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Autumn 2019 / Spring 2020


For the first time the Royal Shakespeare Company will tour three productions in repertoire, playing for two weeks only. The company will feature 27 actors, who will each appear in two of the three productions. As You Like It is directed by Kimberley Sykes, The Taming of the Shrew by Justin Audibert, and Measure for Measure by RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran. ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE – DIRECTOR KIMBERLEY SYKES TALKS TO US ABOUT HER PRODUCTION OF AS YOU LIKE IT What has influenced your thinking around the production? I think a big thing which has influenced my thinking on the production has been about what a forest is and what it represents. I did a lot of reading into the way forests function and the societal behaviour of trees. I was quite determined not to have any trees on stage, mainly because everybody kept asking me how are you going to do the trees?! In the play there’s a marked difference between the restrictive world of the court and the forest. In our version of the play the audience will represent the trees. When the play reaches the forest scenes, the actors will be able to see the audience, whereas they didn’t have access to them during the court scenes. The forest world is a world where we can interact and communicate with each other. What are your current thoughts on the style of the production? Can you give us any early insights into the process? I’m not setting the play in a particular time or place. It doesn’t feel like a play which needs a certain period setting. And I’m very aware as a director of not choosing a setting which restricts the play, and that only tells one aspect of the play so I always look for the approach and the framework that allows all of the play to live. In many ways the play is a massive exploration of theatre itself. So there will be elements of panto, live music, stand-up comedy on stage. And there will be audience interaction, political debate and improvisation. Although everyone will look and feel very modern, we’ll be using a real mingle-mangle of costumes from different productions, and will be playing with different genres, different times, different periods. It’s going to be a real mish-mash that celebrates the art of theatre making. Would you say it is as much about ‘finding yourself’ as ‘getting lost’? I think sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself. But Shakespeare isn’t asking us to get lost in order to just get lost

– that would be pointless. He’s asking us to break down some of our barriers and to think outside of the boxes that we’ve put ourselves in, or that society has put us in. And he puts the responsibility on the human being to do that for one’s self. I think the play is about the potential for change in humanity, and for us to be able to change the world we must first change ourselves and embrace other sides of ourselves.

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We understand that this production features one of the most ambitious props and set elements ever created by the RSC’s production teams. Can you explain a little bit about where the idea for ‘Hymen’ came about? Hymen is the god of marriage, which will be represented by a very large prop/puppet We have to believe in this God and yet, God is not a tangible thing. God is a leap of imagination, so how do we get 1000 audience members to take that leap in their imaginations and believe in this God? All of the actors will be involved in the scene in which Hymen appears – it will be a communal act, to give the sense of coming together and believing in a God or in something bigger than ourselves. The role of Rosalind has been described as ‘the female Hamlet’ and is credited with more lines than any other female Shakespearean character. Was this something that attracted you to the play? Yes absolutely! I was attracted to a woman who is working out who she is as the play unfolds. I think sometimes with Shakespeare’s women, it feels like they already know who they are. Or that their internal life isn’t really the thing that Shakespeare is exploring in the play. With Rosalind it’s completely different. She changes her mind all the time, and she changes her mind with us, with the audience. She talks about this magician, this uncle magician, who she’s conversed with since the age of 3, and Lucy Phelps, who is playing the role, and I have talked a lot about who on earth this magician is. We feel that this magician is inside of all of us, representing the potential for change and to be different people. What do you hope audiences will take away from this production? I would like for the audience to take away a new relationship with their own ‘magician’. To feel able to explore the possibility and potential of change, especially right now, with all of the uncertainty in this country and Europe and the rest of the world. To feel that change is possible, and that change can come from working together, learning from each other and from being more honest. Being brave enough to jump off the cliff into the unknown.



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Cover image: Mamma Mia

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In The Wings...

Welcome to the autumn 19 / spring 20 edition of the Groups newsletter which includes information on the fantastic discounts and benefits we offer to make your group visit to the Theatre Royal an occasion to remember. Visiting Newcastle Theatre Royal is even more fun if you are part of a group!

We caught up with Rebecca, one of our Dressers, to discover a little about what goes on behind the scenes. Hi I’m Rebecca and I’ve been a dresser for about 3 years now. That involves working backstage, helping actors get changed, organising all of their costumes, and making sure they have everything they need.

