Zooming to Brighton … Slowly! Part 2

We left the indomitable Nogs at the “Edinburgh Festival Stage Stage” at the end of the last post … which is down there 🔽 … or just scroll! Did I mention the rain in Edinburgh? Oh, did it rain, Dear Reader! However, despite the rain, the Nogs performed every day (almost, we had a day off per week) for a month and audiences flocked in … which was fortunate as we definitely needed to recoup some of the “Plastic Money” that we had spent on getting there in the first place. We had a fabulous festival not only as a company but also as individuals … I saw theatre great, theatre poor, theatre exciting, theatre weird, theatre absurd, theatre beautiful, theatre intellectual and theatre downright awful but that is the way of festivals! I met a great many amazing people. I listened to incredible musicians. I walked by the canal. I drank beer and ate incredibly well. I handed out Noggin flyers (in the rain, of course … it was sometimes quite difficult handing people who were clutching bags, children and umbrellas a flyer that had the consistency of papier mache). I even had an evening at the whisky society … I was very careful … I counted the steps on the way in so I knew how many I could fall down at the end. Did I mention the rain?

There were a lot of these in Edinburgh!

There were a lot of these in Edinburgh!

The main reasons for us taking “The Sagas of Noggin the Nog” to the Edinburgh Festival was to give the play a longer life, to introduce new audiences to Noggin, to bring the original films and books to the attention of the general public and to create a bit of a buzz around the wonderful and charming stories of Firmin and Postgate. Our audiences literally ranged from babes in arms to Methuselah and his mother. We had Grandparents with their Grandchildren, Grandparents without their Grandchildren, young families, whole generations of families, young people on their own, groups of young adults, middle aged Noggin groupies and a great number of bookers, venue directors, producers and many other theatre and arts professionals … and occasionally drips of rain that crept in through the canvas roof and threatened to soak our projectors and us. We also had a number of reviewers that came in to see the play … and fortunately, they enjoyed it. We had some fabulous reviews, ★★★★ and ★★★★★ and, more important in a way, lots of people who had seen the show wanting to talk to us about it … and where can we buy the books, DVDs, and so on … the answer is at the bottom of this post, Dear Reader.

Nogs enjoy the Edinburgh Summer!

Nogs enjoy the Edinburgh Summer!

Our exciting and tiring sojourn in the land of whisky, theatre and rain eventually came to an end. We loaded up the Nogbulance and headed south and … home! This we called the “What Do We Do Now Stage”. It is hard trying to readapt to home life after a month of fun and nonsense (oh, and hard work). We debriefed … see a previous post . We rested. We moved on to other projects … and we started to create a National tour for the Autumn of 2015. We were incredibly fortunate to meet someone who wanted to support the play financially … and so we began to plot. In our heads, which are often slightly fuzzy at the best of times it has to be said, we were working towards an Autumn tour … then … the Brighton Festival came along and asked us if we would perform over the May Bank Holiday in the Theatre Royal Brighton. This we called the “Oh Blimey, May Stage” May didn’t quite fit into our plans but … the whole point of Edinburgh was to create a Noggin buzz and work for the Noggin team and here it was being offered to us on a plate … the “Plastic Money” investment was beginning to pay off. So, we cranked up the producers (Me and Tony) and tried to get the team back together again …. which we almost did except that Nick had prior engagements and so we asked another fine performer and all round good egg; Kevin James if he would like to become a Nog … and he said yes!

We had new costumes made. We had a new set built and painted (it was still wet during the final rehearsal). We had the Ice Dragon rebuilt (to make him taller and give him wings). We had a new Ronf, the little fellow from the Hot Water Valley, built. We re-imagined and re-rehearsed the whole of the second half of the play. We added a new song. We bought a new brighter (and therefore more expensive) Video Projector. We wanted two but that was too much for the bank to bear. We all turned up for a week in a rehearsal studio in North London and set to work. This we called the “Brighton Festival Stage”.

A naked prototype humanet of Ronf, the little man from the Hot Water Valley.

A naked prototype humanet of Ronf, the little man from the Hot Water Valley.

And now a note of sadness … (violins play) … THE NOGBULANCE IS NO MORE! Our trusty old ambulance that has transported the Nogs and all of their kit, has gone to the scrapyard in the sky! It wasn’t dramatic it just wound to a halt and made a strange strangled noise … which proved to be terminal. We managed to hire a van from Proteus Theatre in Basingstoke and transferred the set and props and said goodbye to a trusty old friend.

Nogbulance 2

The Nogbulances Final Resting Place … by the railway lines in Battle!

These things are sent to try us … and they did, try us, I mean. Losing your Nogbulance when you need to move all of your kit to Theatre Royal Brighton is very trying indeed … crikey, we said, and stamped our feet. But … we made it to Brighton. There will be another post shortly that will give more details of the last few days of rehearsal and our weekend by the sea in Brighton.

