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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.