal taste. How many times do you love an actor, singer or band and a friend isn’t as impressed?
The panel are the same. You can’t change their individual preferences. You can only show them your ability, show them what you would do with the role and let them decide.
Brian Cranston from Breaking Bad famously said of auditions: “You aren’t going there to get a job. You are going to present what you do.”…
Always remember the audition panel is on your side. Brilliant performers are wanted in their shows or drama schools. Don’t be scared or intimidated by them. They want you to do well.
Forget about it!
Once the audition is over you can’t change it. Don’t beat yourself up over what went wrong or the silly thing you said. It is done and you can’t go back.
Allow yourself time to be upset but don’t wallow for a sustained period of time.
When enough time has passed think about what you could have done better. Be objective and make those changes before any future auditions.
The more you audition, the less alien the situation becomes. With time they may even become enjoyable.
Need more Audition help?
Matt Malthouse is founder of Chiron Audition Prep… which has a goal to provide a programme that would have “benefited us when we auditioned for drama school.”
Before auditioning many students need to take extra tuition to prepare. If you need any help with an upcoming drama school audition Chiron Audition Prep offers 4 x Online courses: Acting, Singing, Dance and Musical theatre.
All courses have been designed after discussions with some of UK’s top drama schools to guarantee courses only contain the most relevant up to date audition specific content.
In response to our YouTube video: “No comment from the non-professional sector? …right, it’s just us then!” on 16 June 2021…
I hope you are well.
Thank you for voicing what so many of us are feeling. It is as if we have been swept under the carpet to clear away the mess. There seems to be no-one fighting our corner, so please keep up the good work.
In response to our YouTube videos in general…
Just a quick note to say many thanks for your continued videos – they are informative and interesting and I like that you continue to challenge things whether government policy, am-dram societies and umbrella bodies quietness on issues etc.
It has been good because you have shared some info of what is happening, some of which I knew and other parts were news to me. I’ve just been listening to the one hour epic with the LTG, the NDFA, and the ex-CEO of NODA. In many ways I think your last speaker was spot on in terms of how things have gone during the pandemic. Whilst I can’t disagree with the LTG and NDFA comments re. doing what their members want, I think a lot of societies were looking to these groups for more guidance or best practice on what can be done safely within Amateur theatre.
There is always a need to comment, complain, etc. if something isn’t right… At worst you are glad you vented, and at best you may just have reached the right person’s ear…
I am in a couple of am-dram theatre groups and to be honest have not received any info from them unless I chased, and even then I believe they hid behind the policy of ‘safer not to do anything until the country is fully open again’ message, and not taking any opportunities offered to assemble or get creative.
I am also an individual member of NODA and apart from a couple of newsletters that mention some of what other societies have done during lockdowns I have seen no guidance or information, and certainly no comment on the government’s 4-week delay etc. Their website, even the members section has hardly any references to Covid, and their sub-section on NODA safe has no example Covid-safe policy for amateur theatres… almost as if Covid doesn’t exist.
I am disappointed that as an am-dram group we are still not back in rehearsals as yet – despite technically being able to from 17 May, there just seems to be no appetite to make the necessary commitment to Covid safety to make things work now… so yes, nothing happening until after 19 July. And of course we do not yet know if that date is a safe bet yet…
Your last speaker on the one-hour video made some good points about the amateur theatre needing a voice.. I think he is right, and especially in these difficult times. It may well be that the professional theatre groups might also welcome that extra (amateur) voice too, and may even sponsor that inclusion in their overall lobbying approach.
I think the biggest worry going forward is not that amateur theatre will start up again and may flourish, but on how many individual members may have got used to not doing it, and may not be bothered when it does start again. A lot of societies may see a shortfall in numbers come the end of summer…
Thank you for your continuing comments and encouragement about theatre, as I said informative and a voice (maybe the only one!) for us all… Keep up the good work.
In response to our YouTube video: “No comment from the non-professional sector? …right, it’s just us then!” on 16 June 2021…
Absolutely right! If the people involved in non-professional theatre don’t speak up then they are, effectively, devaluing their creative sector.
Small theatres and am-dram theatre companies rely on bums on seats to keep going. Everyone involved in the performing arts sector should be raising questions and leading discussions like this!
Bet you never thought you’d hear that this year!
