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!

 

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Noggin Goes To Brighton: Number 1

King Noggin It seems like such a long time since we last chatted … oh, looking back at the last post, it is quite a long time but never mind, I’m here now. A great number of things have happened since the last post (which in the Lands of the North is about 11 AM, actually, to be honest, we only have one post). For a start, Peter Firmin, he who drew the original cartoons of The Sagas of Noggin the Nog, as well as Ivor the Engine, the Clangers, Bagpuss, to name but a few, received a Special Award from Bafta on 23rd November 2014.

Peter Firmin

Peter Firmin

“The Special Award recognises an individual’s outstanding contribution to children’s media and the entertainment industry. This year, it will be presented by Bernard Cribbins OBE with a special introduction by Michael Palin CBE. Harvey Elliott, Chairman of BAFTA’s Children’s Committee, said: “Peter Firmin helped lay the foundations for the industry we see today, all from his small barn in Blean. His legacy is delighting and enchanting a whole new generation with the upcoming remake of family favourite The Clangers. Over the past 50 years, Peter’s work has thrilled, entertained and inspired generations of filmmakers and animators and he is more than deserving of the Special Award at this year’s British Academy Children’s Awards.”

Huge congratulations to Peter from all of us on The Sagas of Noggin the Nog theatre team.

Also, a brand new book by Four Corners Books, The Art of Smallfilms; The Work of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, Edited by Jonny Trunk and with an Introduction by Stewart Lee, was published last year … it is a beautiful book and definitely worth purchasing for your lonely coffee table.

Follow this link to take you to the Four Corners Books Website.

small films book cover 1Small Films Book 2

The other exciting news is that The Sagas of Noggin the Nog is going to be at the Theatre Royal Brighton as part of the Brighton Festival on the 23rd and 24th May 2015. You can follow the link below to take you to the Brighton Festival Website … where tickets may be purchased for a very small amount of local currency!

http://brightonfestival.org/event/5917/the_sagas_of_noggin_the_nog/

Further News … does it never stop! The Sagas of Noggin the Nog will be touring from October 2015 through to the spring of 2016 starting at Polka Theatre Wimbledon. I’ve popped a link down below to the Polka Theatre Website but we don’t appear on it yet as their What’s On guide only goes up to August but you can always save the link till nearer the time.

http://www.polkatheatre.com/index.php

In honour of performing in Brighton and the rest of the world (bits of it) we have done some serious work on the play. For a start we have remade the whole of the second half of the play, added a new song, created new costumes and all of the puppets have had a bit of a make-over … especially Groliffe the Ice Dragon.

Ronf the New Groliffe and Kevin 3

Groliffe has grown and Ronf, the little man from the Hot Water Valley has changed beyond recognition (at the moment he is quite, quite naked but I promise he will be clothed by the time we arrive in Brighton). Groliffe has new wings, is taller and, since this photograph was taken, has had a new operating mechanism fitted as well as a new paint job. It is all very exciting and, on top of that, we are extremely pleased with the new second half. So, even if you’ve already seen the play it is definitely worth a second or even third visit!

Hopefully we’ll see some of you at least at the Theatre Royal Brighton … be there or definitely be Un-Nogged!

Edinburgh Diary … number 5

★★★★★ Three Weeks

★★★★ The Independent

★★★★ The Stage

★★★★ The List

★★★★ Broadway Baby

Nogbad Spies

Nogbad the Bad searches for more 5★ reviews.

Below are links to various reviews:

http://www.threeweeks.co.uk/article/ed2014-childrens-show-review-the-sagas-of-noggin-the-nog-third-party-productions/

http://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/article/63205-the-sagas-of-noggin-the-nog/

http://www.thestage.co.uk/edinburgh-reviews/72826/the-sagas-of-noggin-the-nog/

http://www.broadwaybaby.com/shows/the-sagas-of-noggin-the-nog/701276

Can’t find a link to the independent review … so here’s a photo of it …

Independent Review

Alright, trumpet blowing complete.

What have we been up to since last we met?

Well, we have all, of course, been battling against the Edinburgh summer … and at times losing. I got trench foot from wearing damp socks, and snuffles and sniffles have been appearing due to the ridiculous summer clothing we brought into the arctic bluster of Edinburgh in August. Despite all that we have had a lovely time. We have seen theatre good and appalling, comedy funny and otherwise, dance of beauty and downright poor and we have all so far got a favourite. I’m not telling yet, it isn’t really fair!

I’ve had a few disappointments … waiting at Summerhall twenty five minutes for a ticket only to be told that that particular show is sold out … surely not difficult to write on a blackboard which shows are sold out so as not to force people to wait twenty-five minutes for a show that is sold out! I’ve listened to some great music; much of it free in the streets and there is, of course, a fabulous atmosphere in the city. I have seen unicyclists, jugglers, nurses, mimes, clowns, zombies, tarts and vicars, aliens and voca people … and that is whilst just popping for a coffee. I’ve walked a few hundred yards and been given a few hundred flyers … I’m always nice, I always take a flyer and usually have a chat with the flyerers … it is a fairly dispiriting task when no-one takes a flyer and so many people are just downright rude. The funniest ones though are the ones that pretend you are not there … they walk up to you, they can’t not have seen you and then just ignore you totally when you try to engage with them … they make I laugh!