We look forward to welcoming you in the very near future. Best wishes Evelyn, Nikita, Pauline & Sam, Group Sales Team

District Publicity Assistants Pauline and Sam provide a personal and convenient link to the Theatre Royal and love to hear from new groups. You can benefit from their expertise when making a group booking and receive exclusive offers on tickets. Simply contact them on the details below: Samantha McDine, 07785 612 759 Pauline Wallis, 07756 095 036 ‘I have worked within the Group Sales team for over 8 years now and I love every aspect of my job. I get to be part of an amazing team bringing groups and schools to the theatre. I get a thrill from introducing a new group to the theatre and building a relationship with them; watching their love of theatre grow and being a part of that journey.’ Sam McDine

Theatre Royal Groups Experience The Theatre Royal is both neo-classical monument and cultural engine, with an annual audience of 400,000 and over 400 performances each year; the finest drama, the brightest West End musicals, the cream of the comedy circuit, award winning ballet and dance, family friendly shows, sensational opera – and (we think) the best Pantomime in the country! If you would like to learn more about our incredible Theatre we are delighted to offer groups a chance to experience something a little bit different with the following exclusive Groups Tour, Tea and Talk package.

Wed 22 Jan – Sat 8 Feb 2020

Can you take us through your typical working day? It changes depending on the show. Every show is different but in general, I’ll come in usually just an hour or so before curtain up then I have to go and collect the laundry for the companies and make sure everybody has got all their clean underwear and costumes. I’ll then take that to the dressing rooms, check the actors have everything they need and then go and set everything up backstage. I make sure all their costumes are in place for quick changes and these might be in the wings or just behind the stage in a little area that we call “Wardrobe Village”. The ladies usually have a modesty curtain but the men don’t normally get one. Sometimes it’s just open to everyone!

Mamma Mia! creator Judy Craymer tells how this magnificent record-breaking musical first triumphed in London and then conquered the world...

Do you have any interesting stories you can share with us? Too many! There have been quite a few costume mishaps. The Mamma Mia! costumes were quite difficult especially the latex jumpsuits that the Dynamos wear at the end. We didn’t have very long to get them into those, about a minute, and with the platform boots and everything it’s a very fast change. We had one show where the zip broke on one of the costumes and she couldn’t be zipped in. We had to safety pin her into the jumpsuit while the poor ensemble were all stood frozen on-stage wondering why we were taking so long while the audience clapped away. So if anyone is coming to see Mamma Mia! in 2020 and there’s a very long pause before they come on at the end you know it’s probably a problem with the quick change.

The show has been going since 1999, but its producer first had the idea for a film or a stage show based on Abba’s songs many years earlier when she was Tim Rice’s assistant on Chess, the musical he wrote with Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. “I started talking to them about it in the mid-80s, and then in about 1995 Bjorn said, ‘If you can get the right story, maybe.”

How did you come to work here? I’m strange because I did a law degree and then decided that I didn’t want to do law. I’ve always loved theatre. I’ve been interested in it since I was a child, did work experience in a theatre when I was in school and I was just looking for theatre jobs when I saw the advert to be a dresser. I thought it looked interesting and I had done backstage work as a student so I thought I would apply and give it a go!

Your visit would include:  guided tour – join us front of house, backstage and on-stage A as we give you a tour around the theatre • A talk on the history of Newcastle Theatre Royal & a season briefing with highlights for groups • A copy of The Theatre Royal, Newcastle – A New Short History book for each person (RRP £6.99) • Light refreshments Why not make a day of it and combine it with a performance too? Call Group Sales on 08448 11 21 22 for more information. Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge

Judy Craymer is one of the least demonstrative super-producers on either side of the Atlantic. Hers is the only mega-musical to have proved itself unstoppable without any assistance from anyone called Lloyd Webber or Mackintosh or Nunn or be affiliated in any way to Disney or any other film franchise. Or indeed get any help from men at all (unless you thank Bjorn and Benny for the music). The three queens of Mamma Mia!, aside from Craymer, are director Phyllida Lloyd and book writer Catherine Johnson.

AN INSPECTOR CALLS Tue 22 - Sat 26 Oct 2019 “When I think about the Theatre, I only wonder when at least some part of our minds will be able to travel in time, to recapture the past that has not really vanished at all, to see the old velvet curtain rising and falling again, to applaud once more the brave players.” J.B.Priestley, quoted by Wendy Lesser (1997) TRICKS OF THE TRADE If you are coming along to An inspector Calls, a show which has won more awards than any other production in history, make sure you look out for some of the following theatrical techniques and approaches. Musical Points of View Composer Stephen Warbeck wanted the music to be “part of the conscience of the play”, showing the Inspector’s perspective on events rather than those of the Birling family. He explains that he “decided early on that the music should not respond to the thin veneers of the Birling family or to the formality of their life and their social interests. You could have little Edwardian bits of music but we wanted the music to be part of the heart of the play; part of the wider world which comes in and throws the Birlings’ world up in the air.” Creative Costumes Sheila has two identical dresses, one of which is immaculate, and one of which is ‘broken down’ or treated to make it look torn and soiled. Once the destruction of the Birling family begins, the actress playing Sheila changes into the second dress. This helps to create a visual impression of how the family members have been forced to engage with the harsh realities of the world around them.