Well, before you get carried away, a brand-new stage adaptation of the beloved 1970s British sitcom will tour the UK this Autumn. The new comedy by Jeremy Sams, is based on the classic television series by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey which entertained countless millions fifty years ago.
Directed by Jeremy Sams, this world premiere production will be the first time that the iconic characters of suburban neighbours the Goods and the Leadbetters will be seen onstage.
Starring actor, comedian and presenter, Rufus Hound, as Tom Good, The Good Life will open at Theatre Royal Bath on 7 Oct before touring the country to seven venues.
Remember the Goods – Tom and Barbara, suburban eco-warriors? And their next-door neighbours Margo and Jerry Leadbetter, desperately trying to maintain the Surbiton status quo? Jeremy Sams’ comedy leads the well-loved characters (not forgetting Geraldine the goat) through adventures, old, new and often familiar. This new play celebrates a time when, whatever our differences, we still managed to get on with our neighbours.
The BBC sitcom ran on British television from 1975 to 1978 starring Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington.
Jeremy Sams’s theatrical directing credits include Noises Off, Spend, Spend, Spend, The Sound of Music and Oklahoma!.
Rufus Hound’s appearances include Doctor Who, One Man, Two Guvnors, What The Butler Saw, Don Quixote, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Neville’s Island and The Wind in the Willows. thegoodlifeonstage.com
Lon Chaney in 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera – long before Lord Lloyd Webber got his hands on it.
List of the most surprising films that have been prohibited and severely rated in the UK, Europe and further afield throughout time include The Phantom of the Opera, Reservoir Dogs and even a Mickey Mouse short!
By Paul Johnson
British cinephiles and movie buffs might be surprised to learn about eight much-loved movies that were once banned in the UK.
Although most people would regard the UK as quite liberal in its treatment of the arts and entertainment, even seemingly innocent films have been deemed unsuitable for British audiences throughout time.
Films that have been banned in include The Phantom of the Opera, A Clockwork Orange, Mickey Mouse’s The Mad Doctor and Reservoir Dogs.
Other surprising films that have been banned around the world include E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Borat and Ghostbusters.
A spokesperson for Casino.co.uk, which uncovered the data, said: “You’d expect it of more explicit films or those that fall under the ‘horror’ genre, but could anyone have ever predicted The Simpsons Movie to appear in a list of banned films?
“Yet Burma banned The Simpsons Movie in 2007 because of its use of the colours yellow and red, as they can be seen to support rebel groups.
“Over the years, authorities have censored and banned movies that were deemed to be too outrageous for one reason or another – even those that seem innocent to most of us. So we’ve researched and revealed some of the most surprising.”
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
The 1925 film was banned in the UK upon its release until 1929 because it was deemed too terrifying for general distribution.
Mickey Mouse’s The Mad Doctor (1933)
This Mickey Mouse cartoon short was banned in the UK on its initial release in 1933 because of its horror atmosphere.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Although not explicitly banned per se, this film was withdrawn in the UK two years after its 1971 release upon request from its own director, Stanley Kubrick. This is allegedly because Kubrick received death threats against his family. It was not allowed to be shown again in the UK until after he died in 1999.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Upon its release in 1982, Norway, Finland and Sweden banned the film for all children under the age of twelve, because of the way the film portrayed adults as enemies of children. In the film, the main protagonist, Elliot, exhibits distrust and animosity towards the adult figures, something these countries didn’t want to translate into the real world.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Though this Quentin Tarantino film was never formally refused a video certificate in the UK, one was not actually granted until 1995 – three years after it was submitted. Because of the British Board of Film Classification’s statutory powers under the Video Recordings Act 1984, the delay amounted to a ‘de facto’ ban during this period, during which a second theatrical release took place in 1994.
The release of Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy mockumentary was surrounded by controversy, resulting in bans all over the world. Before it was even released, leaders in Kazakhstan were outraged and it was banned in all Arab countries (except Lebanon) and discouraged by the Russian government from being played in Russian theatres. Since its release, opinions have changed and Kazakhstan has even credited the film for increasing tourism numbers.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Burma banned The Simpsons Movie in 2007 because of its use of the colours yellow and red, as they can be seen to support rebel groups.
The 2016 remake of Ghostbusters was banned in China due to a 2011 decision by the Chinese authorities to crack down on the depiction of ghosts, reincarnation and feudal superstitions. In 2016, the Ghostbusters movie was denied a Chinese release, despite Sony changing its name to ‘Super Power Dare-to-Die Team’ for Chinese audiences.
