So it has been an age since we put fingers to keyboard and gave a little bit of a blog update. Firstly Happy New Year to our readers. Can’t believe it’s nearly February already!! As you will undoubtedly know, Bat Boy is currently now playing at the Southwark Playhouse. We began rehearsals on the 1st December and even though we had a week off between Christmas and New Year, it was go go go from the outset without a moment to stop, think or even grab a mince pie! Bat Boy has been an extraordinary experience for Morphic Graffiti.
Rehearsing a show in the lead up to Christmas was both exciting and terrifying. We had three weeks and two days to block, shape and get the show ready before the holiday break and that included a day and a half filming (for the insane video projections). That is no mean feat but by December 23rd and just before we all sat down to a glass of cava and a secret santa gft, we did only our second full run through of the show!
Fast forward to two freezing days in a church hall recapping the show and then it was all guns firing as we arrived at the Southwark Playhouse. Never in the history of Morphic Graffiti have rehearsals whizzed by so fast! Particularly on a musical that is as crazy and bonkers as Bat Boy. Tech rehearsals are always insane and Bat Boy was no exception. It was amazing to see the space transform from essentially a bare warehouse ‘black box’ room into the theatre space it currently is.
The amount of organised chaos that filled the theatre that week was insane. In the theatre we had miles of wire and sound equipment being fitted in, lights going up, set being built, props being allocated space, props being made and painted, wigs being sprayed and dressed, costumes being made, band members practising, sound bites being recorded for the show, projectors being installed, projections being tweaked, projections being redesigned (!), sound checks going on, seat and fire exit dramas… the list went on and on and on!! How we even got close to opening for that first preview I shall never know and despite some bumps along the way we got the show open.
Previews are notoriously tricky things. From experience, there is an expectation beyond what is physically possible and with all the will, money and man power in the world, no new production can ever be wholly perfect when the audience comes in for the first time. Hence the discounted ticket price! But it was with a huge leap of faith that Bat Boy opened. Yes things went wrong technically but I have to tip my hat to our awesome team behind the scenes on Bat Boy. As director, with the cast, you have weeks to perfect the show on stage. Our creatives and technicians have just a few days. They all did sterling work to bring the show together over the preview period despite some horrendous obstacles and brought together the show so brilliantly.
Both Stewart and I knew that Bat Boy would be a bit of a ‘risk’ in the eyes of those who have followed our work, especially after the incredible and overwhelming response to Carousel. Being very frank blog readers, we were both a little nervous about what to do next. With Bat Boy we knew it was such a completely different choice and incomparable to Carousel. Like every project we have done it terrified us (in a good way!). We always believe a good amount of fear heightens the senses and prevents any risk of complacency or ‘sitting back’.
With its cult following and unusual production history, we could easily have run a mile but Bat Boy has such heart, such amazing music and a brilliantly bonkers story we could not resist its charms. From day one, Paul (producer) and I talked about the audiences for Bat Boy. We knew of the love for the story and the musical itself and also that some would not like its quirky leftfield approach.
The phrase ‘marmite’ (as in LOVE it or HATE it) kept cropping up. Our mission as Morphic Graffiti was to bring the show to life in a way not seen with the piece before. Stewart and I summed up the production as ‘Rocky Horror meets Pleasantville meets Twitter’ and the audiences have been incredible. There are literally hundreds of responses on twitter to the show and the social media side of theatre has been overwhelming.
As the member of a creative team behind a very loud, brash comedy, there is nothing more amazing than hearing an audience laugh let me tell you! Even more so when new audiences find new moments of comedy that you never knew were even there!
