The Road to Performance

We started to write this blog last week (when we still had a week to go before first night) but as the build-up to performance is so busy, we have ended up combining last week’s and this week’s posts. Truth be told, we’ve simply not had the time.

But that’s because we were spending that time on doing all of the things required for performance. When an audience come to see one of our shows, we want to give them a slick, smooth experience. We want them to buy or show us their tickets, offer them a programme, show them to their seats, let them buy a drink, and watch a performance that is going to engage them, enthrall them and make them laugh/cry/smile/applaud/be moved (delete as applicable)

But in order for all of those things to happen, we have a huge amount of work to do in advance of the all-important performance night.

We’ve talked on previous blogs about learning lines, blocking and choreographing. We’ve talked about our directing team getting together and planning rehearsals, responding to action and reaction and putting the vision together. We’ve talked about the crew backstage, designing, building and moving set, props and costumes. These things are inherent and basic; we can’t move on without them.

But there is a wealth of other “stuff” we have to do too. The regular committee meetings, where we design the programmes/posters/tickets/marketing, and where we allocate different people to do all of the different things involved in making those transform from an idea into a reality. The endless hours spent on lighting and sound design – and more consuming – actually rigging, moving and setting those lights. Building a tech script. Plotting the desk. What about the front of house team? Managing the online sales and the offline sales. Working out who needs to sit where. Planning who’s going to show people to their seats, who’s going to be in charge of takings, who’s going to sell programmes.

And all the while, not forgetting that this play in particular, is slapstick physical theatre. It’s a constant barrage on the audience’s senses. Making people laugh is hard. Sustaining that laughter is even harder. But one thing that we have learned over our many years in this world, is that if ALL of those other things come together – if the booking process is smooth, the doors are opened on time, the audience is greeted with a smile, the programme is good value, the bar is open, and the environment is welcoming; then, simply put, our audience will be in the best frame of mind possible to enjoy our show.

It’s our job to entertain you, and that starts from the second you see our first poster on Facebook, or the first flyer that sits on your seat at a previous show.

So, now we come to first night. We will, of course, publish some reviews of our show in another post. But for now, and writing this the morning after the first night, we just wanted to let you know how much FUN it was for us all last night.

How everything came together – even when the pre-recorded safety announcement crashed the sound system at 6:30 and Jacob (who is also the lead role) had to sit and manually re-input all of the sound cues. How Jess and Daniel motivated the cast backstage. How Pete just sorted everything out backstage effortlessly, with his stellar backstage crew. How Carl in the lighting room never lets us down. How Bec and Stacey on Front Of House had everyone in a good mood before they even took their seats. How Linda welcomes everyone personally. How the John Godber Centre staff go out of their way every single time to provide us and our audience with the most professional experience imaginable.

And how our cast ROSE to the occasion. My goodness, but this is a belter of a show.

It was a magnificent night, full of praise from the packed audience. There was so much laughter, and the cheers and applause at the end raised the roof. What a validation of all of the hard work of the last few months.

How proud we all are of each other.

I/

The Road to Performance

We started to write this blog last week (when we still had a week to go before first night) but as the build-up to performance is so busy, we have ended up combining last week’s and this week’s posts. Truth be told, we’ve simply not had the time.

But that’s because we were spending that time on doing all of the things required for performance. When an audience come to see one of our shows, we want to give them a slick, smooth experience. We want them to buy or show us their tickets, offer them a programme, show them to their seats, let them buy a drink, and watch a performance that is going to engage them, enthrall them and make them laugh/cry/smile/applaud/be moved (delete as applicable)

But in order for all of those things to happen, we have a huge amount of work to do in advance of the all-important performance night.

We’ve talked on previous blogs about learning lines, blocking and choreographing. We’ve talked about our directing team getting together and planning rehearsals, responding to action and reaction and putting the vision together. We’ve talked about the crew backstage, designing, building and moving set, props and costumes. These things are inherent and basic; we can’t move on without them.

But there is a wealth of other “stuff” we have to do too. The regular committee meetings, where we design the programmes/posters/tickets/marketing, and where we allocate different people to do all of the different things involved in making those transform from an idea into a reality. The endless hours spent on lighting and sound design – and more consuming – actually rigging, moving and setting those lights. Building a tech script. Plotting the desk. What about the front of house team? Managing the online sales and the offline sales. Working out who needs to sit where. Planning who’s going to show people to their seats, who’s going to be in charge of takings, who’s going to sell programmes.