As theatre (in England) is given the green light by the UK Government, Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe has announced that a whopping 460 shows are now selling tickets for this year’s event which runs from 6-30 August.
With more shows being announced weekly, tickets for over 460 registered shows have now been launched at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe – the world’s biggest arts festival.
As restrictions continue to ease in Scotland, and as venues adapt to these changes, additional tickets for previously announced shows are being made available at edfringe.com. This week, more tickets have been released for shows at a range of venues, from Summerhall to theSpaceUK.
Shows selling tickets cover a huge spectrum of the arts including Theatre, Comedy, Music, Cabaret and Variety, Dance, Physical Theatre and Circus, Musicals and Opera, Children’s Shows, Exhibitions and Events.
How this year’s Fringe will work: online, in-person and on-demand shows
This year’s Fringe will look a little different. In 2021, audiences will be able to access a wide range of amazing Fringe shows through socially distanced in-person events, scheduled online performances and on-demand digital shows. Tickets and information for all kinds of registered Fringe shows – live, online, paid and free – can be found at edfringe.com.
In-person shows: Registered live, in-person performances taking place at various outdoor and indoor venues must comply with City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Government covid-related regulations. As a result many Fringe venues are operating outdoors in 2021.
The Scottish Government has advised that regulations could lift on 9 August (though this is contingent on Covid levels and the continued vaccination roll out in Scotland and is subject to review).
Online shows: There will be two kinds of online events available this year: scheduled and on-demand.
With scheduled shows, audiences can buy tickets as they would to a traditional in-person event. Shows will have a dedicated start and end time and are treated as an ‘appointment to view’ event. For on-demand shows, audiences can buy tickets to watch at their leisure.
Fringe Player and other online platforms: Audiences can view Fringe shows via the brand-new Fringe Player. Available via edfringe.com, this bespoke digital platform offers audiences an exciting new way to engage with Fringe content.
The player will be accessible to audiences from 6 Aug, with captioning built in. Both on-demand and scheduled online shows are available on this platform.
Where other platforms (Zoom, YouTube, Vimeo) are being used to host online work, information on how to access these is clearly provided at the point of purchase.
Online shows will be available to watch from August but can also be pre-booked.
Tickets and programme: This year and in keeping with reducing contact during in-person interactions, all events will be e-ticketed and shows will be listed online, as there won’t be a printed programme this year. Audiences will be able to attend shows without using paper tickets. More information on ticketing can be found at edfringe.com.
Access at the Fringe
This has been a challenging year, and a lot has changed about the way live entertainment is presented. But our commitment to making the Fringe accessible will always be a priority.
The Fringe Society provides free a personal assistant ticket for anyone who needs it. You can register for this by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also provide a bespoke access bookings service on the phone or in-person by appointment.
This year, we are also continuing our sensory backpack scheme for autistic people, to help make the Fringe experience as enjoyable as possible. Each bag includes a fidget spinner, earplugs, water bottle, stress reliever and a social story. These items are designed to help users relax and overcome stressful or intense situations. This year, to keep things as safe as possible, we are sending the bags out to key partner organisations who will distribute them to their users.
Show announcements still to come
The landscape for live events has been incredibly uncertain for the last few months. The Fringe is nothing if not creative and adaptive, and even when faced with massively reduced timescales, Fringe artists and operators are still getting ready to announce new and innovative work.
As we all keep working to put on the best Fringe we can, we’re excited to see more shows being announced over the next five weeks. Keep an eye on edfringe.com for more.
Sponsors and supporters
As a charity, the work of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society would not be possible without the valuable support of our partners, sponsors and funders. We are delighted to be working with Johnnie Walker for the third year running as our official whisky partner.
We are excited to be partnering with the newly opened St James Quarter and Crowdfunder through our FringeMakers fundraising platform, supporting Fringe artists and venues with vital fundraising efforts. This will be launched in the coming weeks. We would like to thank Lothian Buses for their continued support of our Fringe Days Out programme.
We’re thrilled to welcome Edinburgh Gin on board as a partner in 2021 and look forward to working with them.
We are grateful for funding through the PLACE Programme, a partnership between the Scottish Government – through Creative Scotland – the City of Edinburgh Council and Festivals Edinburgh; Scottish Government for Made in Scotland through the Festivals Expo Fund -managed through Creative Scotland – and the continued support of the City of Edinburgh Council. Thanks also to Scottish Government for funds from their Get into Summer campaign.
