Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Octonauts Live

A show based upon the popular CBeebies TV show Octonauts is currently touring the UK. We're going to see it at the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft this weekend. 
For tour information please go to: www.octonautslive.co.uk

In Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure the entire crew of the Octonauts, led by intrepid explorer Captain Barnacles, Lieutenant Kwazii and Medic Peso, embark on an exciting new underwater quest and visit amazing underwater worlds full of adventure, with surprises around every corner. This action-packed interactive show features new music (from BAFTA-award winning composer Mani Svavarsson) and all the Octonauts live on stage for the very first time.

Richard Lewis adapts and directs this new production for the stage. He also adapted and directed the hugely popular three Peppa Pig stage shows and last year’s Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom tour. Matt Lewis is lyricist, Simon Scullion is designer, Matt Haskins is lighting designer and Ian Horrocks Taylor is sound designer.

Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure is produced by live children’s show supremos Fiery Light (joint venture by Fiery Angel and Limelight Productions), the team also behind the recent tours of the three successful Peppa Pig stage shows. Their most recent – Peppa Pig’s Big Splash - is currently on tour. It has broken box office records for a pre-school show and will return to the West End for fifth consecutive Christmas season at the Criterion Theatre this year. Other Fiery Light productions include the recent tour of Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, LazyTown Live! and Roald Dahl’s The BFG.

Director/adapter Richard Lewis said: ‘Octonauts is all about adventure and exploration which offers up a whole host of possibilities in a live environment. From the colourful characters and fantastic underwater setting to the amazing octopod where the Octonauts live, there’s great scope for a really unique, interactive theatre experience. We can’t wait to take fans on an adventure like never before.’

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Shrek The Musical- A chat with Dean Chisnall

When you are a West End and touring performer, there are a list of different parts you may aspire to.
But is it a 6ft 5in green-faced ogre a dream part? Well, it certainly is for Dean Chisnall who is taking on the role of Shrek in the smash-hit UK tour which is heading to Norwich Theatre Royal.

Prior to donning the costume and persona of the grumpy ogre who finds the true meaning of friendship and love, John Bultitude caught up with Dean to find out what it is like playing a character beloved by millions.

There is no doubting the dedication that Dean Chisnall has when it comes to playing Shrek in the lavish larger-than-life musical based on the hit animation.

It takes him around two-and-a-half hours to transform himself into the green-faced grump with a heart of gold and he loves every minute of being part of one of the biggest shows on the touring circuit.

Having a part in the show touring the UK is a far cry from his early life growing up in a village a few miles from Ormskirk in Lancashire. “I’ve really got no idea how I got into this business. When you are growing up in Lancashire, one of the popular things to do was pantomime with the local village group. I did a bit of singing but nothing that I ever thought would lead to a career,” said Dean.

But his flair for performing led him to London and he was fortunate enough to win a place at the prestigious Arts Ed School in Chiswick. His career continued on an upward trajectory as he was offered a part in the ensemble of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Woman In White before he had even finished drama school, which was an enviable position to be in. As Dean said, “Getting into the ensemble of a West End show for your first job is success in itself. Just working in this industry can be classed as success.”

From there, he moved on to Evita and then he took on the ‘Gary Barlow character’ in the Take That musical Never Forget which was a role he really enjoyed, but for the last four-plus years, Shrek has been a big part of his life. He originally joined the West End cast in March 2011 doing 12 months as understudy before taking on the lead role a year later. After a short break, he was then back with the show on tour.

And, as well as the singing and dancing, one of the most intense parts of the show is that long period in the make-up chair before the curtain goes up on each show. Dean explained: “Shrek has the most detailed make up in musical theatre history, even more so than The Phantom of the Opera. At first, it is a bit freaky. It is daunting but you eventually just zone out and the make up just becomes part of the process. The fact is that I start work about two and a half hours before curtain up and I don’t finish until 10pm.

“After the show, by the time I have got from my dressing room to the stage, I have ripped the entire face and head off because it comes off quickly enough. The makeup girls take off the gluey and gunky bits which take about 20 minutes. It is such a relief especially on a two show day because it all has to stay on from 11am until 10pm.

“It is quite claustrophobic when you first put it on. The only thing that is still you, once the process is completed, is your eyeballs and your lips. Every other part of your skin is covered in the silicon. You feel very detached from the world. If you think about it too much, it becomes very scary.”

With the show taking to the stage at Norwich Theatre Royal on June 9-28, the hot summer weather (if the city is graced by any) could make Dean’s temperature rise inside the costume and under the silicon mask, but he is prepared. “We opened this tour on the hottest week of the year in 2014 right in the middle of a heatwave. You can’t take the head off in the interval or the costume off because it takes too long. I drink about 8 litres of water during the show alone. That gives an idea of how hot it is. It can be even more than that in the summer.

