Fame – Royal Concert Hall Fame was a choice of ours, as we wished to visit as diverse a range of productions as possible. In contrast to the other pieces of Performance we witnessed, Fame was obviously a very different form of Theatre, certainly as a Musical, more mainstream and clearly going to attract a different sort of audience to smaller productions. The Royal Concert Hall of course, a commercially funded enterprise, is host to a wide variety of Performance. As one of the most popular concert venues on the touring circuit it attracts leading orchestras, comedians and dance acts plus rock bands and solo artists. As it is such a large venue and seats so many (over 2000) we were aware that it would be a far less intimate venue. At such a place, we considered that the sort of production we would want to pitch to a production team would need to be on a large scale, and, as this is of course a concert hall, something musically involved.
As we suspected, the crowds flowing into the Concert Hall featured many different types of people; Students, children, men and women, who, stereotypically, you wouldn’t categorize as regular Theatre goers. The box office area and bars at different levels were packed with people, and it was clear that most of the seats would be filled. This was a one off production of the Musical, and also many of the cast were amateur dancers and actors from the local area (some members of the cast were actually from the Trent Dance group) who had auditioned successfully, both clearly contributing factors to the night’s popularity. As the crowds filtered into the production hall, the conditions were uncomfortable and claustrophobic, and waiting for the production to begin, the air was filled with noisy chatting, sweet bags rustling and groups shouting across at each other - not the sort of conditions more Art based contemporary Theatres see. The production began, and from the offset, it was clear this was going to be a poor production. Even in embracing the camp, American style of musical, it was difficult to enjoy this particular version. True, many of the actors and dancers were amateurs, but with the hype surrounding this production, it was a little disappointing. Frequently the microphone mouth pieces failed and cut out halfway through a song, for various people all the way through, lines were forgotten, and dance moves botched. In defence of the performers, they soldiered through and made the best of what they could, but it was still clear that most people in the audience were unimpressed.
The costume was to be expected - hot pants, leg warmers and denim jackets - bright and garish; items that were probably a mixture of handmade, and charity shop bought. Nothing out of the ordinary for a Fame production - and no criticism can be used over the outfits, as this type of production hardly leaves costume designers with much choice in so far as costume style. The set was a free standing arch type construction, giving the impression of a dance studio perhaps, with other elements included - various means to interact with it - doors, steps and platforms. The design was fairly simple but effective and the rendering and scenic work was attractive and convincing. Unfortunately, as the Concert Hall is such a large venue, if ever performers had to stand to the side of it, supposedly concealed; it was possible to see them from the furthest sides. The royal concert hall is a massive place and even though the stage design allowed for some audience interaction, in a space like this one, it is much more overwhelming to such a huge audience than it is intimate. The main issue with this production was probably simply that the venue was so ambitious. People attending the Concert Hall are used to seeing big names there, and for a production hosting so many amateurs, it wasn’t going to rate highly. In a smaller location perhaps, the audience could be more forgiving, but perhaps size = quality in many peoples opinions. As a group we disagreed, however and decided together that really good Theatre can be enjoyed in the most humble locations, and turn out all the better for being set in a smaller venue.
Glacier by Mary Redman The Lakeside Arts Centre
Despite the fact that this was a pre arranged visit with a part of the year group, the dance production of Glacier at the Lakeside Arts Centre was a very useful production to have seen and a fascinating experience. Unlike the other venues that we planned to attend, Lakeside is very much on a smaller scale - literally and figuratively. As we wanted to see as diverse a selection of theatres as possible, this was appropriate.
The fact that Lakeside is not solely a Theatre, but a centre for a variety of Arts was also of interest - we wanted to see whether or not this would have any sort of effect on the way that we felt before we’re actually in the performance studio - whether the obvious other interests of the Centre would have a negative effect on our ‘Theatre experience’.
All the different elements of the piece were made for what was possibly quite a diverse audience. Obviously Dance fans would have attended the piece for the sole reason of enjoying different forms of Dance. Also, the political message of the piece may have interested those who are not regular performance goers, but were interested in seeing what a piece such as this had to say about global issues. Then again, as Lakeside is perhaps the sort of venue visited more by the people who are in the Arts Industries themselves, maybe the audience here was quite select - more likely to be filled with people familiar with many varieties of Theatre.
