Friday, 31 July 2009

A final blog entry for 2009

The last shows at the Boo were so wonderful. It was great to finish the tour here with full, enthusiastic audiences on Thursday and Friday evening. There was a really lovely atmosphere, and it was so much nicer to put the show to bed in its home space rather than at the other end of the country followed by a huge drive. Equally lovely were the school shows. We haven’t had too many school performances in the past at the Boo, but this was great – 3 full shows, all with very engaged and appreciative students. One group had previously visited during the making of the show, so they had seen the puppets and masks whilst they were being built. It makes so much sense to open up the work that we do in this way to local schools. For a creative teacher, it’s such a great resource.

The end of a tour is always a little bit sad, especially so when the performers have worked together so well. It’s great that everyone is keen to do it again next year. I think we’ve all laid a good enough foundation that the next tour can be just as much fun, and can hopefully reach some new audiences.

And now for Deep Time Cabaret……..

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Audience Comments

Some audience comments from the tour;

One of the most beautiful theatrical experiences I've had. Thank you! Talking with every little bit of your body - amazing!
The Royal Exchange

Emotional, I nearly cried. Really creative and inspriring, it was a joy to watch. I really enjoyed it and would love to see some more of your work.
The Rose Theatre, Ormskirk

I absolutley loved the show! The puppets and actors were fanstastic! So emotional, but absolutely breathtaking!
Sherman Cardiff

Brilliant, inventive and sad. Should be more children's theatre like it!
Salisbury Arts Centre

Amazing movement and lyricism. Very touching.
Leeds Carriageworks

Excellent, fabulous, phenomenal! Absolutely beautiful and magic!
The Egg, Bath

Friday, 3 July 2009

An update from the director

It’s the end of the third week of touring and the cast have their first decent run at a venue since leaving the Royal Exchange (3 days at the Egg in Bath). That should be a welcome relief for them, and give them a chance to really enjoy the performance and worry less about the mechanics of touring.

Touring a show of the size of Little Leap Forward is a complex thing. Most shows that tour for one-nighters in different venues either tour with simple lights of their own, or have a very basic rig and minimal cues. In the way that we tell stories, lights are a hugely important part of the storytelling, and there is just no getting away from needing a rich vocabulary of lighting choices from which to draw.

Even though the lights, music and film are all programmed into and run from a mac, and venues try as closely as possible to re-create the lighting rig that we have designed, there are such huge variables in the distance of lights to the stage and in the dimmers that each venue has, that it has meant Jonny re-programming the lights for every venue we have visited. As there are about 100 separate lighting cues in the 1hr of theatre, that can take some time to re-programme. In venues where the lights are in slightly different positions, it’s not just the intensity and fade times he has to alter, but sometimes the choice of lamps, too. That makes for a really long day. But the cast are amazing and resilient, and are always so positive and focussed. It’s really a lovely team.

The great news is that the feedback has continued to be wonderful. From special needs groups to older ladies, from youth clubs to school parties, people have really engaged with the story, been moved by it and amused by it, and have sent us their thanks for having made it. And that makes you think that all the work is worth it.

After Bath the show heads back up towards home, and in just a couple of weeks it will be here at the Boo, our home space, for 3 days at the start of out Summer Puppet Festival before being packed away for next year.

Alison Duddle

Thursday, 4 June 2009

4 stars and migraines

Well it's been quite a week for Little Leap Forward! We've already had three 4 stars reviews and one near miss. Frances, one of the performers came down with a terrible migraine last Tuesday. I've never had one but i've heard they are horrendously debilitating and this came only an hour before the show was due to start. With no under study available, this meant that there was no way they could go on with the show. Poor old Fran! I can only imagine how bad she must have been feeling. But to add even more pressure to the situation, Vicky Bloor and I had arranged for Lyn Gardner from The Guardian to travel from London to review the show at The Royal Exchange.

It was touch and go for a while and The Royal Exchange and Horse + Bamboo were contemplating the gloomy consequences of not being able to put on the show. Mark (tour manager and performer) rushed to the chemist to get Fran some medicine in order to alleviate her symptoms, I and the rest of the H+B team said a few prayers, and then by some sheer miracle Fran felt a little better and was able to perform. All I can say is - well done to Fran, who is an absolute trooper, and the rest of the cast who put on a great performance and continue to. Click on the link to read Lyn Gardner's review in The Guardian today -
Alithea - Marketing Manger at Horse + Bamboo Theatre

Friday, 29 May 2009

Opening Night

Last night was Little Leap Forward’s opening night at The Studio, Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.

The show went very well. I watched a preview a week ago at the Boo and it’s interesting to see how much it had developed since then. The production seemed more fluid, had a faster pace, the humour and emotion came across more and the storytelling has been made more effective. Everyone I spoke to, enjoyed the production and seemed genuinely moved by the story. Especially, as it has been based on a true story. Guo Yue and Clare Farrow came up from London to see the show and I couldn’t help but wonder how he felt watching it. With the help of Vicky Bloor - Press and Marketing Officer at the Royal Exchange, we managed to get a journalist from MEN and what's on.

After the show the Horse + Bamboo Team, Guo, Clare, The Royal Exchange, Barefoot Books, the cast, associate artists and the press joined us in the studio foyer to celebrate the opening. See the photos above...


Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A strange quiet calm

There is a strange quiet calm in the building today. Yesterday we packed the set in the van for the first time, negotiated Manchester’s traffic and one way systems and off loaded the set and cast at The Royal Exchange. Leaving the cast behind felt like the next chapter begins and all that we have been working on for the past year or more comes to fruition.

Opening night is tomorrow, so we will all get our glad rags on for the night and celebrate, then back to finding out whether the van fits in the nearest car park to the tour venues and other such glamorous tasks.

Despite Little Leap Forward not even opening yet my mind has for sometime been on planning the next tour in 2010.

For now however I will let excitement reign and look forward to a successful opening night.

Esther Ferry-Kennington - Producer

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

2 days away from our first public preview!

We’re now just 2 days away from our first public preview!

Most of the last minute work on puppets and costumes has been done and we’re starting to run the show fairly regularly now with sessions working on detail where needed. This morning we filmed the show so after lunch we’ll get to see it for the first time – always a daunting prospect.

All the cast are trying to immerse ourselves in Chinese culture. We’ve all been watching films, reading books (and in one case, eating dumplings). As well as Clare and Yue’s books I’ve been re-reading “Farewell My Concubine” by Lilian Lee which is also set in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution but from the point of view of 2 stars of Beijing opera. There are some useful (but harrowing) descriptions of Red Guards raiding people’s houses as happens in scene 7 of our story.

That’s all for now. As I may have mentioned we’re just 2 days away form our first public preview!

Mark Whitaker ( Cast member and tour manager)