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Making Theatre

Making Theatre

By James Farncombe and Bruno Poet

Lighting Designers James Farncombe and Bruno Poet host conversations about the complex and sometimes messy business of making a show for theatre. We aim to draw in guests from all aspects of production; from directors and designers to actors, stage managers, technicians, makers, builders and producers, to start a broader conversation about all things involved in bringing a show to the stage.
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Currently playing episode

Tamykha Patterson - Assistant Lighting Designer and Lighting Programmer

Making Theatre

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Angie Bual - Theatre Without Walls.
Angie Bual - Theatre Without Walls.
This time, we leave behind the warm, dry confines of the conventional theatre space and head outside for an inspiring conversation with Angie Bual, creative director of Trigger, a company based in the south west of England, who create and produce bold live and digital events, often on a large-scale and often outdoors. With obsessions that range from dragons to upholstery via horticulture and kite-flying, Angie is a brave and compassionate artist, who can talk millions of pounds of funding into existence and makes ambitious theatre without walls. We hear about her remarkable journey from a bespoke performance for a house-bound pensioner in a Glasgow tenement, to the hatching of a dragon the size of a double decker bus on the Plymouth Hoe in front of 30,000 people…
54:55
November 26, 2022
Sarah Nixon and Mark Chatterton - Making Pantomime
Sarah Nixon and Mark Chatterton - Making Pantomime
This time we talk to Sarah and Mark about their extensive experience writing and directing pantomime.  Their own particular brand of raucous rock-n-roll panto has been seen for 19 consecutive years at the Liverpool Everyman, during which time,  along side their multi-talented cast of actor-musicians,  they have built a loyal and lively audience. We hear about their unique approach to developing the script, the true intent of the Flowerpot Men, managing the hazards of magic hair, and getting into a panto frame of mind on a beach in mid August. They also talk frankly about the precarious nature  of being a freelancer, but despite having made ther last panto for the Everyman, and facing an uncertain year, rest assured;  it might well be behind you, but it's most certainly not behind them..
46:08
October 21, 2022
James Farncombe - Lighting for Opera
James Farncombe - Lighting for Opera
For this episode, Bruno adjusts pan and tilt to catch James squarely in the spotlight and focus on his career, and in particular his experience lighting opera.  We discuss the idiosyncrasies of working in this medium, and how it differs from lighting theatre.  We talk about how we respond to music with light, the rewards of getting to know a piece of music intimately, and how having a band in the room always seems to improve things.  We also explore the nature of the 'rep' system and the challenges of making work in some of the biggest repertory opera houses in the world, such as the Royal Opera House in London and the Metropolitan in New York.  While we wait for maestro to finish tinkering with the overture, we also reveal a little of the life we lead on the road, and unpack the secrets of James's kitchen bag...
01:13:03
September 05, 2022
Michael Dennis - Company Stage Manager and Touring
Michael Dennis - Company Stage Manager and Touring
This time we are talking to Michael Dennis about his career as company stage manager, and his extensive experience of touring theatre at all scales.  We hear about the daily minutiae of managing an acting company, the challenges of making sure everyone feels listened to, and how the CSM is never really fully off duty. We discuss touring theatre in the UK, and the rich and invaluable experience it represents. We also undo years of therapy by reminiscing about theatrical digs... 
01:04:15
August 22, 2022
Kate Pakenham - Producer
Kate Pakenham - Producer
This time we are talking to Kate Pakenham, an independent producer with a passion for theatre, and a drive to make work with a strong social purpose. We learn how each show can be compared to a mini start-up, and how producing, even when you can line some things up, is always a leap of faith. We discover that a trip to Pret can be surprisingly lucrative, but also that where and who the money comes from can be just as important as the money itself. We hear about when to be in the room, when not to be, and a sage piece of parental advice; when in doubt, make people tea.
