Why Noggin the Nog?

Noggin the Nog enthrals the average British family

Noggin the Nog enthrals the average British family

The Sagas of Noggin the Nog were first shown on British television in 1959. It was made by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate. They also made Pogle’s Wood, Ivor the Engine, Bagpuss, the Clangers and loads of others: the stuff that many childhoods were made of. The films were made in less frenetic times. The stories were beautifully crafted and the characters carefully drawn … but the films were also quite, quite mad! Vikings who appear to come from Surbiton, who are constantly stopping for tea and toast, who will go on any adventure at the drop of a hat. And what adventures! Travelling to the other ends of the earth to meet a possible bride. Travelling to the Hot Water Valley to do battle with an Ice Dragon that is ruining the farmer’s crops. There was a Goon-ish silliness about the tales. It was these qualities that attracted us to the Sagas and made us want to create a piece of theatre that would do justice to the marvellous nonsense of Firmin and Postgate.

Queen Grunhilde the Lazy One and her maid, Ignora!

Queen Grunhilde the Lazy One and her maid, Ignora!

The stories feel utterly modern though laced with the sensibilities of gentler times. When we came to make the play we referenced the Goons, Monty Python and cartoons that adorned our telly screens … Tom and Jerry, Road Runner and even Scooby Doo and Danger Mouse. The resulting piece of theatre is Pythonesque in its clever silliness, Goon-ish in its character driven narrative, cartoonish in its “feel” and Firmin and Postgate-ish in its attitudes.

“The Nogs are a charmingly mild-mannered bunch of Vikings. They sound a bit like Terry Jones, they look a bit like him too. Except for Noggin. Noggin the Nog, their young leader, is handsome in a Viking sort of way. From my seat in the audience I was almost picked to marry him. But Noggin decided on the Princess of the Nooks instead. They bonded over cocoa and hot buttered toast.
Buttered toast is very important to the Nogs. There’s no threat so desperate, be it storm-lashed seas or marauding dragons, that they can’t stop to make toast round the sine qua non of Viking icoNOGraphy: a glowing camp fire.
The first ever stage production of Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate’s much loved television series retains the homespun, low-tech aesthetic of the original without looking in any way amateurish.
While much of the low-key humour derives from the sort of knowledge of the series which belongs to the older members of the audience, there’s still plenty of fun for the younger ones. It’s a close call as to who enjoys it more, the children or their grandparents.
An expertly acted, beautifully realised stage play with the warm charm of a bedtime story.”

Amanda Kriek’s ★★★★ review for The Independent

I have reprinted this because it sort of bears out what I was getting at.

RWD15_Noggin The Nog_Dragon PNG

The Sagas of Noggin the Nog play is a fairly gentle madcap dash with live music, created on an old and charming harmonium, high-tech projection of Peter Firmin’s original drawings, beautiful puppets both small and, in the case of the dragon, blooming big, some clever theatrical tricks and a cast of Vikings that always appear to get through to the end of the play despite much giddy recklessness and a terribly English absurdity en route.

Nostalgia is often levelled at the play and, of course, the play is based on a 1959 stop motion film, so there is a nostalgic feel to the piece but it is also very much a modern play. It does the play a dis-service to think of it as purely nostalgic. The play is truly cross-generational (I hate that phrase, it sort of puts the play into a pigeon hole that is so big you could get a Giant Bustard in it) … it has been performed to people from babes in arms to much more elderly people (87 years old I seem to remember in one audience). And is enjoyed by all … everyone says that, I know but it really is true of Noggin the Nog. The play is sort of “panto-esque” (not my phrase) but only in the sense that it has a baddy, a few songs, is funny and has a sort of Dame in Queen Grunhilde … but it differs in that it does not have one section for children, dirty smutty innuendos for adults and an inapposite modern pop song for the fairy tale character to “get down” to … the stories and the way we portray them are genuinely accessible and can be understood and often laughed at by all.

So … come and see it.

Follow this link to find out where and when.

