Just around the riverbend at Spotlites

It’s been a really exciting and intense year at Spotlites. Can’t remember a single moment without a major project just around the riverbend.

We have staged six of our interactive productions for children this year, beginning with ‘Sleeping Beauty and the Time Lords’ at our Kent theatre last January and culminating with 71 different performances of our own shows at our ‘home from home’, Spotlites @ EdFringe.

We also built our EdFringe venue from scratch in just 5 days creating 3 high specification theatres literally from the ground up. This involves laying tens of metres of stage flooring, hundreds of metres of scaffolding, thousand of metres of cabling and rigging and focussing innumerable lights, projectors, sounds and lighting desks as well as what feels like several thousand miles of black curtains and a million safety pins! All credit and much gratitude to our ingenious and intrepid Technical team who guide our whole company in this huge undertaking.

We have travelled thousands of miles to watch hundreds of shows – ranging across the whole spectrum of performing arts from plays, dance, physical theatre to music, performance poetry and magic – to create an outstanding curated programme of 67 productions from 19 countries. This programme was honoured with 10 awards and nominations while 15 shows were reviewed as 5 stars and 95% as 4 star. As a consequence of performing at Spotlites, there were 5 London transfers and 13 international and 6 UK tours.

We proofed 150 pieces of print, advised on or redrafted 80 press releases, organised and facilitated over 270 reviewers, welcomed and looked after over 600 artistes from 19 different countries, many not speaking English. Our press office has made thousands of calls to generate hundreds of columns of print or web copy including a great article in the Guardian on our ‘Titus Andronicus’, the first ever Chinese production, a full double centre page spread! They also pitched our programme’s shows to numerous producers and promoters as well as giving them a warm, personal welcome. Not to mention our wonderful front of house girls carrying over 400 heavy boxes of print up and down 3 staircases.

Along the way we have performed at numerous theatres and educational establishments as well as creating and giving many bespoke drama workshops on themes as diverse as Minecraft, Places and Cultures Around the World and Shakespeare. We have worked with thousand of children and enjoyed their incomparable infectious energy, enthusiasm and creativity.

Somehow we also found time in June to extensively re-model Spotlites Theatre, Kent adding a relaxing cafe / waiting area with comfy sofas and WIFI as well as moving our Wardrobe – no mean undertaking with over 6000 costumes, building 2 new offices and our Studio Theatre and Dance Studio. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped whether moving things, decorating or constructing!

Our Youth Theatre has gone from strength to strength, welcoming several new tutors as well as many new members of Kids Spotlites, our fun and energetic section for 4-6s, Children’s Theatre (7-11 years), Junior Youth Theatre (11-13s), Youth Theatre ( for 14-17s) and Theatre Zone for over 18s. Plus this year saw us add more of our Dance sessions for all age groups, Singing lessons and Show Choirs, as well as another day of our Drama and Dance for Adults with Learning Difficulties, making all of these even more accessible. We were delighted that so many of our Youth Theatre performed this year in some delightful and impressively high standard shows – notably the exceptionally emotive and mature ‘The Pirate Queen’ and ‘James and the Giant Peach’ (full of fun and colourful performances) as well as finding time for a Showcase and an excellent scratch night in aid of Nepal which raised almost £400, in addition to our usual fundraising for the Poppy Appeal and donations to many local schools. We were pleased to be able to offer several scholarships to those in need of them again this year. We have had several third generation members of Spotlites Youth Theatre join up this year and are looking forward to the first fourth!

We are delighted to celebrate the success of so many of our alumni from Spotlites Youth Theatre – this year one was appointed director of a major theatre, another three wrote and staged plays, one came third in the German ‘The Voice’ and has a successful recording career, another graces our screens in the BodyShop Christmas commercial, another in Barclaycard’s, another graduated as a speech therapist – after re-training for 4 years following working as an actor for 5 years – and we have alumni on tour in theatre in the UK, in the West End, on Broadway, at Ballet Rambert, making films and at or graduated from all the major Drama Colleges including Mountview, Central, Rose Bruford, East 15, ALRA, Italia Conti, Guildhall as well as at Lecoq Mime School, Paris. Many actors tell us that they are still using the audition pieces that they worked on at Spotlites Youth Theatre.