There have been reviewers who have not liked it. There have been reviewers who have loved it. Art is subjective and variety is the spice of life! The responses in the auditorium each night have been joyous and cement the notion of theatre as a live art form that is lived and felt. We are so incredibly proud of the cast, band, tech and creative team. The show finishes on Jan 31st and only a few tickets are left so please don’t miss it – L x
Some of the critic responses:
A stunning production…Against some witty projection work from Benjamin Walden and a brilliantly trashy set from Stewart Charlesworth (the spelunking Barbie dolls are a particular treat), ‘Bat Boy: The Musical’ further cements the Southwark Playhouse’s status as one of the city’s go-to venues for razor-sharp musical theatre. Time Out – Critics Choice
Morphic Graffiti’s Luke Fredericks (directing) and Stewart Charlesworth (designing) give it another of their audacious small-scale makeovers, bringing close-focus punch and ferociously pitched point to its wild portrait of the demonising of an outsider in small-town America. Verdict: Bold new take on a musical cult is the production the clever, tuneful writing deserves Mark Shenton, The Stage
Luke Fredericks’ production for Morphic Graffiti (who did so well with Carousel at the Arcola) suits the inventive gift for spectacle of this warehouse theatre: a huge overarching cave becomes a two-level stage with rapid projections offering filmic scene-shifts, and Mark Crossland leads a five- piece rock band overhead. At its heart, though, is a tremendous performance from Rob Compton as Bat Boy, renamed Edgar by his doting foster mum (Lauren Ward) and resented by her vet husband (Matthew White). Libby Purves – Theatre Cat
Bat Boy: The Musical is a raucously enjoyable evening of dark comic fun. “I shouldn’t work my problems out with food” laments our vampiric hero, a raw cow’s head dangling idly from one hand. While no animals are harmed in the making of this show, a fair few cuddly toys are seriously maimed. Whatsonstage.com
Edward Scissorhands meets Rocky Horror…this mock-tragic tale boasts an oddly lovable heart and a winning score that effortlessly swoops The Guardian
…this could be a production that plays and plays, transfers and tours. It shows the musical form pushed to its edges and how rewarding that can be. BritishTheatre.com
The production captures the deliberate trashiness of the show, while demonstrating some skilful innovations such as the use of pre-recorded video with live voiceover. It’s worth seeing just for Compton’s performance alone, but the excellent cast and wonderful book make this a fantastically fun, if flawed, cult horror love story. A Younger Theatre
The band of five, expertly conducted by Mark Crossland, covers musical styles from opera to horror movie soundtracks, from gospel to rock to rap. Many of the songs by Laurence O’Keefe are quite memorable, such as A Home For You or Hold Me, Bat Boy – I overheard several members of the audience who had owned and loved the CD before seeing the musical. The quality of the voices is excellent and the choreography impressive. This is a very creative and entertaining production that will surprise you. UKTheatre.net
And from the crazy world of twitter:
@John_Bizzell The crowd enjoyed themselves so much whilst I was working at @BatBoy_UK last night, I’m going back today as a paying punter. #HoldMeBatBoy
@RaffCovino @BatBoy_UK was absolutely insane in both the bonkers and the incredible sense of the word! #holdmebatboy
@MsCourtneyWard · Still thinking about @BatBoy_UK after seeing it on Thursday.. Thank you SO much for a brilliant & unforgettable show! I absolutely loved it!
@hannah_milks · so @BatBoy_UK was….. INSANELY EPIC!!!!!!!! the talent on the stage was just, WOW!!! amazing well done to all involved!!!!
@charliecox93 ·@BatBoy_UK was amazing tonight! Wasn’t sure what to expect but absolutely loved it! Hilarious & such a strong cast!
@carrieharayel · By the end I had tears in my eyes… @batboy_uk was awesome… funny & sad! I’m so happy I got 3 tickets for this.
@megan_harris13 On our way back to Bristol from seeing @BatBoy_UK ! Everyone go and see it! Don’t think I will look at bananas and donuts the same anymore
@SamanthaHarper1 · Jan 15 didn’t know what to expect tonight but @BatBoy_UK has outdone itself! what a phenomenal show and cast. definitely one to see while you can
@n_douglas · Feel like I’ve been high for the past two and a half hours @BatBoy_UK in a brilliant way obviously!!! @lukebayer · Thoroughly enjoyed @BatBoy_UK Congrats to all involved! Wicked cast and Production! @RobCompton88 an amazing Batboy!!