We are grateful for funding from the Pivotal Event Business Fund, the SCVO Adapt and Thrive programme, and the UK Government to enhance our digital capabilities.
Our thanks also to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Pump House Trust and the Turtleton Charitable Trust.
Our thanks also to our Fringe Angels, Patrons, Friends and supporters whose passion and generosity made a real difference this year.
www.edfringe.com / www.facebook.com/edfringe
twitter.com/edfringe / instagram.com/edfringe
Endorsed by Strictly Come Dancing judge, Craig Revel Horwood, ChiChi Fit is the latest fitness craze to be sweeping the UK.
ChiChi Fit, the dance fitness class with a musical theatre twist. ChiChi Fit lets you be the star of your own show as you step into the spotlight and get fit dancing to your favourite show tunes!
It is a fun fitness experience that fuses the magic of Broadway with cardio and strength training to give you a full-body workout! Featuring hit songs such as You Can’t Stop the Beat (Hairspray), Defying Gravity (Wicked), Circle of Life (The Lion King) and Fame (to name a few).
It is guaranteed to lift your spirits and become your healthiest addiction.
ChiChi Fit was developed by Danella Mercati, an entrepreneur from Cheltenham whose background is rooted in musical theatre and dance.
She trained in Musical Theatre at the Guildford School of Acting and, shortly after graduating, a job offer took her to the Caribbean to work at the exclusive Parrot Cay resort where she worked alongside many well-known performers.
While working at Parrot Cay, Danella met Sir Paul McCartney who urged her to follow her dreams. “During his three-week stay, we chatted a lot and he took a real interest in my career aspirations. He talked about the challenges of the performing industry and encouraged me to pursue my dream of opening a stage school where I could use my skills to their full potential – teaching, choreography and directing.”
Danella returned to Cheltenham, and in 2003 opened up her own stage school, CAMEO. “Soon after opening my school, I was offered a job teaching drama and musical theatre at the Cheltenham Ladies College. I only intended staying a year or two, but it fitted so perfectly around building my stage school and popping out a couple of kids that I’m still teaching part-time 18 years on! It’s a wonderful school and I adore the girls.”
The idea for ChiChi Fit came about when parents of the children who attended Danella’s stage school, began asking if she offered musical theatre classes for adults. “So many parents expressed an interest, so I combined my three greatest passions; musical theatre, dance and fitness and ChiChi Fit was born.”
Danella is keen to point out that ChiChi Fit is for everyone. “We dance to songs from all the best musical shows and the easy to learn choreography makes it suitable for all ages. You don’t need to be a dancer.”
For such a showbiz-centric workout, Danella made it her mission to collaborate with someone she felt embodied the fun and sparkle of her unique offering; enter Craig Revel Horwood. “Strictly Come Dancing was on TV at the time and Craig Revel Horwood was the first celebrity to come to mind. It took 12 months to find a way of getting in front of him and, when I finally did it paid off as he loved the idea and jumped on board. Together, we developed the programme and the huge vision for ChiChi’s future.”
It’s evident that a ChiChi Fit class is fun, but what are the health benefits? “A ChiChi Fit class provides a great cardio workout that’s good for your heart, makes you stronger, more flexible and more co-ordinated, and it’s a great calorie burner too.” Danella claims. “It’s equally as good for your mental health as the music and movement take you on an emotive journey, to feel happier, to feel more positive, to feel healthier, to dazzle like the star of your own show. There’s no better feeling in the world!” ChiChi Fit is a sociable workout which provides a great way to meet likeminded people. “You’ll have fun, laugh and sing to your favourite Broadway and West End hits!”
During the pandemic, Danella had no other choice but to move her classes online, and with much success. “Classes were forced online when we went into lockdown last year and I was so concerned they wouldn’t translate over screen as the live experience is so incredible. Thankfully, I had no need to worry. They have been a huge success and really beneficial to all those stuck at home. I even moved our training courses online which opened the door to training up new ChiChi Fit instructors from all over the world. “Our first instructors from Australia and the USA are launching their classes this week. Moving online has made trainings easily accessible as many of our instructors are mums with young kids, so being able to train online means they don’t need to travel or get childcare, so it really has been a win, win. I’m so grateful and so excited that ChiChi Fit classes are popping up all over the country taught by so many, wonderful, sparkly women!”