2016 dawns sunny and cold this January and challenges us with its hard winter light to take another look at what we do and how we do it. We are excited to be moving our Spotlites EdFringe Venue a few metres up the road from the home we have had for the last 8 years, to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. This move gives room for a fourth theatre space, an exciting traverse ‘Imagine Theatre’, with the audience on two sides, as well as a conventional end on space ‘The Create Theatre’ in addition to our popular ‘Innovate Studio Theatre’ and intimate ‘Zone Theatre’. Additionally we now have space for bars, a cafe and a green room as well as a decent office space for our hardworking team. We are currently searching hard for dynamic plays and shows to create an even more inspiring programme than last year!

We are excited to be writing and bringing two new interactive plays for children to the stage this year- ‘Braveheart’ the William Wallace play for 5-12s, as well as another of our special plays for little ones aged 2-6 years. We will be touring these extensively in the UK and internationally along with ‘Peter Pan on Dinosaur Island’ and ‘Oz and the Sith Pirates’ for 5-12s, ‘Puss In Boots’ for 2-6s, ‘Enormous Turnip’ and ‘Golden Goose’ both for 3-7s. This year we will also be touring a play for adults too. We will also be staging some Roald Dahl to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth and a special re-imagining of ‘The Tempest’, perhaps Shakespeare’s most obscure play, to honour the 400th anniversary of his death.

We look forward to what’s just around the riverbend in 2016 – embracing our imaginative team’s adaptability and willingness to react swiftly to what’s happening in the world around us to use theatre and story-telling to help make sense of our changing world for both children and adults alike. Spotlites exists to tell stories – we hope 2016 will give us the chance to weave many.

shakespeare

400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death

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Spotlites Producer asks cast & crew about their latest show ‘Sleeping Beauty & the Time Lords’

We spent TIME with Spotlites Technical Director Colin, and actors James, Kieron and Zac; here’s what they had to say:

So what makes ‘Sleeping Beauty and the Time Lords’ unique?

CK: It is a play which totally immerses the audience, it is an hour and a bit of fantasy science fiction (Space Opera is the official style) It’s a wonderful way to be a hero and save the day without the exclusion of being plugged into a Playstation oblivious to anyone in the outside world. It is sociable, the audience all have to work together.  The story is a fantastic twist on the classic Sleeping Beauty story, intertwining a parody of Dr Who and allowing the audience to be victorious. The play teaches right from wrong without preaching and shows that even the side-kick thief can turn out to be a good guy after all. Without the kids joining in and learning the Sonic Screwdriver techniques Aurora is doomed, so come join in and save her!

What’s the best thing about working in interactive children’s theatre?

JC: It’s very rewarding work. The effect is almost immediate; it’s delightful to see a parent playing with their child and being caught in their sense of wonderment. Inspiring that feeling and knowing that you’ve helped facilitate a family moment is incredibly fulfilling.

Why should someone bring their family to watch ‘Sleeping Beauty and the Time Lords’?

CK: It is a fun show that really gets the kids drawn into the world of the play, the adventure we all go on is ‘real’ for them. They desperately want to go onstage and help, they want to help the heroes defeat the evil characters in the play, they even cheer when the heroes win. It’s a magical experience and parents really enjoy watching their kids get so involved with the show.

 

What’s your favourite thing that a child has said to you after the show?

KR: I loved it when the robot shot him! Tyler, aged 5.

James, what are you most looking forward to about playing The Doctor?

JC: His inherent sense of mania is always fun to portray. His moral compass is also fascinating; its wonderful to discover which side of ethics he’ll fall down on. He is, in essence, alien. Neither greatly good nor greatly bad, but different. It gives a lot of personality and character avenues to explore.

Kieron, you play more than one character in the play, how do you swop between them?