Time is literally whizzing by and it seems only fair that in a brief ten minute hiatus from the craziness of Bat Boy pre-production, that we should update everyone with a blog!
Since the show was announced on Halloween, the work load has shifted up several notches with incredible work going on.
Firstly, casting has now finished and we have an extraordinary bunch of people joining us on the journey. Full announcements will be made in due course but under the Casting Directorship of Will Burton we managed to cast this ‘beast’ of a show. Prior to auditions we had to go through the show working out who would play the myriad of characters and how we would ‘double up’ so that not only was every role covered but that we had time for actors to change and that each scene would still work! No mean feat when you have a limit on the cast size. Still, we have worked our way through the script and everything seems covered. There will no doubt be a few surprises but that is half the fun.
One of the most exciting parts of this week was knowing our Bat Boy (we will tell you all soon, we promise!) had been to have his teeth mould taken for his fangs to be created. Such an integral part of his character look, we knew he would need them from the minute rehearsals started. We also knew that sadly a pair of joke fangs left over from Halloween would almost certainly look rubbish! However, the experts are on hand and our Bat Boy will be so used to them by the time the production opens that we are convinced he won’t want to take them off!
As soon as our cast accepted their roles, Stewart and his wardrobe team had them measured and even started to fit the costumes for the show. Anyone who saw Carousel will have seen the huge amount of work that goes into our wardrobe sets! Bat Boy is no different although the style is much more modern with some wonderfully garish colours and fabrics to keep everyone entertained! Rarely have shoes of such bright colours and shapes been seen on the London stage! Currently Stewart is housing hundreds of component costume parts and is looking forward to December 1st when we move into our rehearsal space and he can move everything in to the annex next door!!
As well as costume, the set design has been to and fro between the venue and the set builders. Everything is looking good. It is going to be something very different to what people who know Bat Boy might expect (a good thing we think!) and will probably take our amazing team of painters about a week to paint it and finish it – but believe us when we say it will be worth it!
As director, Luke has been busy working on the script. Some changes to the previous productions have been made by the writers with some new changes going in (trust us they are brilliant!!).
Also, Luke has been drawing up lists of props and sound effects for the relevant departments. Although these will undoubtedly change and multiply, it is great to have a starting point for Stage Management so they have an idea. It also gives as much time as possible to find/make some slightly obscure props that the show requires. Fans of the show will know some of them, but we promise there are a many great surprises that know one will expect!
There are production meetings galore happening across all departments. Coffee shops are fast becoming the new offices!! Be it lighting, technical, wardrobe, set, sound, choreography, music – everything is going on. This is a brilliant period of time when the ideas and dreams of what can be achieved within the production are discussed and worked through. With so much technical work going on, this planning period is essential so that we hit rehearsals with the production in full flow ready to be built upon by the work that will take place in the rehearsal room and then during technical rehearsals.
It is relentless and brilliant and we are having a ball!! Book up now to avoid disappointment!!
So the bat is out of the bag! And it is no coincidence that yesterdays announcement was made to coincide with Halloween!!. Morphic Graffiti’s next show is the cult Off Broadway hit BAT BOY – a brilliant and bloody tale of a half human/half bat creature found in a cave in a small town in America.
This is a very exciting project for us at MG with a couple of new things for the company. Firstly, we are working with Paul Taylor Mills who is producing Bat Boy. Paul has recently produced Altar Boyz at Greenwich Theatre and was co-producer on this year’s monster hit In the Heights at Southwark Playhouse.
Talking of Southwark Playhouse, Bat Boy will be presented in The Large, the main stage at the venue. This is another first for Luke and Stewart and we cannot wait to get to the SP!
So what has been going on? Well if the truth be told we have been working on the project for nearly two months, and this blog entry finds us in the middle of finalising the casting for the project. Anyone who knows Bat Boy will know how brilliant and quirky the piece is and any one who has seen one of our productions before will know how much work goes on behind the scenes. This project is no exception!