“It isn’t remotely glamorous but it is a really nice job to have. I know thousands of people who would want to do it and I am very fortunate to have it. I remind myself of that on a day when it is very hot.”
While Shrek is beloved by a young audience, Dean said the broad appeal of the show is also strong with people from eight to eighty all enjoying it. “Everyone can relate to it. Even my grandparents know what it is. They have great grandchildren so they know what it is about.

“Everybody also knows deep down that Shrek is a good soul. It is a love story at the end of the day.”
If you haven’t booked yet, come along to enjoy a true West End spectacle and the chance to enjoy a feel-good story, whatever your age.

Photo credit: Norwich Theatre Royal


Shrek The Musical, Tuesday 9-Sunday 28 June. Performances on Tuesday-Friday at 7pm, Saturday at 2.30pm and 7pm, and Sunday at 1pm and 5pm EXCEPT Thursday 25 June at 2.30pm only and Sunday 28 June at 1pm only. Please note there are no Monday performances. Tickets £8-£45. Discounts for Friends, Corporate Club, Over-60s, Under-18s, Schools and Groups. Signed Performance on Saturday 20 June at 2.30pm. Audio-described performance on Saturday 20 June at 2.30pm. Captioned performance on Thursday 25 June at 7pm.

To book, log onto www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Chatting with Pui (The Chris & Pui Show 2015)

I was lucky enough to be able to have a chat with Pui Fan Lee last week and she was so friendly, despite me interrupting her while she was writing and researching an episode of Show Me Show Me.

I asked her what we can expect from the Chris & Pui Show when it comes to Norwich later this month and there will be elements of the Show Me Show Me tv programme, lots of silly jokes and routines, singing and plenty of audience participation; lots for the children to get involved in (Mum, Dad and grandparents too!) It's a good old-fashioned entertainment show and for those youngsters who are attending theatre for the first time it will be the perfect experience. Chris & Pui have a great grasp of what little ones do and don't like and they don't feel the need to fill it with over the top noisy effects and explosions. Parents and carers of those with special needs won't find it too overwhelming or challenging for their children. It takes someone special to manage to keep children interested for a length of time (I should know: 11 years of being a Mum and I'm still trying to suss kids out!) but Chris & Pui work hard to get the right balance in their shows.

I imagine that filming a TV programme can be very different from performing live in theatres but Pui enjoys both equally. There are the obvious differences: TV shows are recorded and if there are any errors or problems, eg. a plane ruining a shot, you can re-shoot and get it just-so but with a live show there may be a script of sorts and an order to the show but anything can happen, especially when audience participation and reactions are taken into account. It keeps you on your toes and Chris & Pui work well together if/when these incidents occur. It's one of the elements that I love about live theatre. Pui also enjoys working in such a wide variety of theatres as they can differ so much, from the traditional to the modern. Sadly they don't get time to explore the towns they're working in  as there's just not enough time between travelling and setting up for the morning shows.

Chris and Pui have worked together since the CBeebies channel was launched in 2002. My eldest child was born in 2004 so we've seen the channel evolve and many presenters come and go. My favourite group of presenters will always be Chris, Pui, Sid (Sloane) and Sue (Monroe). Sid is still seen on the channel with his show Let's Play but he's also busy touring the country with live shows. Sue has gone on to write the Magnificent Moon Hare series of children's books.

Once a year the CBeebies presenters meet up in preparation for the pantomime but Pui admitted to me that they all treat it as a reunion and take rehearsals a little less seriously than they should do and spend time trying to catch up on the last 12 months. Everyone at the channel is incredibly friendly, which shines through on screen, and they try to keep in touch but as everyone has such busy schedules it's often only at preschool events or launches throughout the year that they may bump into each other. My children have always held the belief that all CBeebies presenters live in one massive house together! I won't shatter that illusion for them...

Pui has two children, ages 3 and 11, and I asked how they feel about Mummy being on the TV. It's what they've grown up with and all they've ever known so for them it's completely normal. It's no different from being the child of a doctor or a police office. It's just what Mum does.

I could have spent a lot longer chatting to Pui because she's as lovely on the phone as she is on the TV but I felt that I needed to let her get back to her research and writing!

The Chris & Pui Show is in Norwich on Sunday 24th May and tickets can be booked by calling the Box Office on 01603 630000 or by visiting the Norwich Theatre Royal website.

Tour details can be found here.

Photos courtesy of Norwich Theatre Royal 

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