As Glacier was a travelling dance production, and run by a small company, we were interested to see how the set and the staging were designed and arranged, in a way that would be suitable for travel. One concern we had was that as this was a dance production, whatever set there may be, would be minimal, and not have a very close relationship with the actual production. We were wrong, however. The simplicity of the set design, which was actually used by the dancers as a prop and device to help them manoeuvre, was a delight. The flooring, understated yet beautiful - black lacquered, with a sharp reflection and perfect for slipping and sliding on, was used to give the impression of water. Upon the flooring were 3 simple towers of polystyrene sheets, cut into different shapes - These represented ice. The simple set was used to fantastic advantage by the dancers, and watching them balancing upon the ‘ice’ and staring into the ‘water‘, the suspension of disbelief was such that you honestly believed you were at the North Pole. The piece had quite a light hearted feeling running through it, although it had a serious message of global warming. The ‘ice’ eventually melted away and the finale was of the dancers covered in ‘oil’ and squirming like damaged sea birds. Overall, the piece was thoroughly enjoyable - the uncluttered, minimalist approach, to both the dance and set complimented the Lakeside Theatre, which itself, has an understated air about it.
The interesting setting of the Theatre I would say has a very positive effect on the Theatre experience. Because it is necessary to walk through a lovely area of greenery, close by to the lake, after having travelled through the city to reach the Centre, it feels almost like this new setting is part of the performance.
The lakeside theatre is a very simple theatre, it is a very small and intimate space, and the audience are seated very close to the stage area which is more an area of floor than an actual raised stage. People in the audience sitting in the front row find themselves with their feet literally on the set. I wonder how this changes the experience for the people in the front rows, if it does. Does being involved in the set make it easier to let go of the reality and believe you’re at the North Pole? Or does the fact that you’re so close to the actors make it harder to stretch your imagination?
Also the performers enter and exit the stage via passages that go along side the seating area, so you often see performers waiting to come onstage before you are intended to. I think that for the audience members at the sides of the seating area, this can spoil the illusion; it acts as a big reminder that you’re sitting in a theatre watching a show and you’re not in some beautiful icy place. The experience of Glacier as a whole was great, and I wouldn’t like to say there was anything as far as the performance and set were concerned that I would wish to alter. However, as stated before, this felt like the sort of performance that was quite exclusive to people who are more culturally aware. It would have been great to know that a different variety of people were in attendance - school children, older people and the like, as I think it is important to make all types of performance accessible to those who wouldn’t usually experience this type of entertainment.
As a group we decided to review a performance we had seen together in the Royal Theatre last term. We felt that Slava’s Snow Show was a very interesting and very different performance that had made extreme use of the theatre space, and we were unlikely to find anything as diverse in a short space of time. We also decided that the Nottingham Royal, a main stream, commercial theatre was a space well worth looking into.
Going to a show at the Royal was a very different experience to attending the Lake Side Theatre. The audience consisted mostly of families and large groups of regular theatre goers. With audience seating on several levels as well as in boxes and the extreme old fashioned décor, you felt an extremely different atmosphere as you sat in your red cushioned seat with your hired binoculars. We did not know what to expect in this production except ‘snow’ and sitting waiting in the audience there was a definite air of excitement and formality as people read through their programmes and chattered amongst them-selves.
Before the big red curtains opened the lights went down and very soft, almost spooky music was played along side the whistle of an old train, the audience was instantly still and silent, mesmerized. And then, it started to snow, not on stage but on the audience, the snow was made from small bits of beautiful paper that fluttered down very slowly and delicately, this happened several times throughout the performance. This really created an atmosphere; it took the audience somewhere else. It was genius to involve them in the performance.
