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We’re on our Way at Last

We’re on our Way at Last

At last, it looks like the theatres are coming back to life.  The local theatres are open with all sorts of Covid regulations for the performing companies.  However, I don’t see much evidence of mask wearing amongst the audience. I managed to obtain tickets for Six, the musical about the wives of Henry VIII.  It was brilliant, so much energy, clever lyrics, costumes and stage presentation. It was so good to be back in the theatre again.  The theatre did ask that everyone took rapid flow tests before they came, but I wonder how many did, although the place was packed. 

Our amateur productions are back in full swing.  Although, I’m wondering why I offered to undertake being the costume lady for Flare Path, as I now have to take a trip miles away to collect the RAF uniforms.  The other problem is asking actors to try things on, is like getting blood out of stone.  How long does it take to try a pair of shoes on? So far it has taken six weeks.

Meanwhile, I am busy learning my part as well as juggling costumes, and now find that I seem to be providing the props.  Talk about a one-man band.  I suggested that the company should try to raise some money for the RAF Association by having collecting tins, and now realise that it will be me rattling them after every performance.  I should have kept quiet.

A friend Ashton More wrote a musical that took place at Chelmsford Theatre utilising local actors (professional and amateur) but mainly consisting of schoolchildren.  This was a big success.  Our cancelled Lindisfarne play, Don’t Dress for Dinner, is now close to performance having been re cast after lockdown. Unfortunately, most of the people in the original production, are now busy with other things

My short film Feet of Clay is completed and we have shown it to some of the local filmmakers and have had positive feedback.  There are some very clever, green screen special effects.  The plan is to enter it into the film festivals in 2022, so we will have to look out for them.

Already we are advertising the auditions for plays to perform in 2022, so it looks as if it is full steam ahead, fingers crossed.

LEEDS WORKERS WANTED FOR A UNIQUE NEW PERFORMANCE AT LEEDS PLAYHOUSE ON SAT, 23 OCTOBER

LEEDS WORKERS WANTED FOR A UNIQUE NEW PERFORMANCE AT LEEDS PLAYHOUSE ON SAT, 23 OCTOBER

Image: Quarantine’s ’12 Last Songs’ runs at Leeds Playhouse on 23 October. Photo: JMA Photography


Leeds’ international performance festival, Transform, and renowned theatre company Quarantine are on the hunt for a dozen different local professionals for a one-off new show they are making to open at Leeds Playhouse on 23 October. The diverse list of people they are looking for includes a clock or watchmakeran ICU Nurse; a Stockbroker; a Philosopher; an Armed Forces Officer; a Factory Worker; a Transplant Surgeon; a Track and Trace Worker; an Uber Driver; a Butcher; a religious leader such as a Granthi, Rabbi, Priest or Imam and an Acupuncturist.

Spanning 12 hours from midday to midnight on 23 October, 12 Last Songs will invite members of the public to demonstrate what they do for work, live on stage to create a fleeting portrait of Leeds. Part performance and part exhibition of people 12 Last Songs will explore the role work plays in our lives, how it shapes our identity and, in the context of the pandemic, how these ideas have been completely turned on their heads.

Each person taking part in the event will be invited to work a paid shift on stage, during which they will be asked to demonstrate their skills and answer questions about their work and lives.

12 Last Songs will launch Transform’s festival for 2021-22 which will re-imagine what an international festival can look like and represent now and in the future. In response to the last 18 months, Transform 21-22 is an invitation to artists and communities to join Transform in manifesting an extended festival for our times, one that is slower, more sustainable and care-led. From Autumn 21-Spring 22, this extended festival will invite audiences from across Leeds and beyond to rediscover and explore the city and connect with powerful artists from across the globe.

People who are interested in taking part in 12 Last Songs should email Jay Millard, Assistant Producer at Transform jay@transformfestival.org  by 6pm, Tuesday 12 October. It should be noted that Transform and Quarantine are NOT looking for professional actors and no previous performance experience is required.  

Audiences for 12 Last Songs are free to come and go across the 12-hour duration, and tickets are Pay What You Can, starting at just £2. www.transformfestival.org


Transform 21-22

12 Last Songs  – 23 October 2021

Leeds Playhouse. Playhouse Square, Quarry Hill, Leeds, Yorkshire LS2 7UP

12 Last Songs is co-commissioned by Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, Cambridge Junction with the support of the Stobbs New Ideas Fund, and HOME. It is co-produced by Transform and is supported by Arts Council England, The Rank Foundation and Manchester City Council.