In the meantime … if you would like to purchase a book or a DVD, then follow the link.

http://www.dragons-friendly-society.co.uk/main.htm

 

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Zooming Towards Brighton … Slowly! Part 1

The road to Brighton (and beyond) has been a long one … and relatively slow, with lots of twists, turns, the odd blank road-sign and a surprisingly large amount of rain. For those who know nothing about our production of The Sagas of Noggin the Nog here is a bit of history; for those who do, a recap.

800px-Theatre_Royal_Brighton

The view that Noggin will have at Theatre Royal Brighton

 

 

In the lands of the North, where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long … Tony Gleave and Clive Holland sat and plotted. They talked of producing a piece of theatre that was genuinely for families, indeed, genuinely for the old and the young and everyone in between. Earlier in the day they had wandered along the beach in Margate and had become excited by the mention of Noggin the Nog. And now, with the odd bottle of beer and a salty snack, they talked long into the night.

Noggin the Nog enthrals the average British family

Noggin the Nog enthrals the average British family

A Noggin Note: The Sagas of Noggin the Nog was an iconic television series that began in the 1950s by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate (Bagpuss, The Clangers, Ivor the Engine, etc); it was shown on the BBC.

As the beer evaporated and the talk became more animated … they began to plot and plan. They met up with Peter Firmin and Dan Postgate (son of Oliver) and asked if they could have the rights to produce a play: yes … oh joy! They were fortunate to receive a small grant from Arts Council England and collected a coterie of creative people … designers, directors, puppeteers, musicians, actors and put them all in a room at the same time. This they called “The Research and Development Stage”. They spent almost two weeks getting nowhere … and a couple of days working out what they should have been doing in the days when they were getting nowhere.

John Wright wonders if jumping from a fifth storey window will improve matters.

John Wright wonders if jumping from a fifth storey window will improve matters.

By the end of “The Research and Development Stage” they had a good idea of how they were going to make the play. And so, some months later, with a two week run at The New Diorama, London, planned, and a short tour organised, “The Research and Development Stage” became “The Rehearsal stage”.

During “The Rehearsal Stage” puppets were designed and built, costumes created, music and songs written, video of the original films of Firmin and Postgate was created, a script developed and, eventually, a piece of theatre called “The Sagas of Noggin the Nog” was born. Oh, how happy they all were. A two week run at The New Diorama, was followed with a short tour of theatres large and arts centres small.

Dragon in Van

Groliffe the Ice Dragon gets the best seat in “The Nogbulance”

They bought an old ambulance to tour around the country like the travelling players of yore; it was very quickly renamed “The Nogbulance” (more of this later). They travelled north, south, east and west. They drank dreadful and outrageously expensive coffee, they had more curries than was wise, they slept in hard beds, soft beds, beds that were too small, beds that were as big as Wembley Stadium, they drank beer of every region and … they performed “The Play” to thousands of people young and old and everything in between. The tour was deemed, by all and sundry, a huge success. Venues loved it, audiences loved it, the media loved it, we loved it but … by the end of the tour and despite “The Play” being highly regarded, their bank account stood at forty-three pounds twenty-seven! “The Touring Stage” is terribly expensive and despite brilliant audience numbers (most venues sold out), they struggled to make it pay.

For those of you who are artists ... this is what money looks like

For those of you who are artists … this is what money looks like

All went quiet for a while. This they called “The Quiet Stage”. Tony Gleave and Clive Holland sat long into the night and ummed and aahed. They knew that the play was good. They knew that people wanted to see it. They knew that there must be a way to make it a viable proposition. They drank more beer. They ate more salty snacks. They went for a curry. They became quite depressed. They worked on other projects. Then … one day, Tony Gleave said to Clive Holland, “Why don’t we take it to the Edinburgh Festival?”

“Because it is terribly expensive and we only have forty-three pounds twenty-seven.”

“Yes … but we do have credit cards!”

Thus began the “We Have Found a Whole New Way to Lose Money Stage” otherwise known as the “Edinburgh Festival Stage Stage”.

They found a venue. They filled in the forms. They re-created the play to fit into a one hour slot. They had thousands of fliers and posters printed. They found somewhere to stay. They ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money. They went to Edinburgh. The first two days were beautiful sunshine. They had been lulled into a false sense of security. The rest of the month it rained. It was windy. And it rained. And it was cold. And it rained. And their venue was a tent! A beautiful theatre tent. A tent with a wooden floor. A tent with wooden walls. A tent with a canvas roof!

The wooden walled, wooden floored, canvas roofed but beautiful theatre tent

The wooden walled, wooden floored, canvas roofed beautiful theatre tent

They had arrived to discover that one of their boxes of leaflets had … disappeared, that their digs were not as large or as plush as they had been led to believe. They were happy though because they were at the “Edinburgh Festival Stage Stage” … and then the rain came.

As we are almost as far from Brighton as we can be and yet still be in the UK, there will be another post to continue the story. The next part of this post shall be intelligently called “Zooming Towards Brighton … Slowly! Part 2” and will appear soon … do pop back!