Stewart has been fine tuning his designs for set and costumes and there is one significant design aspect that will be dominating the production. Everything is being created specifically for the production and will be like nothing seen before in any other production of Bat Boy! Typing that makes me feel both excited and nervous! Gulp!!
So who are the creative team joining us in creating this show? Well, we are thrilled to be joined with Joey McKneely as choreographer and Mark Crossland as MD. Joey is a Tony-nominated choreographer whose career includes choreographing Smokey Joe’s Café and The Boy From Oz on Broadway (wow!!) and Mark is currently Musical Director on Dance Til Dawn at the Aldwych Theatre and other credits include the Number 1 tours of 9 to 5, Sister Act, and Hairspray (wow again!!).
We feel genuinely blessed to be working with such a team and cannot wait to bring you more updates from the rehearsal room and more details of the full cast and creative team as the show begins to take shape.
However, we can, very excitingly, announce the first of our incredible cast. Tony Award nominee Lauren Ward will play Meredith Parker. Among her incredible credits, Lauren originated the role of Miss Honey in Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre and on Broadway.
Joining Lauren will be Matthew White will play Dr. Parker. Matthew has worked extensively as a performer in the West End (Ragtime, Les Mis, Chicago) and most recently has directed shows including Sweet Charity, Top Hat and Little Shop of Horrors.
We are so excited to finally be able to share what has been keeping us busy since finishing Carousel! Plenty more details are to come but don’t forget to book up for Bat Boy!! It’s going to be very different to what Morphic Graffiti have done before but equally as fang-tastic (sorry – couldn’t resist the pun!!)
Tickets are on sale and previews are just £12!! Get booking.
Well where has the Summer gone? I can’t believe it has been so long since the previous blog entry! Not that we have been sunning ourselves on holiday and putting our feet up (Stewart had a lovely time in Greece!!). Things at Morphic Graffiti HQ have gone a little crazy as we are looking towards future projects and working out our next steps as a company!
Firstly, we could not go on without thanking everyone who worked on, came to see and supported Carousel at the Arcola. What an incredible experience we had creating the production and have been overwhelmed with the response from audiences and critics alike.
One particular highlight was having Ben Brantley from the New York Times come and review the production. Ben was over reviewing London Theatre and asked to review Carousel. Here is a link to his review, but suffice to say the entire team were thrilled!
After an emotional final performance where even the Director shed a tear (!) and many tears were shared all round, work began immediately to clear the theatre. 5 hours later and the Arcola was returned to her neutral state ready for the next production! It’s always a sad moment to look round and think that what was created will never again be exactly the same, in that space, at that time. But that is one very wonderful reason why we do theatre, I guess!
On that note, we had to share a photo of Team Carousel from the last day at the Arcola. A very special group of people indeed!!
The costumes have gone in to storage, the myriad of props boxed away and returned and the giant C structures of Stewart’s design currently create a steel arch in my garden. Not wanting to throw anything away, we believe in reusing and recycling as much as possible!
We have updated the Morphic Graffiti website to include updates to the Carousel page in our Production Archive. They include some ‘never seen’ production shots and a summary of the production and reviews. Take a look http://www.morphicgraffiti.com
So what is next? Well, we will shortly be announcing the first Morphic Graffiti project of 2015 and it promises something wonderful. We can’t say too much but it is coming in January (that really is not far away!!) and will be at a fabulous venue we have not yet been to as Morphic Graffiti. It will be the perfect, post Christmas theatre outing when the winter kicks in and Santa has been and gone! It also sees one very new thing for us. Ooooo…what could it be?! Pre production work is underway and we hope to be able to say what it is in a couple of weeks.
What we can say is that we are both very excited, and is a project that we have both wanted to do! As the company has grown, so Stewart and I wish to keep the scale of productions growing and maintaining the quality of each production. After a wonderful few months rehearsing and creating Carousel, we are our harshest critics and do not want to disappoint our loyal audiences. You will not want to miss it!