I went to the circus last night … the NoFitState circus … unbelievable … incredible … do go and see it, it is a masterpiece of energy, skill, inventiveness and sheer brilliance in its design and conception … well worth a few of your coins of the realm! It is mesmerising!

Snogging the Snog: Noggin and Nooka of the Nooks.

Snogging the Snog: Noggin and Nooka of the Nooks.

The Sagas of Noggin the Nog is going from strength to strength … we have a great routine in setting up … we can do it in about twelve minutes … set/costumes/projectors/puppets, the lot. Not bad really and the getting out is even quicker!

For those people who have seen the show and are looking to book it into their venue or for their event … the play here in Edinburgh is slightly truncated … we had to fit it into an hour slot. The full length show is about 70 to 75 minutes and we play it with an interval of 15 to 20 minutes, so it is a full length play for families. 90 minutes in all.

I have read a lot of tosh about how Edinburgh is ruining touring theatre … of course it isn’t sillies! Every professional theatre company that tours regularly understands how theatre works … we know what venues want and we know what audiences want. To suggest that theatre companies aren’t clever enough to make a piece of theatre that plays at the Edinburgh Fringe and can then play to arts centres, theatres and other venues around the country, is very demeaning to those professional companies that have made their livings from touring … we know how it works … that is what we do, so please don’t be so condescending and superior to professional touring theatre. The very idea that Edinburgh is forcing companies to create shows that can only be performed at Edinburgh is quite, quite pathetic and could only have been suggested by someone who (excuse me for this) has their head up their own arses!

Anyway, mild rant over … we have a few more days left here in “sunny” Edinburgh, so don’t wait too long to book your ticket. See you in George Square Gardens at 12.50 every day!

Kickstart-ering Our Way to Edinburgh!

You can help Noggin the Nog by clicking here!

 If you click on the link above it will take you to our Kickstarter Campaign page.

It’s always good to get the “ask” in early, I say. We have calculated that it is going to cost in excess of £16,000 to take Noggin up to the Edinburgh Festival. We have raised £12,000. We have a shortfall of £4,000. If you can help; anything from £1 to … well … £4,000 would be incredible. It will enable us to take Noggin to Edinburgh and beyond.

The Edinburgh Festival is the biggest shop-window in the world for performance. The Sagas of Noggin the Nog has to be there: we have to show our work to Promoters, the Press and New Audiences in order to spread the word!

The Ice Dragon Cometh

The Ice Dragon Cometh

Silly Vikings, Live Music, Puppets and Video Projections taken from the original 1959 film, The Sagas of Noggin the Nog is a feast for the eyes, ears … and occasionally the nose (sorry about that).

“Clever, witty and entrancing … unquestionably a hit”.

As we toured the show last year we were pleasantly surprised by the audience reaction. We knew the show was good but we were not expecting the sheer volume of “brilliants”, “amazings” and “wonderfuls” that we received from the audience and indeed the press.

“Utterly brilliant show – couldn’t praise it highly enough, so thank you very, very much!”

“That was brilliant. I wish all my friends could see it.”

We know that this “delightful, gentle and inventive show” has to be seen by more people. It is a play that crosses the generation boundary. We performed to 4 and 94 years olds. Children who had never heard of Noggin the Nog were spellbound and from e mails that we have received from many parents, their offspring are creating their own Noggin adventures at home and in school. We have also received lots of enquiries about the Noggin books and DVDs. If you look up and to the right you’ll see a link to The Dragon’s Friendly Society … click on that and you’ll find all kinds of goodies you can buy; including books and DVDs.

170px-Wfm_lewis_chessmen Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate created The Sagas of Noggin the Nog back in the late fifties. Peter, the        artist, saw the Lewis Chess Pieces at the British Museum and they became the inspiration for the stories.

The stories were told at a slower and less frenetic pace than most TV is now. Initially this worried us a little: what if the modern audience gets bored at the gentler style of storytelling?

“What a spellbinding and magical show we enjoyed at Ilfracombe today! A truly lovely experience!”

“Today we went to see Noggin the Nog at Lighthouse in Poole. It was absolutely brilliant and very funny… if the tour is coming to a theatre near you then you should see it!”

“Just as another chorus of “when will it start” is about to begin – BOOM! Two little spines stiffen and heads whiz around to face front, craning to see. A drummer steps from behind the deceptively simple, but effective and versatile, set. My two little boys are transfixed and remain so for the duration of the performance.”

We needn’t have worried. It seems that the style and the pace of the production is just right even for modern audiences who are used to seeing TV and Films that hurtle and rush and cut from one scene to another with increasing rapidity.

“In the Lands of the North where the black rocks stand guards against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long, the Men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires; and they tell a tale …”

So, if you are in Edinburgh for this years festival, do come and see us and say hello and if not … watch out for a new tour coming to a venue near you, next year.