Behind the Scenes at West Yorkshire Playhouse…

As part of the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s ever expanding circle of inclusivity and community engagement, they invited a gaggle of local bloggers to explore the recesses of this theatre-making machine last Friday. Naturally, I joined said gaggle in a tour of the theatre and departments as the triumphant and record-breaking production of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe glides its way towards the 27th, when it closes (link to my 5 star review and tickets below). As we were whisked through the various corridors the length, breadth and depth of this fantastic theatre, we were treated to many did you know’s…which I shall now share with you lucky bunch of theatre lovers…

720262AA-06A9-4326-8C25-BB9F5119BCD3.pngDid you know, said they, that the bridge we’re now standing on has a ghost? No, said I. Noooo whispered my scaredy-cat inner voice, but I listened intently regardless… This ghost is apparently a man who froze to death over the Christmas season while the theatre was under construction…his attempt to take his life by hanging having failed, he succeeded only in injuring himself severely so that he could not access the help needed…

90DEE114-575C-4669-AF54-9A8CC2179005.jpegDid you know, said they, that we actually have quite a few ghosts… Rumour has it, say they, that the resident BSL Interpreter, Karen Seabrook, (whom I have seen doing a wonderful job at various productions) mistakenly thought that an audience member had clambered on stage during a performance of The Fall of the Master Builder as a man’s face suddenly loomed large in her’s… There was of course no such audience member…

B4ABC99F-BA84-4AE5-A749-0EFC1E9D0E7B.jpegDid you know, we are told in the Wardrobe Department, that every actor is measured for their specific costume and with costs so high for some shows, there isn’t always a second made, meaning that the Wardrobe Department are on constant standby for mending… We are also told that Ira Mandela Siobhan, who plays the body-popping Maugrim in the production, has calf muscles that are so prominent and used with such zest that he’s forever tearing those trousers? No…my internal voice replies…but I’m certainly not surprised

50B27AB0-F307-4C4A-BFA4-F2D6A9F21AC4Did you know, we are asked, that the gorgeous faux fur cape designed and made for the White Witch in this production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had to be cast aside as it proved to be too cumbersome for Carla Mendonça who plays the role…

3F5225EE-F17E-4C3A-AB3C-D80D20054EDC.jpegDid you know that Mendonça has just eighteen minutes to transform from Mrs Macready to the White Witch? You do now! We were treated to a make-up tutorial from Carrie Clark who demonstrated how Carla Mendonça undergoes a complete transformation through carefully selected shades of white and blue – even her hair is treated to achieve that Ice Queen look so impressive to see on the stage.

628C0B62-2F67-47AD-B5C9-A41910BE4E7E.pngDid you know that the wonderful Carrie Clark is proudly the antithesis of a brand snob when it comes to stage make-up? She favours whatever works apparently, praising modern popular brands like Barry M for their striking pigments and quality…good to know when you’re prepping for your next fancy dress masterpiece!

A44138FB-11E4-4C3A-951B-AEC376F329AA.pngAEE9AF79-C62A-4C73-AA72-8534A23853E7.pngDid you know too, that Clark caught her break when she was asked to cut fringes into some wigs by some stage types across the way from a pub she was working in? Did you know that many of the behind the scenes magic weavers at West Yorkshire Playhouse found Lady Luck smiling at them as they took leaps from hospitality roles in cafes and the like to the offices and the creative departments? Luck is a lady in the arts, folks…

Did you know, said they, that the Green Room is called the Green Room because in ye olden days, when walls were made solely of smelly natural materials, they attempted to make it sound more pleasant… it’s understood that other definitions are available, but this is the preferred over at this staple of Leeds’ cultural diet…

3719554A-9FB0-41F4-8508-03990170514FDid you know that cast members are at times interrupted mid-pre-show-meal by tours? That they graciously and patiently await the departure of the cheeky but grateful intruders? No? Well, bumping into John Leader and Michael Jean-Marain , playing Edmund and Peter respectively, were indeed exactly as described above – thanks gents!

Did you know that the West Yorkshire Playhouse sends its costumes over to their costume hire building just a stone’s throw from the theatre? In this treasure trove of theatricality, you can find attire from pretty much any decade pre 1980. The space is filled to the brim with surprising designs and classic fancy dress choices. There’s a ‘broken down’ aisle, where the hours spent by the WYP’s wardrobe department to make perfectly good clothes seem war-torn or muddied are lovingly preserved for anyone seeking to hire garb for a Les Mis re-enactment of sorts…

F6F62054-70BB-4A77-9385-34E4A180DFF4.pngA58DE3D2-A854-4B41-8D8B-CCF21FA991C7.jpegDid you know, it is proudly announced, that we’re set to break our own record with our current production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? This has since evolved from ‘set to’ into ‘we did it’! The surpassed record is that of 60,821 tickets sold for a production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang back in 2005. With pricing initiatives to allow a wider audience to see the show as well as Dementia-friendly, relaxed and BSL Interpreted performances in the mix, it’s easy to make the connection between such wide ranging efforts to engage and the impressive success of the production. The production, which enjoys an epic eight week run in the adapted for the round Quarry Theatre, has sold more than 61,000 tickets and will smash the record for the highest grossing piece in the history of the theatre with a whopping £1.5m – just think of all the Turkish Delight Edmund could get his hands on with that!

436089B1-786C-4A63-A6CE-12A04C9B04C8Now then dear reader, did YOU know that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe closes in just four days? No? Well you do now… Having seen it twice now, I can say with great, emphatic conviction that it’s a winning, magical production perfect for introducing youngsters to the miraculous capabilities of ambitious theatre while also offering a rather spectacular take on a faithful literary childhood friend for the slightly older audiences… Take a look at my review, and be sure to snap up some tickets – much like Narnia- you can’t be certain it’ll still be around when you go off to do something else and return in search of what once was there swathed in such wintery promise…and as you arrive for your chosen performance and walk through the foyer and bar spaces, remember that you’re seeing just the very tip of the ice berg; the Playhouse is as vast as The White Witch’s ego and harbours the creative hubs responsible for the magic you will see on stage!

 

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