01:00:01
July 29, 2022
Lauren Stroud - Swing
Lauren Stroud - Swing
We kick off season two by inviting you to the secret world of the west end swing. We discover what happens when a member of an ensemble or a principle cast is off sick, and uncover the remarkable feat of behind-the-scenes organisation that takes place to ensure the show still goes on. We learn about tracks, split tracks, cut shows, a curious condition called ‘swing eye’, the difference between swings and understudies and why 4pm is zero hour. Above all, we learn just how motivated and downright talented you have to be to cut it as a west end swing…
01:02:18
July 15, 2022
Parish Notices
Parish Notices
Bruno and James take a moment to have a cuppa and say thank you to the Making Theatre Podcast listeners. 
05:28
September 09, 2021
Bernie Davis - TV Lighting Director
Bernie Davis - TV Lighting Director
This time we talk to Bernie Davis, the veteran television lighting director, about a subject increasingly apposite to our own work; adapting stage lighting for television and online broadcast.  Bernie is responsible for numerous NT Live and Royal Opera House broadcasts, alongside his work on countless television productions (including a fair number of Royal Weddings), and we discuss the difference between the camera and the eye, how we should now be considering the audience at home alongside the punters in the stalls, and how advances in technology have provided us with a multitude of ways to get it all wrong...
01:01:24
August 24, 2021
Prasanna Puwanarajah - Actor, Director, Writer
Prasanna Puwanarajah - Actor, Director, Writer
Prasanna Puwanarajah is an actor, director and writer, working across theatre, film and television. He also happens to be a fully trained medical doctor..who is also writing a graphic novel. We thought someone with so many different hats might be well placed to offer a unique perspective on the experience of making theatre, and he doesn’t disappoint. From the solitary life of the writer, to the first flag in the ground at the beginning of rehearsals, through to the joys of tech, this time viewed from both sides of the footlights, we embrace the unknowable...and also discover that you’re not really wet until your pants are wet.
01:14:13
June 12, 2021
Lee Batty - Technical Director, The Really Useful Group
Lee Batty - Technical Director, The Really Useful Group
In this episode we talk to the technical director of the Really Useful Group, Lee Batty. We hear how a supportive family and some key advice from a trusted teacher played a pivotal role in setting Lee on his path. From childhood in a Yorkshire mining community, and an inspirational sixth form college, to life as a touring ASM charting a steep learning curve, who now turns left on the plane, with responsibility for an eye watering number of large scale musical productions all over the world. We discuss the pros and cons of going to drama school versus an informal apprenticeship and learning ‘on the job’.  We also discover that you can never be sure what you might find hidden away on an abandoned airstrip, and that there might be something good in the water in Barnsley.  Just don't mention the tech...
51:53
May 05, 2021
Ben Ormerod - Lighting Designer
Ben Ormerod - Lighting Designer
We return to our comfort zone of lighting and have an insightful discussion with Ben Ormerod, who gives us the best explanation we have ever heard about what a lighting designer does. Ben has thought deeply about his art and developed it over many years of practice and we enjoy a conversation covering everything from his approach to design to how to how Ben’s career began. We learn to avoid clown vomit, to be careful around sleeping giants and discover that footlights are like fried onions and garlic.
01:12:17
April 21, 2021
Clare Vidal-Hall and Amy Markatis - Agents
Clare Vidal-Hall and Amy Markatis - Agents
In Episode 19, we talk to our agents Clare Vidal-Hall and Amy Markatis of Clare Vidal-Hall Management.  We discuss their routes into the industry, negotiating with producers and why representation is necessary, not just to secure the best deals and unpick the legalese, but to provide emotional and moral support when all hell is breaking loose onstage. We also learn that a stint as a followspot operator, a stage manager, a secretary and the occasional glass of bubbly at the Ritz makes for a good agent, and that if you want the best job in the world, you'd best have a healthy capacity for nights out at the theatre and Espresso Martinis - and still be able to catch the early flight home. 
01:07:21
April 02, 2021
Lizzie Frankl - Props Supervisor
Lizzie Frankl - Props Supervisor
In Episode 18 we discuss all things props with Lizzie Frankl, props supervisor and director of Propworks, who clearly loves her job and the people she works with.  We learn that research, organisation and creativity is key, the feel of a prop can be as important as its look, and that it is vital to have a fascination for detail. It can take quite a team to get a prop from a rehearsal note to the stage, and the most likely place to find them (and their mobile workshop) is in the bar.