So this is just a teaser blog to remind you we are here and that things are, as always, going on behind the scenes!
Will tell all soon,
Ps 40 blog entries!! That is a mini landmark! Here’s to 50 and then we may have some cake!!
Well, Carousel at the Arcola has finally opened! For the first time since we arrived at the theatre on Sunday 15th June (that feels like months ago!) I have been able to sit down, get myself a lovely coffee from the Arcola Café/Bar and take stock of what has happened in the last two weeks!
Anyone who is following us on twitter or facebook has probably been inundated with updates and reviews from us! We have been overwhelmed with the incredible response to Carousel, both from critics and audiences. I feel tremendously proud of the entire team that has given every ounce of love, time and talent to get where we are.
But it wasn’t all quite the easy ride (pun intended!) to get there. But then what theatre production was ever completely ready by the first preview, had an uneventful tech or didn’t push even the calmest of souls to question their sanity at some point in the manic three days leading up to opening night! Carousel, for all of its simplicity and beauty has a lot of technical points to it, well over a hundred props, large volumes of costumes and accessories and a complicated rabbit warren of access points in order to make entrances in the auditorium.
As I sat in said auditorium working through the show during technical rehearsals, back stage a military operation was taking place to ensure the smooth running of the show and safety of the cast and crew. I tip my hat to Zoe, Heni, Natalia and Beth for literally making the cogs of this show turn. What is now effortless and a seamless running of the show, was a long complicated puzzle that took time and, above all, patience to solve.
Putting this show into the Arcola space in three days was always going to be manic and being a Morphic Graffiti show there was no opportunity we wanted to miss. Our Lighting Designer Cat Webb has been able to work around this in a way that defies belief. She plots the lights around the chaos, tweaks at moments when no one is looking and delivers results that are stunning. Again, I tip my hat!
Also, a big shout out to the man with the largest array of power tools I have ever seen – Thomas Moore (production manager) who at the many different voices shouting ‘Tom’ was there and ready to drill, screw, safety check and fix just about everything.
I should also like to thank the cast of Carousel personally for their patience at getting this juggernaut on to the stage. Both myself and Andrew (MD) were blown away with everyone’s grit and determination to get the show on and to rework things for the space that inevitably had to change after leaving the rehearsal room.
So tech led to a dress rehearsal where photos were taken and are now in our beautiful programme that is on sale during the show (shameless plug!). We had a few stops during the dress rehearsal, primarily to do with overseeing the scene changes were safe and everyone was clear the pulleys/boxes/ropes they were using! At no point did anyone have a moment to blink, but the focus on getting the show from A to B was incredible.
Then came the opening preview with yours truly making the customary director speech at the start of the show to the audience. We were delayed by about 15 minutes (not too bad for the craziness of the prior three days!) and the show went up. For the first time we were able to see the fruit of all our labours come to life and it was truly awesome!
Something happens in a first performance that I know from being a performer. After the tech period, the world becomes about costumes/ lights and remembering to walk to a certain point holding a certain prop. Suddenly, the performances and the band feed into these technical points and the whole thing lifts a level.
Over the next 4 previews, we basically tweaked moments, ruthlessly cut moments that were not clear for the good of the entire show, polished choreography, balanced the sound between the band and the cast and generally tightened the show to what is now currently on stage to a jam packed Saturday matinee audience. It is incredibly humbling to sit here (I can’t watch the show every night but will make notes once a week!) and be able to share the journey.
Not that the journey has ended. We are here until July 19th and the weeks ahead will involve everyone keeping the show focussed and tight. We were fortunate enough to get to perform at West End Live last Sunday which was incredible. Check out YouTube to see bits of our performance (sadly they missed off the cast singing You’ll Never Walk Alone’). It was great to see the cast performing in front of 15,000 people so brilliantly.