And all the while, not forgetting that this play in particular, is slapstick physical theatre. It’s a constant barrage on the audience’s senses. Making people laugh is hard. Sustaining that laughter is even harder. But one thing that we have learned over our many years in this world, is that if ALL of those other things come together – if the booking process is smooth, the doors are opened on time, the audience is greeted with a smile, the programme is good value, the bar is open, and the environment is welcoming; then, simply put, our audience will be in the best frame of mind possible to enjoy our show.

It’s our job to entertain you, and that starts from the second you see our first poster on Facebook, or the first flyer that sits on your seat at a previous show.

So, now we come to first night. We will, of course, publish some reviews of our show in another post. But for now, and writing this the morning after the first night, we just wanted to let you know how much FUN it was for us all last night.

How everything came together – even when the pre-recorded safety announcement crashed the sound system at 6:30 and Jacob (who is also the lead role) had to sit and manually re-input all of the sound cues. How Jess and Daniel motivated the cast backstage. How Pete just sorted everything out backstage effortlessly, with his stellar backstage crew. How Carl in the lighting room never lets us down. How Bec and Stacey on Front Of House had everyone in a good mood before they even took their seats. How Linda welcomes everyone personally. How the John Godber Centre staff go out of their way every single time to provide us and our audience with the most professional experience imaginable.

And how our cast ROSE to the occasion. My goodness, but this is a belter of a show.

It was a magnificent night, full of praise from the packed audience. There was so much laughter, and the cheers and applause at the end raised the roof. What a validation of all of the hard work of the last few months.

How proud we all are of each other.

I/

Realism, set design and our performance home

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?”

 No problem!

“Hey, can we have a cartoon style car? That rolls?”

The Hundred and One Dalmatians May 2019

 Of course you can!

“We need to set this whole play in a 1980s nightclub toilets”

Stags N Hens May 2017

I gotcha!

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

Rehearsing Slapstick

Every good farce has at least one scene which hinges on perfectly timed slapstick.In “One Man, Two Guvnors” it’s Act One, Scene Four – which was the focus of our rehearsal on Monday 16th September.


The physicality has to be immaculate, and the jokes won’t work unless the whole cast works in harmony. Incorporating mistaken identity, doors slamming and opening simultaneously, pratfalls, asides to the audience and plenty of interaction on and off the stage, this entire episode has to be timed to perfection.Add into that the tour de force that is the main character of this play, Francis Henshall (played by Jacob Hunt-Wheatley), who essentially has a twenty minute monologue in this scene which is constantly interrupted by the other characters, and what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is – A CHALLENGE!

So, how do we do it?

Step One: We are “off book”. This means that our cast have learned their lines and this makes the physical scenes much easier to rehearse. We can try things and see how things look, confident that the cast know exactly what’s going on without having to keep reading and checking

Step Two: Our props team are brilliant. Everything we need is everywhere it should be. This is vital in slapstick, as this is about the harmony between all aspects of stagecraft.


Step Three: Our directing team know everything that’s going on, in every line. This means that every nuance and bit of timing can be accounted for, and adapted. The planning required for this is supreme, but it really pays off



Step Four Our actors are committed, passionate and wholly in the world of the play.

When all of these components come together, we know that we are in the best place to try, fail, try, perfect, try, rehearse and create something superb.
The physicality is key in this scene, so how do we make this work?It’s about firstly warming up physically and vocally, and then planning what is going to work, as a tight piece of choreography. Once this is in play, we can start to improvise around it, and the fun really begins – the trial and error of just trying things out and seeing what works (as well as pushing ourselves to our limits and then slightly beyond) is something that has really elevated our rehearsal process. And we have discovered that we can only do this playing and improvising (in true commedia dell’arte style) once we have designed and learned our choreography and direction. The combination of these two techniques has proven vital to our process.
To come and see how this brilliantly funny scene fits into the rest of the play, grab your tickets from https://seaty.co.uk/lovelaceoct19/ and treat yourself to an incredible night out.

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