On with the show

Derbyshire Life - - Antiques -

Derby Theatre’s Christ­mas shows are al­ways a spe­cial treat for au­di­ences, but it takes more than a year of metic­u­lous plan­ning and crafts­man­ship to cre­ate

that stage magic, as Nigel Powl­son found out

Christ­mas is al­ways a spe­cial time for the­atres with all the stops pulled out to make a mag­i­cal fes­tive show that will cap­ture the imag­i­na­tions of all ages. That can only be achieved with lots of hard work and care­ful plan­ning, with Derby Theatre tak­ing 14 months from con­cept to open­ing night to bring its Christ­mas pro­duc­tions to­gether.

This sea­son you can see Hansel and Gre­tel in the main house and Goldilocks and the Three Bears in the Stu­dio, with both shows be­ing di­rected by the theatre’s artis­tic di­rec­tor Sarah Brigham.

For Sarah the plan­ning process started in Oc­to­ber 2017, with the ti­tles cho­sen be­fore an out­line script is be­gun.

She says: ‘ Hansel and Gre­tel went on sale on the open­ing night of Peter Pan last year so that’s how far we have to think ahead. While we are in re­hearsals for one Christ­mas show we are al­ready think­ing about the next one.

‘At that point all we have is the ti­tle, but I’m still think­ing “is there a good story in there” and then I start talk­ing to the writ­ers about it. If we are work­ing with a new script, and we of­ten are, the de­sign and writ­ing hap­pen to­gether. We have a first draft quite quickly, or at least an out­line of what we think is im­por­tant and how we are go­ing to tell that story, and then the de­signer gets to work.

‘The de­sign is all con­firmed by the sum­mer as it has to be built and pro­duc­tion work­shops are re­ally busy in the run up to Christ­mas as every theatre in the land is pro­duc­ing, in­clud­ing ones that don’t nor­mally. You have to get your pro­duc­tion build­ing slot booked in as soon as you can.

‘The script will then con­tinue to go through tweaks but noth­ing ma­jor. Hansel and Gre­tel is

Hansel and Gre­tel – you know the set­ting, that there is go­ing to be a gin­ger­bread house, and we are not go­ing to change all of that greatly.’

Ivan Stott, who is writ­ing the mu­sic for both shows will then be­gin com­pos­ing.

Sarah says: ‘That de­vel­ops fur­ther when he starts work­ing with the ac­tor-mu­si­cians as a kind of band. He will bring an idea and they will spend time jam­ming around with that un­til he so­lid­i­fies it. The mu­si­cians are so tal­ented and var­ied in the in­stru­ments they can play (this year we have cast mem­bers who can play six or seven dif­fer­ent in­stru­ments) that Ivan might imag­ine a piece with vi­o­lins, but they might say “I can do this even bet­ter on sax”.

‘The re­hearsal pe­riod be­comes a re­ally cre­ative time in terms of the mu­sic as well as get­ting the story off its feet. Some com­mer­cial pan­tos might be re­hearsed in a week, whereas we in­vest a lot in that time, so the ac­tors are re­ally part of the process.’

The ti­tles of the shows are al­limpor­tant in terms of draw­ing au­di­ences in and Sarah knows what will work and what might prove to be more risky.

She says: ‘We look for some­thing for the Stu­dio that the lit­tle ones will know and love – nurs­ery rhymes or tra­di­tional sto­ries. With the main house it’s sim­i­lar but we are try­ing to think of some­thing that has cross-gen­er­a­tional ap­peal as it will range from small chil­dren to grand­mas and grand­pas.

‘At Christ­mas peo­ple want some­thing they know and love. They might not know what your ver­sion is go­ing to be, but with Hansel and Gre­tel they know there will be a gin­ger­bread house and loads of sweets. They want

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