Morphic Graffiti, Part 39 and a moment to reflect…..*breathe*

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.

Joel Montague (Enoch Snow) and Vicki Lee Taylor (Carrie Pipperidge)

Joel Montague (Enoch Snow) and Vicki Lee Taylor (Carrie Pipperidge)

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.

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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!

Luke x

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Morphic Graffiti, Part 38 and the Tech begins for Carousel!!

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