Transform 21-22 is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, and supported by Leeds 2023 and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Produced in partnership with Leeds Playhouse.
Website: leedsplayhouse.org.uk
Telephone: 0113 213 7700

Tickets range from £2-£25 with audiences invited to select from a range of ticket options, making a choice based on their individual financial circumstances. Further information can be found on the Transform website. Please note that a booking fee (£2.50) is charged for each transaction (not for each ticket).

transformfestival.org
@Transform_Leeds

 

Ariel Company Theatre Triumphs Back on Stage

Ariel Company Theatre Triumphs Back on Stage

All photos: Stephen Candy


By R. Huntingdon

In a year, or two, that has had a significant impact on the industry, I took my seat with excited trepidation, after what seemed an age since I had enjoyed any live entertainment. The front cover of the programme shares ‘Welcome back to Junior Musicality 2021’, and I am reminded that the children and young adults about to enter on stage have not performed to an audience since early 2020. If I felt nervous for them, they must be feeling it tenfold.

But, by goodness you would not have known it! The 70+ cast hit us with a bang, in perfect harmony, for the Newsies opening medley, strong, confident and ready to show the audience what we had all been longing for, pure musical theatre indulgence. As the first act progressed, I had to pinch myself to remind me this was not a show, rehearsed and fine tuned for months. The cast, aged between 8 and 18 years old, had put this together in just five days and credit must go to all of the performers and production team for the high standards achieved.

With over 33 brilliant, fully harmonised and choreographed numbers, it would simply be too difficult to cover all of them, but particular highlights include 38 Planes from Come from AwayRight Hand Man from Something RottenMy New Philosophy from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Run Freedom Run from Urinetown. The younger performers impressed with their energy and precise moves in Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins and had the house roaring with laughter with their brilliant characterisation in Life’s a Happy Song from The Muppets. I try to avoid picking out individuals, as every performer contributed so well, however I am compelled to mention Lara Nunns for her beautifully sung and played So Big/So Small from Dear Evan Hansen and Sophie Williams’ With You from Ghost. Both of which had me in tears. This was remedied by the hilarious characterisation of Noah Dawson as Beetlejuice in That Beautiful Sound and the whole cast in their foot tapping, life affirming rendition of the Rocketman finale, which sent us away joyous and ready to watch it all over again.

Sadly, I’ll have to wait for the next Ariel production but, at last, it might be something we don’t have to wait quite so long for again.

An outstanding job by all involved, thank you for sharing it with me.

The Boys are Back in Town

At last, it looks like the theatres are coming back to life.  One of the local theatres is actually open and performing shows. I managed to obtain tickets for Six, the musical about the wives of Henry Viii.  It was absolutely brilliant, the energy, the clever lyrics, costumes and presentation. It was so good to be back in the theatre again and not wearing masks.  The theatre did ask that everyone took rapid flow tests before they came, but I wonder how many did, as the place was packed.  However, the local theatre that we use for our amateur productions is still closed. It has listed our shows in its advertising brochure though, and tickets are on sale at the box office, so fingers crossed.   A friend Ashton More has also written a musical performed at the Chelmsford Theatre utilising local actors (professional and amateur) but mainly consisting of schoolchildren and it was a big success.  Our Lindisfarne play, Don’t Dress for Dinner, that was cancelled at the start of lockdown is now rescheduled.  However, as always happens some of the cast are now unavailable so auditions have had to be held to recast, but now it is up and running and rehearsals start soon.

 Other groups are also busy holding auditions for this year’s autumn shows and I have acquired a part in Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path and have even offered to sort out costumes – mainly RAF uniforms. It always surprises me how many men have no idea what their measurements are, and they provide the most ridiculous information for costume fittings. No doubt, it will all be sorted out before they actually get to wear the uniforms and find they don’t fit.

 It felt most strange to see people turning up with their scripts and it is obvious that everyone is desperate to get back to the acting world again.  In addition, there are several local film shorts in production, including my script Feet of Clay that we finally managed to film, and it is now at the rough edit stage.  If the stills are anything to go by it looks incredible.  Meanwhile, onwards and upwards.