Two-part multi award-winning Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ready to reopen in Oct
By Paul Johnson
The original two-part multi-award-winning production will resume performances at the Palace Theatre in London on 14 October 2021.
After over a year and a half of shutdown due to the pandemic, rehearsals for the West End production will begin this August.
Tickets for the West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are currently available for performances at the Palace Theatre until 27 March 2022 and remain priced from £15 per part, and for every performance there are over 300 tickets at £20 or less per part.
The original production, one play presented in two parts, is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The critically acclaimed production received its world premiere in July 2016 at the Palace Theatre in London. The most awarded new play in theatre history, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has won twenty-four major theatre awards in the UK and is the most awarded play in the history of the Olivier Awards, winning a record-breaking nine awards including Best New Play. The production has also won twenty-five major US awards with six Tony Awards including Best Play.
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a new play by Jack Thorne, directed by John Tiffany with movement by Steven Hoggett, set by Christine Jones, costumes by Katrina Lindsay, music and arrangements by Imogen Heap, lighting by Neil Austin, sound by Gareth Fry, illusions and magic by Jamie Harrison, music supervision and arrangements by Martin Lowe, and casting by Julia Horan CDG.
In addition to the return of the original London production, the play is currently at the Princess Theatre Melbourne. Performances plan to resume in November 2021 at the Lyric Theater, New York followed by productions at the Curran Theater, San Francisco in January 2022, the Mehr! Theatre, Hamburg in December 2021, the Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto in the summer of 2022 and the TBS Akasaka ACT Theater in Tokyo in the summer of 2022. The New York, San Francisco and Toronto productions will be returning in a newly staged, one show experience.
Image: Denise with Duncan Banatine who invested in Razzamataz after she appeared on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den in 2007.
The pandemic has caused consumers to live differently, buy differently and think differently. It has also massively changed people’s priorities, which is why as a business we have learnt to adapt to their ever-changing needs.
Razzamataz Theatre Schools is a franchise network that places customers at the heart of all we do. As the franchisor, we advise, support and train franchisees across the UK on how to run their theatre schools. The key lesson that we instill in them is that they must connect with their customers and their communities.
While this has always been at the heart of our ethos, it is even more relevant now with people placing a greater emphasis on supporting local businesses. We must also appreciate that parents and families have gone through a very difficult year and we must be able to show them our support and that we truly care about them and their children.
As a Head Office, we ensure that we are always communicating with our franchisees and, in turn, encourage them to communicate with their customers. From a practical point of view, this means we ensure that we provide lots of template documents and social media updates so franchisees can personalise them easily to their own school.
With more than twenty years’ experience of running theatre schools and working with franchisees, I’ve learnt that in business, hard work always pays off. We have franchisees who have no experience in the performing arts industry but are still really successful. The only thing that our most successful theatre school owners share is their commitment to learn, positive attitude and their desire and drive to be successful.
I also firmly believe that you won’t be successful in your business in you are not truly passionate about it. Although I’ve been doing this for more than twenty years, I still get really excited when new opportunities present themselves. To work in a sector that combines performing arts and children’s education is a real privilege and I will never take it for granted. The franchisees that we invite into the network must share this passion; we can give them all the training and practical guidance they need to run a theatre school but the commitment to improve young people’s lives through performing arts must come from them.
Finally, I strongly believe that you must be open to change and adapt where necessary. This year has shown us all that there can be huge rewards if you are willing to adapt to the situation around you. If you truly believe that your business can benefit the community don’t be afraid to shout about it. Children and families need the support of activity providers now more than ever so keep communicating the positive benefits with case studies and testimonials to show the many ways in which we can provide increased opportunities for young people.
What is a franchise?
Walk along any UK high street, pick up any product or think of a service and chances are that they will be part of a successful franchise brand. A franchise is a business that gives the right to another person to sell goods or services using its name in exchange for a franchise fee. In return, that individual will receive training, marketing and support to become part of the network.
Different levels of investment
Every franchise has a different level of investment. Brands such as McDonald’s, Domino’s and Starbucks can cost up to £300,000 pricing it out of reach for many people. Razzamataz is a low investment franchise, costing between under £8,000 to under £10,000 although the return on investment is excellent.
How much money can I make?