Now the show is in, Stewart and I take on full time producorial duties and oversee the running of the show, keeping tabs on the box office, the show and all the ‘business’ elements. There is no rest or chance to relax until the run comes to an end and even then, the question ‘what are you doing next?’ keeps being asked and (despite both wanting to hide our heads away like a pair of ostriches!) we want to push the company further forward. Quite how and with what remains to be seen, but watch this space! Our focus for the next three weeks is here at the gorgeous Arcola Theatre and we wouldn’t have it any other way!
We have been blessed with incredible reviews too and for Stewart and I, as Morphic Graffiti, having two amazing 5* reviews in print in the Evening Standard and Telegraph on Wednesday was a moment to cherish. For us personally though, the proudest moment is being able to say we are part of this Carousel team of like minded people who have given there all. Tickets are flying out the door (the Arcola team’s words not ours!!) so please book up. We are on until July 19th. Come visit us!
It wouldn’t be tech/get in period without the simple fact I got to bed last night at half past midnight and my body clock was awake at 6am – even after thirteen hours of painting, painting and more painting!Yesterday we had the ‘get in’, meaning it was all hands on deck to put the set, props, lighting and costumes in to the Arcola. Now this is no mean feat on any production, however, with the large amounts of component parts going in, it is an epic task. Our production manager has, I believe, started work at 6am this morning – talk about dedication!
I, on the other hand, have put down my paintbrush and am now writing a blog entry before I get to the theatre and chaos ensues. I love tech periods. No really……… honestly……….I do! Actually, I am very excited if a little nervous of the fact the first 8 minutes of the show will probably take all of today to tech. Still, I am in safe hands with the team around us. Cat Webb, our lighting designer, is already making headway with the lighting department. Cat and her team worked thoughout yesterday to rig and begin focussing the lights. I will admit my knowledge of the terminology is basic, but Cat is positively superb at working with me, as director, to tell the story through light. Having been on our last two projects (and dealt with a broken lighting board during The Revenge of Sherlock Holmes!) we are so lucky to have her back.
Yesterday was the ‘sitzprobe’ for the show, where the band and cast meet and sing through the show with all the music. Stewart and I had been fortunate to hear the band practising the day before, but to hear the show coming together musically was sensational. Mark Cumberland (Orchestrator) has created a small miracle with his arrangements and the work being done by Andrew Corcoran (MD) and Phil Cornwell (Associate MD) is genuinely breathtaking. The beauty of this 5 piece band is quite incredible. They are, as we hoped, a chamber ensemble of instruments that had everyone with tears in their eyes at some point yesterday.
The music department for this production are nothing short of extraordinary and I have no shame in saying that what is being achieved at this Off West End level defies belief. Fans of Rodgers and Hammerstein are in for a treat and those who don’t know the score will marvel at why they had never heard it!!
I should just mention that we finished our final run through on Friday after 4 weeks of rehearsals. What an emotional run through it was and a testament to everyone’s hard work over the last four weeks. We have had Kim Poster, our creative consultant for Caorusel, come and watch two of our runs of the whole show, offering an incredible insight into Carousel and drawing things from the text and score that take it to the next level.
Our wardrobe team that includes Natalia and Beth are working tirelessly on costumes. They have now settled in backstage and are working through the incredible amount of detail that has gone into Stewart’s costumes. This morning I had a chance to look at the wardrobe bible for each character (a document that shows the actor and wardrobe team the finished look for each costume). Wow! There are literally hundreds of component parts to the massive array of costumes. These are a feat in themselves and the details for each character are amazing. From bags to brooches, to hats, gloves, jewellery and shoes, every detail is there.
We are so excited to be in the Arcola as of today, finding our way around the building and learning how the theatre works. The set is almost in and we have a long three days ahead of us gearing up the opening performance on Wednesday evening. I cannot stress to people to make sure you book! If you can get to see what is happening right now with this beautiful piece, I can assure you you won’t be disappointed!
£15 preview seats at http://www.arcolatheatre.com