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Noggin is on the road again …

Oh no, not again ... I get van sick!

Oh no, not again … I get van sick!

So, the intrepid Nogs once again take to the road. It is just a short tour this time but we do pack quite a few shows in. From Wimbledon to Buxton to Hull to Peterborough and then next year (if we aren’t too old by then) we head to who knows where! So if you are anywhere near any of the places mentioned above (or even if you are not, it is well worth travelling for) come and say hello!

It has been a long time since we Nogs got together to perform at the Brighton Festival: which was, by the way, absolutely fabulous fun and with a real festival feel to it.

We will be starting this new excursion into the vast interior of the United Kingdom in the wonderful Polka Theatre (For dates and times follow the link at the bottom of the page)and then we travel North, then norther and then a tad southerly, all to bring the wonderful stories of Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate (They of The Clangers, Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine fame to name but a few) to a wider audience of families, children, adults who haven’t yet grown up, nostalgia groupies and those interested and excited by a “pythonesque” play about a bunch of Vikings! In other words; more or less everybody. Even if you weren’t raised on the slightly bizarre stories and the wonderfully hypnotic voice of Oliver Postgate I promise you will enjoy the show.

We had huge audiences, a number of 5 and 4 ★ reviews from the National press and some wonderful conversations with whole generations of families last year at the Edinburgh Festival. The Sagas of Noggin the Nog is a genuine family show, so bring the children, bring grandma and grandpa and great grandma and grandpa and great, great grandma and grandpa and … you get the idea.

The play is based on the first two stories that were first shown on the BBC in 1959 and 1960; How Noggin became King of the Nogs and The Ice Dragon. We use live action, live music, puppets, video projection and a great deal of humour to tell these wonderful tales and although Oliver Postgate is not still with us, Peter Firmin, the artist who created the visuals is, and he and Daniel Postgate (Oliver’s son) are great supporters of the show and both laughed “like drains” at the performances at the Theatre Royal Brighton.

So, see you there!

Follow this link to take you to the Nog Log.

 

 

 

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

 

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!

Post Edinburgh Debrief … number 1.

We’ve been debriefing …

Debriefing 1

… following our truly successful and incredibly tiring trip to the Edinburgh Festival we, the intrepid band of Nogs, have been debriefing to discover what we did, what we failed to do, whether we achieved what we wanted to achieve and, most importantly, where we go next!

For all those of you who helped us financially on our Kickstarter campaign, all those who came to see the show, those who sent messages of support, those who helped in various other ways, we have decided … we have enough possible/probable and improbable venues who want to book the show, that we’re touring next year! Huzzah! So thank you all!

Dragon in Van

Groliffe, the charming and slightly scary Ice Dragon will once again have to be coaxed into the van, as will the aged (well, three aged and one still young enough to be moist from the womb) performers, who, with aching limbs, loose skin and morals to match will moan and grumble about the price of service station coffee, the price of diesel, the price of … well, just about everything but … into the van they will get.

There is, of course, a huge amount of work to do before then. Putting together a tour is not an easy thing; for a start, everyone seems to want the same dates, and those who don’t, want dates next to another venue that is the other end of the country. We have to try and avoid the alphabetical tour: Monday Aberdeen, Tuesday Brighton, Wednesday Carlisle, Thursday Devizes … you get the picture. And then there are some venues that really, really, really want us but because they have a small seating capacity, they can’t afford us. We also have to make sure that the prime times, which with a family show, seem to be half term and weekends … that we are in the bigger venues where more people can get to see it; apart from anything else it makes financial sense for us.

Lighthouse Stage 1

Places like the Lighthouse Theatre, Poole, for instance has hundreds of seats, and when we were there last year, we filled quite a lot of them; this meant a good income for the theatre and for us too. It is so ridiculously expensive to tour these days. I don’t want to bore you but … five people on the road equals five wages, five sets of per deums, five hotel rooms … and then there’s the aforementioned diesel, the print runs of posters, flyers, programmes, and the insurance, the photographer, the venue booker, the PR, the … the … the … it goes on and on. So, in order to put together a tour, we have to be clever (not normally our strong suit), we have to be able to drive a hard bargain (again, we’re too nice), we have to be able to turn bookings down (really, really not easy when you’ve spent your whole life trying to get the ruddy things), we have to be grown-up and businesslike …

ThorNogson and Noggin

ThorNogson and Noggin

… do they appear to be grown-up businesslike to you?