Shortly after this the curtains opened and we caught a glimpse of what Slava’s Snow Show was all about, contempory clowns. Moving almost in slow motion across the stage, pulling a rope was a clown; his costume appeared very simple, a big yellow, baggy one piece, trousers and a top. It didn’t look like much until the clown appeared to grow and shrink as he took a deep breath, a very cleaver costume that disguised the bends in his body to create some very surreal movements. The other clowns, of which there were many, all sported the same baggy brown costume; the most noticeable part was the hat which had two huge ears like the propellers of a helicopter sticking off them, so that whenever the clowns passed each other they had to tilt their heads so they didn’t collide. Clowns are well known for incorporating jokes into their costume, like the flower badge that squirts water at you. These humorous hats were adored by the audience all the way through the performance.
The show consisted of a series of unrelated scenes mostly involving the yellow clad clown and one of the others, there was everything from three clowns singing and blowing bubbles, to a ship wreck, to one clown attempting to assassinate another. Although there was no story line to follow, and the clowns never spoke a word the scenes fitted together very well and kept your attention, and you always knew what was going on.
The actual set consisted of three foam walls that were beautifully lit and swayed back and forth in some of the scenes, aside from that very simple things where used to create sets, and the rest was done with lights, smoke and acting, it was done very well, some smoke and an ore and you believed you were witnessing a ship at sea.
The royal theatre is a brilliant venue for the right performance, the seating arrangement allows for a very big audience and at the same time it keeps the space intimate because the stage is so close to the seating areas. With a performance like Slava’s Snow show, with so much interaction between the performance and the audience the royal theatre achieves what many other theatre spaces could not.
We felt that one of the shows strongest qualities was that it involved the audience, which in a space like this, doesn’t often happen, and isn’t easy to do. As well as it snowing on the audience, there was also a scene where a cob wed pulled by several clowns, which covered the entire bottom seating area was whizzed over the heads of the audience, like a wave, it was amazing. There were also times when the clowns came out into the audience and interacted with the viewers. One of the most impressive events that involved the audience was the end scene, it was almost a play on juggling, something clowns are well known for. Four giant balls, of all different colours where brought out on stage and thrown about, they looked like air filed Para shoots, to our surprise and delight, these huge balls where released into the audience and wherever they landed a group of people pushed them back into the air with ease, it was amazing, certainly something you couldn’t achieve in a small theatre space like the Lake Side theatre.
With a show that consists of so many random events, there was no story to follow, there were amazing visual effects and scenes that had the audience in stitches, everyone in there appeared to be enjoying it, I think people were bouncing the balls around for about fifteen minutes before they realised the show had actually finished, because there was no actual end, no conclusion, the audience filled out, feeling almost rude because there hadn’t been any kind of official ending that regular theatre goers are so accustomed to.
When you go to the theatre you are seeing something fresh, something live before your eyes, real people in fount of you. It is often considered to be much more of a treat going to the theatre, because it is often more expensive and less accessible than going to the cinema.
With films they are filmed and edited until they are perfect, nothing can go wrong, it is possible to do a lot with special effects and locations, a film can be watched over and over.
Live performances only ever happen one way once.
when you are at the theatre there’s always the off chance something technical could go wrong, or something in the performance.
you can achieve a lot more with film than you can with theatre.
When you visit the theatre you often get the chance to participate in the show, whether is snows on the audience or you get taken up on stage as part of the act, it is much more personal.
It is easy to loose yourself in a theatre production, there are opportunities like at the lake side where you find yourself seated practically on the set and involved within the story.
Films often reach a wider audience and bring in more money than theatre productions do.
Some theatre productions become world famous and are re created on different stages by different people over and over again and they make more money and survive through the decades still as fresh as ever.
‘ Rays of sun coming through the broken roof are blocked out momentarily as something moves under the rafters out of sight. A young boy gets slowly to his feet, wiping away tears and peers up into the darkness…’
‘ There are no curtains, the audience enter and sit facing the performance space, the atmosphere is dark and eerie. Five minutes before the production is set to start, when most are seated, mysterious ‘fluttering’ noises are played distinctively in the background, leaving the audience to wonder what the noises could be.