01:04:10
February 22, 2021
Sarah Bowern - Costume Supervisor
Sarah Bowern - Costume Supervisor
In episode 17, we talk to award winning costume supervisor and deputy head of wardrobe at English National Opera, Sarah Bowern.  We quickly find out there is a whole lot more to the wardrobe department than just pins and needles, including a host of diplomacy skills, an unusual use for the pavement outside stage door, and an unexpected parallel with Sigourney Weaver. We unearth some of the dark secrets of the quick change, discover that the ENO has more 'livestock' than the average farm, and learn that having a mild breakdown isn’t always a bad thing. 
58:11
February 10, 2021
Tamsin Greig - Actor
Tamsin Greig - Actor
In Episode 16, Tamsin Greig joins us for a fascinating conversation about making theatre from the actor’s perspective. We talk about dogs, candles, trampolining, lip balm, her love of a dressing room and how every production needs an “introducer.” We discuss better communication across the footlights and the thrill of looking into the abyss. We hear about emotional and mental focus, seeking authenticity, and the danger of joking about nipple tassels in a rehearsal.
01:10:32
January 29, 2021
Bruno Poet - Lighting Designer
Bruno Poet - Lighting Designer
For this episode, due to popular demand, James points the spotlight squarely at Bruno, as we shift the focus onto his career and his experience lighting Tina - The Musical.  We talk about the development of the show along side Bruno’s own journey to becoming a successful LD.  We discuss the army of highly skilled theatre practitioners that work along side us, why having a decent desk and comfortable chair is all we really want, and attempt to answer an enduring conundrum once and for all; pudding or cheese?
01:11:56
January 12, 2021
Igor - Production Manager
Igor - Production Manager
In Episode 14 we talk to Igor, a freelance production manager with numerous impressive credits to his name, a penchant for musicals and a surprising line in horse impersonations.  We learn about the parallels between managing a production and parenting, that trying to juggle too many eggs is a bad idea and that the most hazardous moments onstage are not when you might expect.
01:26:58
December 17, 2020
Jo Hornsby & Anna Cole - The National Theatre Planning Office
Jo Hornsby & Anna Cole - The National Theatre Planning Office
In this episode, we talk to Jo Hornsby and Anna Cole of the National Theatre Planning Office.  We talk about their respective paths through the theatre industry and reflect upon the abiding questions of work/life balance, diversity and the challenges of running a theatre in the COVID era.  We discover how shows are planned months and even years in advance, how creative teams are assembled and why Saturday morning rehearsals might be a thing of the past.  And it transpires that, although managing a site as large and demanding as the National involves a great many spinning plates, the key is a modest, plastic ruler...
01:05:59
November 24, 2020
Lyn Gardner - Journalist, Author and Theatre Critic
Lyn Gardner - Journalist, Author and Theatre Critic
In Episode 12 we meet Lyn Gardner. She talks to us about her life as a journalist and critic, and how her career began. We discuss using a notebook, overnight reviews,  going to the theatre 5 nights a week for decades,  the joy of a production that exceeds your expectations,  and how star ratings should only be applied to white goods. We consider the crisis theatre is facing, the plight of freelancers,  how funding can make a real difference,  and optimism for the future. We learn that it's possible to both applaud and do a quick exit before the crush, and remember that we should always check the sight lines from the aisle seats. This episode was recorded just before the DCMS announced how the COVID rescue package funds would be allocated. 
01:16:46
November 03, 2020
Prema Mehta - Lighting Designer and Founder of Stage Sight
Prema Mehta - Lighting Designer and Founder of Stage Sight
In Episode 11 we speak to Prema Mehta, freelance lighting designer and founder of Stage Sight. We discuss the influence of drama teachers, getting the lighting bug, how to survive while lighting for the fringe, the excitement and nervousness of the blank page, stage management, the tech, the joy of lighting design, technology, teams and lighting shows with only candles. Prema also tells us about her vision to create an off stage workforce that is more reflective of our society today, inclusive of ethnicity, class and disability.