Well, actually we are … though we do have a tendency to fall back to our default setting which is … “you can’t afford it? Never mind … we’ll see what we can do …” which usually ends up that we take a bit of a financial hit but the show is so important to us, that we want everyone who wants to see it, see it! And money is only money!

Money

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

So, watch this space over the coming months and we’ll keep you up to date with how the preliminary work (sounds exciting, doesn’t it) is coming along and as soon as we have definite dates and venues all booked in we’ll put that up too!

 

 

 

 

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!

Edinburgh Diary Number … 4

Nogs in the Rain 1

There is a bit of a theme here as you can see … the theme is moisture … quite cold moisture coming from the sky! And quite a lot of it!

Yesterday (Sunday 10th August) there was a huge amount of it; it seeped down necks, into shoes and up careless sleeves. Just as we were about to do our get-in for todays show, which we have to do in about fifteen minutes, the heavens opened, the sky cracked and the thunder thundered. Loudly! We splashed through water with barrels and boxes, puppets and props. We paddled across the stage and slipped and skidded like swans on an ice covered lake as we tried to lift the main part of our set. There was a waterfall coming through the centre of the roof … just where we put one of our two projectors. A message was sent and received and within two minutes two of the Assembly team turned up with a ladder (we had the same problem a few days ago which I think I’ mentioned in the Edinburgh Diary a while ago). One of the team shinned up a ridiculously tall ladder and armed with bits of material and gaffer tape, staunched the flow. The space was mopped, the projectors set and turned on and in came the audience.

It is a funny thing when there is a bit of a panic: a Dunkirk spirit seems to enter all involved. The first two minutes of the performance were quite difficult because of the unbelievable noise coming from the roof of the tent. The tent has wooden sides, a wooden floor and a canvas roof with a little dome on the top which acts as a vent to let hot air escape … it also, apparently, lets in wind blown water. The canvas roof performs a little like a drum … with us and the audience sitting inside it. So the first few minutes of the play sounded as though three hundred Ginger Bakers were belting away at a snare-drum. We talked very loudly and added a few little jokes in about the noise, water, etc. The audience, which was a remarkably large audience for such a miserable day, hunkered down in their seats and decided to go with us and enjoy whatever happened next.

Nogbad Spies

Nogbad the Bad looks for where the next wave of rain will come from!

Monday … we had a day off. The first for a few weeks. I had intended to do all sorts of things … I did nothing but read a book, watch a black and white film or two, doze and eat. I was a tired bunny and the weather wasn’t that conducive to going out and having fun. It was the first time in weeks that I’ve managed to have a really lazy day. I did, after a couple of small glasses of beer at The Caley Sample Room, start to think about theatre, other projects, re-inventing one’s self, searching for new audiences, finding new ways of doing things, and on and on … this is, I think, one of the exciting things about coming to the Edinburgh Fringe. There are so many people up here doing great things that it makes you want to create new work, and little conversations here and odd visual stimuli there begin to get your creative juices flowing and, more importantly, make you question your own methods and ways of working. All kinds of new thoughts came rushing in … these are still going round and round my head today.

Tuesday 12th August … funnily it rained again today … and the wind blew but still we had a lovely and quite big audience, which for a wet Tuesday was very pleasing. Tony and I then went to a discussion about touring theatre for young people internationally at the Summerhall venue. It was interesting though I’m not sure I learned a great deal that was new … but it was great to meet other practitioners and talk about each others work over a glass or two. So thank you to all at Imaginate and the others on the discussion panel.

Tomorrow is another day … and another wet day I suspect, though it has been promised that the rain will be warmer tomorrow!