Wednesday, 28 March 2012

PHEW! Lights out, curtains fall, shows over

You feel it in your feet really. They really, really ache! Over the weekend we did eight shows – four full dress/technical and four shows of ‘Imagine’ to audience – with four different sets of children. We must be mad!

Well, we’re tired certainly, but the energy of the children keeps you going and seeing four sets of excited and fulfilled faces as they greet their parents in the foyer afterwards makes it all worthwhile. Check out the photos on our Facebook page.

But what really goes on literally ‘behind the scenes’...?

The real key is organisation. Unusually this show did not have huge costume and prop requirements which definitely made things easier. But before we arrive at the theatre we try and think of all contingencies and make sure we are ready for them.  

Parents who have seen our rehearsals and those who work with us backstage (our heroes!) often remark on just how calm and controlled we seem. To be honest, we are. We don’t see the point in getting stressed over performances. We want the children to enjoy themselves and shouting or pushing too hard just turns it into an ordeal. We believe ‘you get what you get’ and 99 times out of 100 the end result is much better than you ever thought/feared. The children are given every chance to learn lines and get things right in rehearsal so getting worked up on the day of a show doesn’t work for anyone. And let’s be honest, it’s not their fault if something isn’t working, it’s ours as Directors/teachers. So keeping a smile on our face and a relaxed attitude is absolutely vital to our whole approach.

Hopefully the audience sees a smooth transition from scene to scene with children moving on and off stage with professional efficiency. But backstage there are groups of children being shepherded from dressing room (classroom at the end of a long corridor that is), to wings, to stage and back again with ‘unhurried alacrity’. A pre-prepared and accurate call sheet really helps for this – we didn’t have one this time so we were flying by the seat of our pants.

“What’s next?” is the most common question from little ones. The wrong answer is ‘Surely you should know!” The actual answer was, this weekend, “We don’t know – we don’t have a script!” This made for some interesting last minute GET GREEN GROUP cries.

Despite the lack of call sheet or script, though, we got through everything with only a couple of bewildered little ones appearing mid way through a scene having been in the loo - or just daydreaming.

The shows themselves were very different for us with some quite thought-provoking and dark scenes – not our usual laugh-a-minute (or occasional guffaw if I’m lucky) kind of musical. But we think it was well worth the experiment. Telling a story is the essence of all drama and that’s precisely what the casts had to do – as a team.

And they did it very well indeed.

We’re proud of them. But then again, aren’t we always?

Now the challenge of what to do next year...

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Building Up to a Show...

Yes, it’s that time of year again – our annual public show. Actually, we don’t get many ‘public’ but we do invite our student’s’ teachers to come along which we think is a really nice thing for the children to do. We do get 10 or 12 coming and the children are thrilled to have them there.

So this year it’s ‘Imagine’. I’m delighted/scared to say that I know very little at all about what’s going to be put on stage. This year I haven’t written the show, sung the theme tune, written the theme tune etc so, although I know the story it’s based on, I’ve no idea how Louisa/Vicky and the teams are going to stage it.

What’s involved at our end? Well, this year’s show is very costume light thank goodness. I don’t think our garage can store much more – there are already 90-odd tough crates full of cossies! But we think it will look beautiful – lots of coloured scarves, lycra etc. There’s also virtually no set to prepare as the kids will be creating tableaux. All of which means it’s a little less stressful for everyone – students included. Less focus on the technical, more focus on the performance – which is really how it should be.

We also value enormously the contribution of The SandPit in getting our shows on the stage. In all our years of dealing with them and as managers have come and gone they’ve never been anything less than totally supportive, creative and positive. It is important for any budding producer/stage manager to understand how important it is to be courteous and understanding when going into a receiving venue – we absolutely believe in being on our best behaviour and hopefully seeing how we work with The SandPit will stand the children in good stead if ever they are in that position in future.

And running the shows themselves? Yes, it is immensely tiring getting 4 groups dress rehearsed and on in such a short space of time. The help we receive from parents is crucial but we believe they have great fun – which is probably why we get the same volunteers year after year (and not just because we have a secret stash of wine and chocolate back there). But for the children we want the whole experience to be memorable. If we are well organised and calm, this radiates confidence to cast and crew and results in a fabulous experience for everyone. It has been commented on many times how calm and in control Annette and I seem during show times – believe me, it’s only because we organise everything to death BEFORE we get there – and even then sometimes a serene exterior hides a turbulent, throbbing mass of bubbling stress!

 It’s all worth it to see how the children react and when the curtain falls the electric positive energy is wonderful to be part of. That’s what it’s all about!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

In Memory of Philip Madoc

Philip Madoc, our first Patron,  sadly died on 5th March 2012 following a short illness.

Philip was born on 5th July 1934 in Merthyr Tydfil. He was educated in Wales, followed by a spell in the University of Vienna where he trained as an interpreter before entering RADA (after realising he'd never achieve his real ambition of playing test cricket). His television appearances are countless - indeed it was said of Philip that he has made at least one guest appearance in every British programme ever made!

His most acclaimed TV performance was as in the title role in The Life And Times Of David Lloyd George (BBC, 1981), with a theme tune by Ennio Morricone that you'll still hear from many buskers on the Tube! 
Alongside many appearances in Doctor Who (mostly as baddies), perhaps his most famous guest role was in 1973 as a German Commander in Dad's Army's famous "Don't Tell Him Pike!"

His classically resonant, instantly identifiable bass voice has been heard widely as a narrator of high-class audio books, mostly for the Naxos label. One of these is a recording of Gibbon's Decline and Fall (abridged to a 18 hours) - a monumental performance alongside Arabian Nights and even 'The Old Testament.'

Philip MadocPhilip was a fiercely patriotic Welshman, and is an accomplished linguist speaking seven or eight languages. We were amazed when, a couple of years ago, he addressed our teacher Tove fluently in her native Swedish and then chatted for ages in a language he hadn't used for years!
We were thrilled that Philip bercame our Patron , a role he was very committed to. He visited out classes and spoke warmly and encouragingly to the children (although, let's face it, not many of them knew who he was - parents did though!)came to our shows over a number of years and was always warm, encouraging and fascinating. He once said the "a Patron is a bit like a bidet - no one knows what it does but it adds a bit of class!"
He became our Patron when we found out he lived next door to Julia, our then Drama teeacher, at a time when we were searching for someone suitable. He'd always been an idol of ours - for the voice and for Lloyd George and we thought he epitomised all that was good in acting - hard work and peer respect.
As both Annette and I loved his work,  we were so pleased that the man himself was everything you'd want him to be - warm, caring, fiercely intelligent, modest and very, very funny.
Our condolences go to his family - we have very fond memories of a wonderful Welshman and a proud Patron.
Gorwedd mewn hedd, Philip!