Post-COVID Re-Opening of Our Theatres – Little Theatre Guild

Post-COVID Re-Opening of Our Theatres – Little Theatre Guild

By Eddie Redfern, Little Theatre Guild’s National Liaison Officer


Eddie Redfern

As we come out of lockdown and start to return to rehearsals and putting on plays, have you considered what effect the last 15 months has had on your members both Onstage, Backstage and Front of House? Have all volunteers and workers been fully briefed on the new COVID secure environment training and systems? Are you asking cast, crew, set builders, technicians and all volunteers to take regular lateral flow tests, during rehearsals and performances? These are free and available from Pharmacies or direct from the NHS.  Has everyone been briefed that ‘The Show Must Go On’ syndrome is no longer a realistic and valid reason for turning up if they have any COVID symptoms, irrespective of their role?


Onstage and Backstage:

We might recognise that some cast members will be apprehensive about returning and rehearsing. But have we considered the lack of muscle memory for speaking out loud and projecting their voices. If you don’t do it already in rehearsals, is it worth doing vocal warm-ups and some warm-up exercises to get our actors rehearsal ready? This will assist them to get back to full performance readiness.

What about our set builders, the majority of whom are retired and have not built any sets for 15 months? I know at my own theatre the team dismantling the previous, unused set, was knackered far sooner than they expected. Again lack of exercise and muscle memory; do they need longer to build the set than 15 months ago? Have they been reminded of the health and Safety requirements? Have they had any refresher training on use of equipment, for example electric saws.

Has the Stage Manager and crew been briefed on COVID secure working, are they fit enough to move props and scenery. Are props being sanitized before and after use? Do they need additional assistance to get back to normal? What about our lighting and sound technicians. Have they been reminded of health and safety practices, especially lighting technicians who may not have been up high ladders for 15 months or more.

Front of House:

In this I include FoH manager, Stewards, Bar staff, Box Office and Tea and Coffee teams. Are they comfortable to return? Are they comfortable with the COVID secure procedures, with the likelihood of additional cleaning requirements, such as door handles and touch points once audience are in the auditorium? Have the bar staff been briefed to minimize the handling of glasses and increased hand sanitation during bar service? Is the preparation and service of ‘interval drinks’ any different? Box Office, have you moved to electronic ticketing? How will you manage manual tickets to avoid excess handling? Have you placed a screen between Box Office and customers, if you did not already have one? (My own theatre has installed a bank-style two-way communications system, and electronic ticketing. This stops people putting their heads through the box office hatch!!). Have you amended your first-aid procedures to ensure safety of both first aiders and the person needing assistance?

Is your theatre really covid secure?

Have you ensured additional ventilation? Have you adjusted your cleaning routine, with a higher frequency, or level of cleaning? Have you taken steps to mitigate contamination of auditorium seating? Do you have one-way systems in place, for as long as they are needed within the regulations? How are you ensuring dressing rooms, green room and kitchen areas backstage are clean?


Finally, I look forward to hearing how you have all managed as you re-open and pray that your audiences return in droves, so that we can do what we do best and produce live, entertaining, educational drama and theatre!

Your invitation to visit The Secret Garden

Your invitation to visit The Secret Garden

The Company of Ten’s Christmas production is a spell-binding retelling of the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic The Secret Garden, a tale of transformation through the power of friendship.


Young Mary Lennox is orphaned in India and goes to stay with her uncle in Yorkshire. She doesn’t fit in to her new surroundings, but then she meets Dickon, whose life revolves around nature. Together the two grow closer and discover a secret garden – and as the garden transforms so do the lives of Mary, her uncle and her invalid cousin, and the power of new life casts its blessing over everyone.

According to the Sunday Independent, ‘Neil Duffield’s adaptation is as faithful as it is light in touch… there is joy here, there is hope, and there is a startling level of pure magical transcendence… An absolute ‘must see’.’ The Stage said that it ‘holds an audience of children spellbound’.

In other words, it’s the perfect family show for Christmas!

Director Katherine Barry is delighted to be bringing such a timeless classic to the Abbey Theatre stage. “If there was ever a time when we all needed a little bit of Christmas magic in our lives it is now. I love the story of The Secret Garden with its emphasis on making things better and beautiful through the transformative power of friendship and care.

“My cast of six players and I spent the first few weeks rehearsing via Zoom which was a new one for me. Everyone has worked tremendously hard and they have adapted to the new way of doing things brilliantly. We have been on the stage for a couple of weeks now and really enjoy the freedom that brings. We can’t wait to share our show with audiences whether in the theatre or at home watching us via the internet.

“The message of The Secret Garden is a pertinent one for us today, I think. Everyone has had a lot to deal with over the past year and I wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling a little gloomy. But caring for each other and working together will create a better world and a brighter future.”