Eventually a young boy runs out into what appears to be an abandoned warehouse. Where he stands it is dark and gloomy, rays of sun break through the rafters on the roof and highlight areas of debris on the stage.
He doesn’t acknowledge the audience; he is upset about something. After pacing around he starts to speak, not to the audience but aloud to himself. He speaks about a death, lies and his father, as he sobs he becomes aware of the fluttering noises, at first he ignores them, but when something passes across the ‘roof’ and blocks out the rays of sun as it passes under them, he becomes agitated and looses his temper. The audience still haven’t seen the source of the noise.
“ What the hell is that noise!? I’m upset! Where are you pigeon!? I’ll get you! I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you like he killed her!”
As the boy talks the story of ‘the death’ is gradually unfolded to the audience. After throwing furniture around angrily in search of what he believes to be a pigeon, a voice is heard…’
Our pitch is about a young boy called Billy, after the sudden discovery of the loss of his Mother, Billy, wanting to be alone, runs into an old hideout of his, an abandoned warehouse. It is here that the young boy discovers a giant moth .
The moth turns out to be an apparition of his dead Mother in a form he associates with her – it is revealed his Mother is an Entomologist (someone who studies insects).
Eventually Billy is able to accept his Mothers death because he is able to face and speak to the physical form of the moth, representing his mother.
As a group, we decided that of all the venues we have visited, (the Royal, the Lakeside and the Concert Hall) the Lakeside Theatre is definitely the most appropriate.
Our idea for a production is very intimate, and we intend it to be very much a personal experience for each audience member. We don’t want the audience members to feel alienated from the stage we want them practically on-set. The concepts in our play are very personal, so the space must be personal too.
The intimate Studio Space of the Lakeside is not too overbearing and the design is quite minimalist, perfect for a production in which the majority of the acting takes place in the form of a dialogue between just the boy and the puppet.
As a group we decided we wanted to come up with a production which had a meaningful underlying message, we wanted to focus on an issue and by the end of the play we wanted that issue to be resolved, and what issue is harder to over come than death?
We decided to tackle this idea for a performance in a surreal manner, but with very real underlying messages.
We wanted our performance to be thought provoking, and leave the audience with a moving piece to think about.
Our performance idea centres on death, grief and overcoming these issues, but all in a surreal context. Our idea has an underlying message about dealing with death, taking you through one individual’s loss, pain and eventual acceptance of what has happened.
We eventually decided on making our moth creature as a giant marionette puppet, we feel in a space like the lakeside this will be quite a spectacle to see, the audience having herd this fluttering sound all the way through the play and being led to assume there’s a pigeon in the warehouse will be blown away when the beautiful giant moth is eventually revealed.
We decided to bring projections into our piece also; multimedia and projections are much anticipated in modern day Theatre. We will be subtly flashing images of a woman’s face onto the under wings of the moth for a few seconds when ever they are visible, hinting at the idea that the moth is somehow connected to his mother, making the audience ponder the meaning of the image.
Our moth Marionette puppet will be suspended from above, on strings long enough to reach the floor. The moth will be able to move up and down and move it’s wings and head within a confined space, however because of our venue it would not be possible to manoeuvre the moth from one side of the stage to the other.
In the opening scenes before the creature is seen it will appear to move around the stage, appearing in darkness, to pass under the rafters, blocking out the rays of sun.
The moth will be made of very light materials – a very light skeletal structure made of wire, and stretched over this, white netting. The body will be typically hairy for a moth, covered in thick fur, in brown.
Subliminal messaging – As we want this piece to be quite profound and moving, we developed the idea of using projections of Billy’s mother on the moths wings. This will happen at various intervals, whenever the moth is positioned with the lighter underside of its wings towards the audience.
Our set will be very simple and minimalist as you would expect with a venue like the Lake Side theatre. The structure and design of the Moth puppet will be essential.
We see Billy in very run of the mill modern day middle class kids clothing.
the most important aspect of out set will be creating believable rafters and the beams of light coming in, on stage there would be various pieces of discarded furniture etc all creating an intimate space reminiscent of an abandoned warehouse.