KR: Swapping character relies on knowing each character’s story inside out. The physical and vocal changes happen only with a lot of practice jumping between one and the other. Costume helps a bit, but that too takes practice when costume changes are less than 10 seconds!

Zac, you’re a newcomer – what’s the best thing about playing Fighter Fairy Guardian F8?

ZM: Learning about wand use and being able to combat using it, for example fighting and using the wand to control Kieron’s character, F-12.

Colin, you create the sci-fi special effects and props – what’s your favourite one?

CK: My favourite prop is the Temporal Chronogram that children from the audience go onstage to build. The design is something the children have drawn earlier in the show and the actors use their diagrams to create the Temporal Chronogram using lots of different electronic bits which are all over the stage which the kids have to find. Obviously I’ve added lots of LEDs and wires to them and made them look more space age.

A Time Lord in @spotlites show

Timelord in Spotlites latest play ‘Sleeping Beauty & the Time Lords’

 

When films can do so much with CGI how can theatre keep up?

CK: By keeping it simple but real and suggestive – I love CGI in films (I’m a sci-fi nut) as it can fully immerse you into the world of the film, but with theatre I try to use the children’s own imagination to create the scenes in the play. So any special effect must be not only impressive but also able to fit into people’s imagination easily which means less crafted detail but with a strong image. For example the spiral copper pipe that is the gold spinning machine in the show. It is simple but also suggestive and really looks the part when Aurora pricks her finger on it. It also is instantly removable by the actors who ‘scavenge’ it during their criminal pursuits. Everyone in the audience knows it is the spinning wheel, even though it looks nothing like a real one, this means they are concentrating on worrying about Aurora and what the Cyberwitch is about to do. A real Grotowski prop!

What’s your favourite part of ‘Sleeping Beauty and the Time Lords’?

JC: It’s a wonderful story; it’s well-crafted, enjoyable and cathartic. As you’re performing the show, you can see the audiences fall into the story and become enthralled by it. There’s something for everyone: good versus evil; a beautiful princess and dashing prince; scientific concepts and apparatus; revenge; retribution; redemption; it’s funny; charming; endearing; and above all a great family adventure at Spotlites!

Spotlites Technical Manager reveals what he packs in his Edinburgh suitcase

I am about to go to Edinburgh to build 3 theatre spaces in our own edfringe venue Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall and was thinking what is the most important thing to pack.

spotlites suitcase packed

packed full of gaffa tape?

Well, we spend about 3 months in technical preparation for the Edinburgh festival – this includes things like pat testing thousands of metres of cables, lights, fans, sound desks and all the electrical equipment we need. We also maintain all the equipment from simple changing gels in a light up to soldering pcbs (printed circuit boards) on a sound desk. But it is way more than that, for example we have to run in lots of cables for the lights in the theatre and we have to calculate the length of the cable – no point taking five 3 metre cables when you only need one 15 meter one and different things need different connectors. The sound desk uses jacks and xlrs, the lights need 15 amp connectors, the intelligent lights need 16amp and dmx connectors, laptops need rj45 connectors, printers use usb connectors, the dimmers use 63amp connectors on three phases – it is a logistical rollercoaster of interconnectivity.

 

spotlites cable connectors cheap

which ones goes where?

So how do we ensure it all works as it should – simple – we build the venue before we take it to Edinburgh. No, not actually get brick layers and plumbers involved, we set up the lights with their dimmers and the lighting console with all the cables, power, gels, dmx addresses, hanging ironmongery, we plug all the sound equipment into everything and test if everything all works. This may sound a bit like we over do things but we are restricted by the amount of actual time we have on site in Edinburgh. Then we spend ages labelling everything with how it links together.

 

spotlites cheap pat test label free

pass or fail

So back to the original question, what tools do we take – well not many as everything should just plug and play – although we do take our general tool box for repairs and maintenance. And I do sneak into one of the trucks our welding gear when no one is looking. So the most important thing I take with me is my spotlites schedule of fit-up and technical drawings – which is all on my laptop and printed out as a backup as well of course.

 

Spotlites technical cad drawing help

Technical Drawing of something