Musical Inspirations While composing the music for An Inspector Calls, Stephen Warbeck sought inspiration from European music of the mid-twentieth century. Particularly influential were the works of the Austrian composer Schoenberg (1874-1951) and the French composer Messiaen (1908-1992) whose Quartet for the End of Time was written and performed in a concentration camp in 1940. Stephen Warbeck feels that “that bit of the century created some very wonderful, pained and very serious music”. Side Lights Rick Fisher’s lighting design makes use of side lighting – more common in dance productions than in theatre. This technique allows Rick to “light the people very brightly but still keep the dark, foreboding atmosphere, which is one of the things which is central to the whole interrogation style of the piece”. Selecting Instruments The original Royal National Theatre production of An Inspector Calls at the Lyttleton Theatre in 1992 had a budget for only two instruments. Composer Stephen Warbeck chose the piano because “it is such a flexible instrument” and the cello because he wanted something “very emotional and very passionate, yearning, moving and painful”. When the production moved to the larger Olivier Theatre two further musicians were added – a trumpet player and a percussionist. For Stephen Warbeck the trumpet gave “the potential for a slightly militaristic atmosphere and, used muted, it can be like a knife that cuts through the other sounds”. Tickets from £16.00. Call Groups on 08448 11 21 22* to book now. *Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge

By then she had worked as a producer in television and come across Johnson, a scriptwriter who had also written a couple of sparky hit plays. One of them was Shang-a-Lang, about three women from Chipping Sodbury who hit 40 in a holiday camp where their girlhood idols the Bay City Rollers are playing. “I explained my thoughts and Catherine said, “What about a mother-daughter story?” and that was it. We have tentatively pitched it to Bjorn and Benny and it kind of worked from there. They trusted me. They weren’t saying, ‘Bring in a star team. We’ll only do it with Tom Stoppard and Hal Prince.’ They let us nurture it. I think timing was everything. It probably wouldn’t have worked ten years before in the same way.” Craymer is resistant to the idea that Mamma Mia! is just another jukebox musical. “To me those songs were written by Bjorn and Benny for Mamma Mia!” In fact they were increasingly written about their own failing marriages to the band’s two singers, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. “’The Winners Takes It All’ was the inspiration for me. I kept thinking, that is a great 11 o’clock number, as they say on Broadway. It’s ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina’. But what’s the story?”

The story centres on the search for a father. Twenty-year-old bride-to-be Sophie has grown up on a Greek island where her mother Donna runs a rackety taverna. Sophie doesn’t know who her father is, so rummages through her mother’s diary from twenty years back and secretly invites three potential candidates. As a feel-good plot it is a long way from the doom-laden blockbuster musicals which dominated in the 1980s and 1990s and Craymer thinks that helps explain its longevity. “The show has a big heart and people love it so they return. In the audience sometimes one member will turn to the other and say, ‘Is this your first time?’ It’s like ‘welcome to the club’. It’s also a show that people like to see in a community atmosphere. They like to bring friends and family. Kids are brought up on the DVD of the movie and now’s their chance to see the show.” One thing that has changed is the power of social media to make or break a show. Mamma Mia! had good reviews but it mainly conquered the world by word of mouth – and, of course, wonderful songs. The show’s creators had no real idea how deep those songs are in all our bloodstream until they first launched them upon an audience. “They stood up and cheered at the end and everybody was dancing. Somebody said to me, ‘This is just the first preview audience. Don’t expect this to happen again.’” People have been dancing at the end of the show ever since to “Waterloo” and “Dancing Queen”, sung by Donna and the Dynamos in wonderful Seventies spandex outfits. One night the audience proved so immovable that the front of house staff had to make an announcement that ‘the Dynamos had left the building’ otherwise the audience would have stayed all night. On another occasion they were joined onstage by Anna-Frid Lyngstad. “Frida came quietly one night, she wanted no fuss. She loved the show so much that she asked if she could go onstage at the end with cast, she did and she sang ‘Dancing Queen’ in front of the audience. And that was her quiet night out”. At the last head-count, Mamma Mia! has been seen by 65 million people worldwide. There have been 50 productions of the show fashioned from the ABBA songbook. It has been seen in 16 different languages (including Swedish). Plus, of course, there have been the massively successful films Mamma Mia! The Movie, and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, as well as the recent UK and International Tour. Tickets from £26.00. Call Groups on 08448 11 21 22* to book now. *Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge

Follow Theatre Royal Group Sales to be the very first to hear about what’s on and receive exclusive offers:

Follow Theatre Royal Group Sales to be the very first to hear about what’s on and receive exclusive offers:

Follow Theatre Royal Group Sales to be the very first to hear about what’s on and receive exclusive offers:

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Groups newsletter June 2019  

Groups newsletter June 2019