01:10:10
October 22, 2020
Kate Waters - Fight Director
Kate Waters - Fight Director
In Episode 10 we talk to Fight Director Kate Waters, also known as Kombat Kate.  We discuss her beginnings and how to become a fight director.  We learn that it's all about the storytelling and it involves choreography, music, timing, misdirection, managing adrenaline, collaboration and trust.  We also talk about Kate's work on the Freelance task Force. We decide that we will be standing behind Kate if it all gets a bit out of hand,  and find out whether James could throw a convincing punch. 
01:00:14
October 06, 2020
Jeannette Nelson - Voice Coach
Jeannette Nelson - Voice Coach
In episode 9 we have a very enjoyable conversation with Jeannette, and learn so much. She started in theatre as a soubrette and dancer, touring the worldwide, before moving into voice work.  As well as voice and dialect coaching on innumerable West End,  Film and Television productions, she has been resident voice coach at Shakespeare's Globe, The RSC and Sydney Theatre, and is now Head of Voice at the National Theatre.  She tells us about  vocal technique, collecting dialects,  how to be heard from the back of the circle and how speaking is a physical activity.  We discuss whether you need to be seen to be heard, warm ups, microphones, that there will always be a place for Shakespeare, and how we all sound better if we sit up straight and put both feet firmly on the floor. 
01:07:07
September 18, 2020
Ola Ince - Director
Ola Ince - Director
Episode 8 - Acclaimed director and dramaturg Ola Ince joins us for an insightful conversation about life as a director: responsibility, origins, auditions, rehearsals, working with the creative team, taking and giving notes, managing opinions, finding solutions, starting with a smell, the pressure of being in charge, and the power of an actioning book.
01:17:55
August 19, 2020
Luke Halls - Video and Projection Designer
Luke Halls - Video and Projection Designer
In Episode 7 we discuss working with moving images across theatre, opera, music, fashion and art, employing a full time team,  collaboration, painting with pixels, breakfast - and the power of the ‘don’t do that’ mood board.
01:04:38
August 04, 2020
Chris Shutt, Sound Designer
Chris Shutt, Sound Designer
Award winning sound designer Chris Shutt talks to us in detail about his punk origins, his design process, the witchcraft that is underscoring, the subtleties of amplified sound, Tom Waits, Warhorse, and how it would all be much better if we just sat closer together in the tech.
01:17:11
July 23, 2020
Tamykha Patterson - Assistant Lighting Designer and Lighting Programmer
Tamykha Patterson - Assistant Lighting Designer and Lighting Programmer
In this episode we have an inspiring conversation with Tamykha Patterson, whose remarkable passion, drive and tenacity is something of a masterclass in how to go about getting a career in theatre.
53:08
July 14, 2020
Vicki Mortimer - Designer
Vicki Mortimer - Designer
In Episode 4 we talk to renowned set and costume designer Vicki Mortimer, known for her work designing theatre and opera productions worldwide, and recently for helping to organise both the Freelancers Make Theatre work and SceneChange campaigns.  We discuss her design process, collaboration, the joy of a beautiful scale model, our fascination with designers studios and how nothing makes sense without costumes. 
01:22:19
July 07, 2020
Hetti Curtis and Laura Wilson - Stage Managers
Hetti Curtis and Laura Wilson - Stage Managers
In episode 3 we speak to extraordinary stage managers Hetti Curtis and Laura Wilson, known for their work on many productions, including Julius Caesar and Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Bridge Theatre. Stage Managers are central and crucial to any show, yet are often invisible to the public. We really enjoyed talking to these unsung heroes of the stage.
49:36
June 30, 2020
Chloe Lamford - Set Designer
Chloe Lamford - Set Designer
Today we are talking to one of the most influential and sought after designers of her generation, Chloe Lamford www.chloelamford.com
01:09:21
June 23, 2020
Freelancers Make Theatre Work
Freelancers Make Theatre Work
Bruno and James talk to Adele Thomas, Chino Odimba and Neil Austin about Freelancers Make Theatre Work - a collective voice to advocate for the UK theatre freelance workforce.  www.freelancersmaketheatrework.com
56:43
June 23, 2020