10 February 2020 at 1:33 pm
Guest blog from Rhubarb Theatre: What goes into putting on a show?
What goes into putting on a Rhubarb Theatre show?
We invited Kirsty Mead from Rhubarb Theatre, who are bringing us their show Henry Moon & the Greasy Spoon this month, to write a blog on her experience with creating a show. Rhubarb Theatre are a local company who put on fantastic work. The amount of work, time and energy that she and her team put into their productions is immense. Rhubarb have put on loads of shows over the years and familiar faces around the venue. Check out what she says below:
What does go into putting on a professional piece of theatre?
We’re all about the zany ideas, so we start talking about next years show more or less as soon as the current one is touring. Lots of conversations on van journeys up and down the UK. The current show ‘Henry Moon and the Greasy Spoon’ started around an idea of singing burgers! We also devise our shows rather than starting with a script, and the first few days are literally playing with objects and music and movement to come up with ideas.
Once the bones of an idea is there, we spend ages writing funding applications. Knowing at least half the applications will be unsuccessful, but creating a touring show is an expensive venture and you need to find funding to pay for all the different aspects of it.
Then there’s the marketing side, creating the flyer/poster image, writing blurb to accompany the show… this usually happens before we’ve started rehearsing, so you are writing a description of a show that you haven’t even created yet! Rural touring and many theatres/art centres book shows a year in advance, so you find yourself selling a show that you have no funding for yet, haven’t even started rehearsing, but you confidently tell them “our show is 1 hour, suitable for this age range, and will take up this much space in your venue”.
Rhubarb create our shows in 15 full days. These 15 days broken up into 3 groups of 5days, with time to make and create in between. But in those rehearsals we work really hard to bring together the best show we can together. In between the rehearsals we’re madly making props, costumes, puppets, shadow puppets, making and painting set, coming up with words to songs and learning dance moves. We even go on training courses to learn new skills we can add to the shows. And of course you need to bring all the various artists you need together including set designer, musician, technical crew, director, cast, choreographer. All these need to be paid for.
Once the show is ready, Rhubarb Theatre perform in a primary school to a small audience of children of mixed ages and staff. This is our ‘scratch show’. It enables us to get a proper feeling for how the audience reacts to different parts of the show. It also allows us to make changes if need be before we go off on tour. A couple of years ago we had a Frankenstein scene in a show. Initially it was early in the performance, but during the scratch show, one child wet herself! We realised the scene came too early, so we changed the order around, which meant replotting the lights and rejiggling the music – nothing is ever straight forward.
Several years ago we took the decision to only tour with 3 actors (mainly due to dwindling funding in the arts). This means we all fit in the van, it also means the 3 of us have to do everything, including the technical side, (which is terrifying when you have limited knowledge of rigging lights and sound). On arriving at a venue we do the get in, set everything up, including lights and sound, get ourselves ready and we’re on. So… we’re not just performing, when we’re backstage, we’re changing lights, pressing buttons, working shadow puppets, changing characters, doing special effects (all mostly on our knees).
It’s hard work, but it’s the best job in the world and worth every bit that goes into it.
Kirsty Mead (Artistic Director – Rhubarb Theatre)