Here at the Lovelace Theatre Group, we are really proud to call
The John Godber Centre (http://www.johngodbercentre.co.uk/) our performance and rehearsal home. It’s a fantastic multi-use space, and it’s always being used by hundreds of different community groups, businesses and for personal events, which gives it the most vibrant and diverse feel. Just this month alone, in addition to the weekly clubs and societies, the centre has hosted another theatre company’s production, freestyle ceroc, a fashion and clothes show and northern soul nights. We love being a part of this community and (predominantly) arts-based venue, particularly as last year we celebrated our 50 year partnership with the centre.
Having a permanent performance venue is a real blessing for a theatre company. Many of us have been members of other groups, which have had to adapt to different rehearsal spaces (pubs, community rooms, people’s living rooms, gardens, and, notably, a specially cleared out garden shed) and then had to hire an unfamiliar, or time-restricted space to perform in. There are lots of benefits to experiencing this kind of set-up – it bonds the group, for sure, and it can certainly bolster resilience and adaptability in performance. There is so much joy to be had in grass-roots and touring theatre, that the benefits can be almost endless. But, having the incredible set-up that we have at the JGC means that we have the luxury of space and time to adapt, trial, rehearse and create theatre in the environment that we will perform in. It feels like home when we are there, and we think that cascades to our audiences.
Which leads us on nicely to the concept of set and realism. When producing a play, the production team have loads of decisions to make, and one of those decisions is about the look and the feel of the play. A question we ask ourselves at the planning stage is “does this need to be realistic to achieve our desired effect?”
Murdered to Death set May 2013
Sometimes, the answer is “no.” When we performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2014, we used the floor and virtually the only set we had was a tree stump. And this worked, because the play’s vision was to transport with the words, the lights and the costumes. Similarly, when we performed “Will of the People” in 2017 – we took our audiences to lots of different worlds, and in each one was a suggestion of the environment; a scarf for Lady Macbeth; a book for the narrator; a branch for Hamlet.
However, some plays are steeped in naturalism and require an element of believability. Of course, our audiences know that they are in a theatre, but we are asking them to willingly suspend their disbelief whilst they are with us, and so we have to give them the best version of our believability that we can. So, for instance in One Man Two Guvnors, we need some clothes trunks from the 1960s. There’s no point in mocking something up, or giving a suggestion or an approximation of a clothes trunk. We need the real thing! They are used and moved around the stage. And One Man is a great comedy – we owe it to our audiences to give them a visual experience that supports the script. We shouldn’t expect them to accept something that is not quite right, or a version of something just because they were the only props we could find. So the money we use is what would have been used in Brighton in 1963. Our cast drink out of authentic bottles. The pub sign referred to by Stanley Stubbers (Josh Beet) looks like a pub sign. It’s supposed to be realistic to enhance and support the script, and so the audience can relax knowing that it’s all been prepared for them.
This takes us nicely back to where we started– our home. We have an enormous and fantastic props and costume store in the John Godber Centre. It’s completely immersive and dates back decades. We can very often find what we’re looking for up there, even if it’s a bit of an Aladdin’s Cave. We also have an incredibly dedicated stage crew, who are skilled craftspeople as well as willing volunteers. If you’ve ever seen a Lovelace set, you’ve probably been wowed.
“So, can we have a garden trellis and a flowery bower?”
“Hey, can we have a cartoon style car? That rolls?”
Of course you can!
“We need to set this whole play in a 1980s nightclub toilets”
We know how lucky we are to have this home, and to be able to produce this kind of quality aesthetic to our lovely audiences. And we intend to continue to wow you in our next production – One Man, Two Guvnors is going to be a corker!
Tickets available www.seaty.co.uk/lovelaceoct19