Grand Ambassador Interview – Interview With Neale Birch
Written by Charlotte Bee (Grand Ambassador)
So I got the chance to interview Neale Birch on Wednesday afternoon!
He asked me about myself, and we had a chat about the theatre and all the jobs you can do to be involved within the theatre that aren’t just acting or performing, and after this being my first solo interview, he made me feel at ease, and was a pleasure to talk to. He gave very detailed answers, which was brilliant as I definitely felt well informed and had enough to work with, and learnt a lot about the show I would never have known otherwise!
I also enjoyed seeing the set and getting to see all the props close up and having the chance to do some photography. The Grand Theatre stage is one of my favourite places to be, and so it was so interesting to see it with a proper set on the stage and with all the props there. Me, and two of the girls from the marketing team at the Grand who came on the tour also, were particularly surprised about the laboratory desks being on tracks!
Here is the interview!
First question, did you have a certain vision for how the show would be presented, and how has it progressed?
In terms of vision, the creative presentation is down to Naomi Dawson the Designer, and James Dacre. The essential thing is that it’s tourable, so the resources and staffing will manage whatever is created, and also that it’s effective and tells a story clearly.
We don’t want to limit the designers but there are going to be limits on budget as it’s not infinite.
Also there’s a specific time element in terms of the initial mounting of the production, it has to be built on time and with the right materials that are affordable, then we have a certain amount of time allowing for fitting.
In terms of staffing, we are limited to how much staff we can take on tour. One of the elements in this production that has been particularly challenging has been the visuals and the projections, which has required staff that we wouldn’t normally have on tour with us.
So in terms of vision, we don’t want to limit directors and designers. We want to allow them to be creative but we have to place restraints on them, and they’re down to timing, staffing and principally to budget.
On average, how many props are used in the show, and have they changed since the production began?
There is one thing that has changed, and they are the feely glasses.
They’re not actually glasses they’re just frames, but they have lights on them and the idea is that they are seeing the picture through these glasses and they get a complete sensory experience.
The lights on the glasses were originally blue, but they eventually ran down so we had to replace them, and we stopped getting the blue lights but we had a full set of green glasses, and because we were going to be struggling to replace the blue ones for very much longer, the designer approved the green, and so we switched, and we’ve used the green ones ever since.
Which prop is the most likely to cause problems during the show?
We have scenes that involve whipping and they are quite long leather bull whips, and potentially there are problems because its used in the fight sequence and you have to get the timing and positioning exactly right, as if its wrong you could cause someone physical harm.
Also because the ends of the whips get frayed, we have to keep repairing those.
Other things that are potentially dangerous, are glass pieces in the production, as if you drop a glass it will shatter on the stage and you’ll have to clean it up before you can continue, so you would normally have plastic, but for whatever reason, the team in Northampton wanted to go with glass.
Now we’ve been very fortunate, we haven’t had any accidents on stage yet, but it’s something that we’re all conscious of being potentially dangerous and spoiling a moment.
Which props would you say are the most vital in the actor’s performances in terms of realism?
One of the things that was very much in our thinking was to do with how we presented the future as its very important that we don’t spend too much time explaining the future.
600 years into the future, who’s going to be using a telephone or ipad?
We had to use something that the audience recognised and would accept that its technologically advanced, so a couple of the characters use a Perspex rectangular piece that looks like an ipad and just by holding that screen, the audience immediately accepts that its an ipad. The feely and lab glasses that we use are very basic, but the way that we use them on stage, the audience accepts that its hugely advanced technology.
We also have a top when we go into the shopping centre that is apparently made of acetate silk but you can’t see whether it is, and then of course we revert back to the savage reservation and everything is natural and the costumes look much more real.
It’s very important that whenever we’re creating a prop for any production, that it helps the actor maintain his sense of reality.
Its difficult when we’re setting the play in the future to do that but the actors use their imaginations and skills as actors to make it appear as though its something quite different.
Which moment in the show do you think the audience are most moved by?
I think the moment that might move people the most, and certainly that I feel moved by every time I see it, is the moment in which John, takes the Soma and then makes love to Lenina, and the feeling that I have and that I’m sure lots of people have, is one of regret, we don’t john to take the soma, and we know how he will feel when the soma wears off.
The savage reservation is enjoyable, and think audiences are enjoying the dinner party scene because of the characterisation, and I think it was great that we were able to find a lot of humour in the piece.
I think it’s a very thought provoking production, and people rather than really enjoying it, are made to think and question and wonder about it, and that’s probably a good thing.
Brave New World
Blackpool Grand Theatre
Tuesday 28 to Saturday 28 November 2015
Opening Night Offer: 2 for 1 tickets
Tickets from £19
Concessions, Groups and School Groups rates available
Under 26s £12.50 (first 50 tickets, weekdays only; subject to availability)
Grand Friends £5 off opening night, £3 off rest of the week
Our booking fee is included in all stated ticket prices. If you wish to have your tickets posted to you rather than collecting at our box office the charge is £1.00 (regardless of the number of tickets).
Call Box Office on 01253 74 33 39 or visit blackpoolgrand.co.uk
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/grandtheatrebpl
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