WITH any live stage performance there has to be a strong company off stage as well as on.
Vanessa Brooks, artistic director and writer of the latest new work from Dark Horse, has put together a powerful team of actors for the world premiere of Sing Something Simple.
The show opens at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, the company’s home base, next Wednesday and there are two days of performances before the show goes on national tour.
The off-stage team for the show has been chosen with equal care.
Composer Loz Kaye has worked with the company before and returns as musical director for a show packed with nostalgic songs.
How the show will look is down to designer Pip Leckenby and digital projection designer Mic Pool working with lighting designer Johnny Marshall.
Pip is based in Scarborough and has worked for the Stephen Joseph Theatre since the Nineties on productions with Sir Alan Ayckbourn and freelance directors in that time. She also works frequently for John Godber.
“Occasionally, you have to go, gosh, I’m working for two of the most performed living British playwrights,” she said.
“They both have their different ways of working but then so does everybody. I’m very fortunate”.
Pip, who is originally from York, says it’s the variety of everything a designer has to do that makes the job endlessly fascinating.
“It can be anything from reading a script to making models, doing technical drawings, sewing, painting, making giant ice-creams! You have to turn your hand to lots of things, particularly on smaller scale productions”.
Her brief on Sing Something Simple was to create a home for the Parkin family, one which would travel both in the audience’s imagination and literally, with the company on tour.
“The story is all in the character Spencer’s imaginations so I said why don’t we make it into a giant photo album?
“It’s a framing device which has allowed us to bring different generations and different places together. As you work up all the material you know you are on a journey all of the time.”
One of the biggest and most innovative parts of the Sing Something Simple journey has been the company’s use for the first time of digital projection. That’s where the skills of Tony award-winning Mic Pool come in.
He has created sound for more than 350 productions, been resident at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, the Royal Court Theatre, Tyne Theatre Company and West Yorkshire Playhouse, worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and widely across the West End.
His expertise has helped Dark Horse take a real leap forward in using digital projection for the first time live on stage.
It’s how you take four unrelated actors, hundreds of photographs from their personal lives and weld them into a pictorial record of a family who do all the things together that yours does.
“Basically the test is to create enough of a convincing family in situations that relate to the play,” he said.
“We want the audience to accept them as a family. It’s part of the illusion of theatre”.