Performances take place on the Abbey Theatre mainstage from Saturday 19 – Wednesday 30 December 2020 at various time. To book tickets please go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.

Play.make.theatre Realises a Dream

Play.make.theatre Realises a Dream

THEATRES have been hard hit by Covid-19, but a freelance stage manager has used the pandemic to realise her dream.

With playhouses closed up and down the country, Katie Patrick, from Hockley, Essex, decided to set up her own company, Play.make.theatre. And the fruits of her labours are due to come to fruition this month when Hansel and Gretel’s Camping Adventure opens.

As well as setting up the company, Katie has also written and directed the show. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” she explained. “I have been a freelance stage manager for several for several years and, unfortunately with Covid-19, all my work I had lined up this has now been cancelled. “During lockdown I thought this is the time for me to try my own project. It gave me time to decide what Play.make.theatre was going to be, to write the work and decide how I was going to produce it. “I used the negative of the lockdown and tried to turn it into a positive, to use my downtime more productively in creating the company.”

Katie knew she wanted to produce a family show at Christmas and decided a modern take on the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale Hansel and Gretel would be ideal. She overcame her concerns about writing to pen the script and held auditions before casting Francesca Simons as Gretel and Amber Satchwell as Helga, the camp leader, and the Old Lady; Hansel is played by a teddy bear. Rehearsals started on Zoom before the end of the first lockdown meant they company could meet in person, while ensuring all the Government’s pandemic rules were observed.

One problem was those regulations meant there could be no singing, so another East 15 student, Serena Fyvie, wrote some poetry instead. Katie also got advice from friends and contacts in the theatre world, including Ivan Wilkinson, as things took shape. She also recruited theatre student Jamie Mather as the production’s technician. Now the company is hoping to stage the show between December 18-24 at Hockley Public Hall, subject to Covid-19 restrictions, in front of a socially distanced audience.

“It’s been challenging, but we’ve made it work and we hope people will enjoy it,” added Katie, who is hoping to present the show at other venues in 2021.

For performance details and to book tickets, go to www.ticketsource.co.uk/playmaketheatre.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ROBERT OPRAY? PODCAST NOW AVAILABLE

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ROBERT OPRAY? PODCAST NOW AVAILABLE

The sequel to Southwell (Nottinghamshire) Theatre Club’s radio play podcast The Assassination of Robert Opray is now freely available to listen to on Soundcloud.

Titled Whatever Happened to Robert Opray?, we hope that the original half hour comedy drama engages the listener and raises a smile! The play continues after Carys has admitted poisoning Robert Opray, and that the poison works 100%. It does not, and Robert manages to summon aid after briefly regaining consciousness. Some of what follows takes place in a hinterland between reality and a zone outside the pearly gates. As with the first play, it was rehearsed on Zoom, then recorded using smartphones whilst wrapped up in non-crackle duvets with curtains drawn – and ticking clocks removed!’ During lockdown our sound engineer has come into his own and emerged as man of the match!

Southwell Theatre Club has never made an audio before, and the experience has been an interesting learning curve. We spend three months honing our characters before putting on a stage play, (and finishing learning our lines!) and I think because it was an audio, some of us thought we could just read our lines and it would be ok. But it took at least half a dozen Zoom rehearsals before it came to life, and gelled as a whole. One problem was that speech on stage tends to be slower than speech in an audio, and our director had to gee us all up, and requisition that vital ingredient – oooomph! And of course, the medium of Zoom is dissimilar to interacting with another character in the flesh.

This year we have had no income, but as we generally perform in our lovely town library, we don’t have a roof to maintain, and have few expenses, apart from insurance, and storage facilities for props. A good part of our income for the production of plays (licence, rehearsal space hire, venue hire, etc), comes from our annual winter murder mystery, put on over four or five nights in various venues, according to whichever group has commissioned it. We reckon we have another year before funds run out, but we’ve been in that situation before, and put ourselves out for hire for wholesale murder mysteries, and road shows. We have in-house writers who regularly write our murder mysteries, and our audio scripts were likewise produced in-house, to produce original comedy drama, and also to save expense.

With mass vaccination a rosy hue on the horizon, we look forward to being part of an active community again. Two of Chekhov’s one-act plays The Bear and The Proposal were in rehearsal when the shutters came down in March, and its director feels set in aspic.

We are on Facebook and also have a web page. It will be curious to perform live again.

We hope that you enjoy our radio plays. Play the podcast below or point your phone at the QR code.

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