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!