Franchisees at Razzamataz report six figure turnover and 70% gross profit. Unlike many other franchise networks, the management fee is just 10%. As a long-term investment, the franchise offers huge potential. One franchise school is currently on the market for sale for £200k, having been purchased ten years ago for just under £10,000.
How to fund a franchise
Razzamataz Theatre Schools has been a successful business for more than twenty years. This means that many high street banks are willing to lend to potential franchisees because individual success has been proved time and time again. Razzamataz has easy access to funding via Barclays, offering many people the opportunity to join the network.
Barclays has a specific department to help franchisees. Whatever bank you choose to go with, make sure this is the department you speak to. Services offered at Barclays include:
Funding for start-ups, multi-operator and re-sales.
Loans tailored to your unique franchise requirements.
Free banking for twelve months to help you get your franchise off the ground.
Bespoke pricing, pre-determined lending rates and unsecured finance options.
Where to start researching your franchise
The Internet and social media is a great first point of contact. After that, you need to dig a lot deeper and meet the franchisor and other franchisees. Discovery Dens are informal meetings between the franchisor and potential franchisee to learn more about each other and whether they are a good fit. Before embarking on a Discovery Den, it is advisable to do some initial research so you can get lots out of the meeting and leave with a clear understanding of whether you want to take the next steps.
What to expect from a Discovery Den at Razzamataz
Currently, all Discovery Dens are held virtually. You can meet the team from the comfort of your own home. However, this doesn’t mean the experience is any less thorough and you are encouraged to ask lots of questions and you will find out more about franchising in general, what training and support you will be given at Razzamataz and to find out if you are suitable to run your own theatre school.
What to expect
Meet the Head Office team.
Meet other franchisees.
Speak to our Founder Denise.
Learn more about franchising.
Find out about being a theatre school owner.
Get the inside scoop on Dragons’ Den.
Tips for would-be entrepreneurs.
Find out about new opportunities.
Huge savings and discounts available for the right candidates
What to ask the franchisor
Denise Hutton-Gosney is the MD and Founder of Razzamataz Theatre Schools. She has been a franchisor since 2007, giving her years’ of experience supporting franchisees. These are her top tips on how to prepare and what questions to ask:
Visit the franchisor’s website and read through all prospectuses and marketing material. Check out social media and in particular, testimonials from customers and other franchisees.
Have a list of questions prepared before you go. At Razzamataz, our Discovery Dens are very thorough and we usually cover all questions during the presentation but it is best to be prepared.
Think about your own skills and experience and what you can bring to the role. At Razzamataz, we have a stringent vetting system to only recruit the very best to ensure the high standards of our schools.
Why franchise when you could be an independent?
This is a question that is often asked before people truly understand what it takes to run a theatre school. Michaela Crumpton, franchisee Razzamataz Bristol North and South says: “Many people have said to me ‘why are you part of a franchise?’ ‘Why not set up independently’. These are all great questions and to an outsider it would be the obvious thing to be independent. But let me explain why I believe I’ve survived a year of turbulence and feel stronger. Being part of a franchise has been like having a whole family holding me up. Looking at many of our independent competitors, they have either vanished or been dormant for the last twelve months. I can’t recommend Razzamataz enough. Their support has been incredible and it even inspired me to take on another school during lockdown.”
Join our team
Join our multi-award winning team. We are looking for dynamic and passionate partners to own a Razzamataz Theatre School! Contact us on 07821 122242 or by visiting email@example.com and speak with us about our business opportunity to become a Razzamataz Principal today.
All training is done remotely from the comfort of your own home!
Occasionally franchise territories come up for re-sale due to a change in the franchisees’ personal circumstances or simply because they have decided to sell their asset and reap the rewards of their hard work. These re-sale schools very rarely stay on the market for long, so if you are interested, don’t delay in contacting us. Re-sale schools in:
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Horsham, West Sussex
Derby, East Midlands
Franchise lingo If you are new to franchising, here are some of the main terms that you need to be familiar with: Franchise: the right given by one business to another to sell goods using its name Franchisee: a business that agrees to manufacture, distribute or sell branded products under the licence of a franchisor Franchisor: a business that gives franchisees the right to manufacture, distribute or sell its branded products in return for a fixed sum of money or royalty payment Operations Manual: a document that contains all of the information necessary for the franchisee to be able to operate the business. Exclusive Territory: a geographically defined area inside which a franchisee can operate.