Director’s Blog – Is there such a thing as a grown up?

It’s December: month of theatrical madness! It’s behind you, before you and all around you… Panto is often people’s first introduction to live theatre and it’s important that it does a good job and creates enough magic that they want a second visit to the theatre.

But it’s also important to stress that there is great children’s theatre around which is not panto.

Our company, Spotlites, specialises in children’s theatre all year round and we do not do panto. Ever!

Why? Because panto, although a valid genre in itself, isn’t children’s theatre- it’s often over long, over sentimental, risqué and out-dated. Which isn’t to say that the best panto isn’t wonderful. It can be and sometimes it is. But it is also often overly commercial, under rehearsed and shamelessly overpriced.

At Spotlites we believe children’s theatre should be just that: theatre for children and that it should be accessible to all children- we are very proud that our Family Ticket for 4 people costs the same as one ticket for the local pantos. We are also proud that children are on the edge of their seats all the way through our shows, literally too engaged to sit down sometimes and that they don’t get bored, need the loo constantly or want to go home.

So if panto sounds a bit like hard work, how about taking the children to see some original children’s theatre this Christmas? No it’s not for adults specifically, it’s for the children, but you know what – seeing adults relax, watch their children interact and become engrossed in a story which they’re living as it happens, reminds me that adults are only grown up kids and Spotlites is an amazing place to spend time with the children.

Is there such a thing as a grown up?


Spotlites Lilipop


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



Do other playwrights feel like this? – Spotlites Artistic Director asks

I write plays for Spotlites. Sometimes. When they decide to be written. Which can take a very long time. Sometimes they are running around my head for years before they allow themselves to be caught and written down.

I am about to write another play; it’s in the elusive catch me if you can, peek-a-boo phase where I can see most of it but not quite all of it. Exciting but mystifying.

Spotlites Butterfly Emerges

Monarch Butterfly Emerges

People often say to me that writing plays must be a lonely task, which is funny, because actually it feels quite the reverse to me! Suddenly my head is full of other people’s thoughts, emotions and ideas which are all scrabbling over themselves to be written down. It can actually start to feel crowded in there!

I think writing plays is one of the most joyous experiences I have had; especially when the structure starts to reveal itself and you can see the shape of all the ideas that you’ve been having. So I am looking forward to the moment immensely. If trepidatiously! Waiting to see these characters emerge into the light!

It’s a bit like when you first see the butterfly, damp, scruffy, a bit bedraggled but nonetheless you can see what he’s going to be any minute!

Do other playwrights feel like this?


Spotlites Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly