June is busting out all over! - Croydon Blog 5 - June 2019

June is almost over and the rain we’ve endured has reminded us more of April showers rather than the start of summer, but in panto world things are literally busting out into full bloom!

The Imagine Theatre team all ready to go on a site visit! L-R Sarah Boden (Imagine Business & Marketing Director), Mark Walters (Designer); Steve Boden (Imagine Managing Director), Dave Edmunds (Imagine Head of Operations), Laura (graphics), Laura Taylor (Imagine Production Consultant), Greg (Fairfield Halls Technical) and George Wood (Director)

The Imagine Theatre team all ready to go on a site visit! L-R Sarah Boden (Imagine Business & Marketing Director), Mark Walters (Designer); Steve Boden (Imagine Managing Director), Dave Edmunds (Imagine Head of Operations), Laura (graphics), Laura Taylor (Imagine Production Consultant), Greg (Fairfield Halls Technical) and George Wood (Director)

The most exciting thing that’s almost in full bloom is the Fairfield Halls building itself. There’s still significant work to be done, but when we went for a site visit on 19th June we couldn’t believe how much the building had progressed since we last saw it.

High vis, hard hats and PPE abound, we headed off to explore the building!

High vis, hard hats and PPE abound, we headed off to explore the building!

Most of the scaffolding is now down and most excitingly the painters have moved in – a sure sign that work is nearing completion and focus in some areas is starting to move onto the decoration and cosmetics. It’s an absolutely beautiful building, and the amazing central staircase in the main foyer really is a location fit for Cinderella to lose her glass slipper on!

Last time we stood here, we were surrounded by scaffolding!

Last time we stood here, we were surrounded by scaffolding!

The foyer scaffolding is all down, and the painters have moved in!

The foyer scaffolding is all down, and the painters have moved in!

For the first time we were able to walk onto the main stage area of the Phoenix Concert Hall, where the panto is being staged. When we took the decision not to use the Ashcroft Theatre but to play the panto in the much bigger concert hall auditorium, all we were able to see was ground plans. We couldn’t walk on the stage, and we couldn’t visualise the auditorium as it was all covered in scaffolding. Now that almost all of the scaffolding has been removed it’s a completely different picture and we’re so excited to see just how amazing the space really is. It’s quite something.

The Phoenix Concert Hall is quite a space! And it’s slowly being revealed in all its glory from behind the scaffolding.

The Phoenix Concert Hall is quite a space! And it’s slowly being revealed in all its glory from behind the scaffolding.

There are a few remaining pieces of scaffolding, mainly with painters working from them

There are a few remaining pieces of scaffolding, mainly with painters working from them

Soaking in the atmosphere of the space, the Imagine and Fairfield Halls teams can finally see the space and understand how magical Marks scenic designs are going to look

Soaking in the atmosphere of the space, the Imagine and Fairfield Halls teams can finally see the space and understand how magical Marks scenic designs are going to look

The other project about to bloom is Mark Walters incredible set design. We know we keep on about it, but it is truly a thing of genius. The world of Cinderella that Mark has created is something to behold, and for the first time we were able to talk the team at Fairfield through Mark’s ideas and reveal his white card model. They were speechless. What we can tell you is that the design requires over 550m of LED tape, and is completely unique in the world of pantomime. The white card model just takes your breath away. We did take a sneaky picture of it… but unfortunately Mark himself got in the way so you can only see the edges *wink*

Mark Walters, designer of the panto, shows Ninon (FH), Greg (FH), Emily (FH), Dave (Imagine), Chantelle (FH), Laura (Imagine) and Steve (Imagine) the white card model of the set

Mark Walters, designer of the panto, shows Ninon (FH), Greg (FH), Emily (FH), Dave (Imagine), Chantelle (FH), Laura (Imagine) and Steve (Imagine) the white card model of the set

We’re now in the stages of the set starting to be built. It won’t be long before the first pieces of metal are being welded and the first canvas pieces being stretched.

The Marketing team at Fairfield are also ‘busting out’ with the venue’s very first brochure about to doormat. They have an incredible first season lined up, with so many events that the Imagine team want to go and see! It’s the real sign of progress within the venue, knowing that it’s now less than 3 months until the public can walk through the door and the first events take place.

Mark Walters (Designer), Steve Boden (Managing Director, Imagine Theatre) and Laura Taylor (Production Consultant, Imagine Theatre) standing in the Royal Box of the Phoenix Concert Hall, scenic plans in hand, discussing the positioning of the band

Mark Walters (Designer), Steve Boden (Managing Director, Imagine Theatre) and Laura Taylor (Production Consultant, Imagine Theatre) standing in the Royal Box of the Phoenix Concert Hall, scenic plans in hand, discussing the positioning of the band

Finally, Sunday 30th June sees the first ‘scheduled event’ in the Fairfield Halls calendar with the children’s auditions for Cinderella. We’re expecting to see hundreds of children all bursting into dance and showing us their talents. We love children’s auditions days as the standards are always incredible. Our auditions are open to EVERY child from EVERY background and take place at Braithwaite Hall. Registration is from 9.30am for a 10am start. As we are expecting a massive turn out, please be aware that we will cap it at the first 350 to turn up, so make sure you’re there early if you’re planning to audition! More details can be found about it at http://www.imaginetheatre.co.uk/pantomimes/2019-cinderella-croydon

So, we move onwards into July, where we expect set builds to be well under way, costume designs to be finalised and commissioned and further progress made on the building, script, casting and marketing. It’s an exciting time!

Photos by Sarah Boden from Imagine Theatre

The darling buds of May are shining through - Croydon Blog 4 - May 2019

Ore Oduba will play Dandini in Cinderella

Ore Oduba will play Dandini in Cinderella

The spring sun is shining, the grass is growing well and the buds are breaking out on the trees, leaving a fresh carpet of green and the feeling of fresh, new beginnings. It’s no different in the world of pantomime with the buds of our ideas starting to burst out into full blown concepts and progress.

May is the time when casting starts to fall into place, costume and set designs are being finalised, scripts are being written and the final pieces of the production and creative team are falling into place.

The most exciting bud to spring into life this month is the announcement that TV Star & Strictly Come Dancing Champion Ore Oduba will be joining us at the Ball this Christmas to play Dandini. Whilst he is no stranger to theatre and stage performance, and he’s a brilliant ‘song and dance’ man, this will be Ore’s panto debut. Click here to see the ‘official’ press release

Ore Oduba, Tim Vine, Cat Sandion, Jason Marc-Williams and Alistair Barron all star in Cinderella

Ore Oduba, Tim Vine, Cat Sandion, Jason Marc-Williams and Alistair Barron all star in Cinderella

It turns out that Ore already knows his co-stars Tim Vine and Cat Sandion well, as they’ve all worked together in the past. When they met up at our recent photo shoot, it was like three pals who’d known each other for years having a good catch up over a cuppa. Along with our two outrageous Ugly Sisters Jason Marc-Williams and Alistair Barron, there was a lot of laughing going on. This all bodes well for the panto.

Another bud which is really starting to burst through this month is that of the marketing of the venue and the show. Work is still progressing really well on the building and all is on schedule for the re-opening in September, but we’ll talk more about that in a later blog. Building a marketing campaign from scratch, as the team at Fairfield Halls are having to do, is a huge undertaking. Luckily there is a brilliant team in place, led by Kevin Quilty.

The printing of the venue brochure is under way, and it is due out any day with a brilliant programme of events planned for the opening season. It’s a massive sign that the venue is ready to burst into life and to return to what it does best – providing absolutely top-class entertainment. We’re thrilled to not only be bringing Cinderella to the Halls, but we’re also Justin Live starring CBeebies super star Justin Fletcher. That production will be at Fairfield Halls over October half term, on 22nd & 23rd October 2019.

The set and costume design ‘bud’ has so nearly also burst into flower. Mark Walters is continuing work on the designs, and every time we see them, they literally take our breath away. We’re so excited about his designs and cannot wait to tell you more about them. It’s unlike anything you will have ever seen in the pantomime world before. We just can’t quite tell you yet…

So, it’s onwards into June where we will see the final designs of set and costume before they head off to the workshops to be made, and the auditions for the children’s ensemble, which take place on Sunday 30th June. We cannot wait.

At this stage we just have a ‘white card’ model of the concept of the set. with lots more detail to follow. Watch this space!

At this stage we just have a ‘white card’ model of the concept of the set. with lots more detail to follow. Watch this space!

Josh is a smash hit in Halifax!

When we decided to introduce new panto comic Josh Benson to Halifax, we knew it’d be a fun day. We didn’t realise just HOW MUCH fun it would actually be!

Hailing from York, Josh is very much a Yorkshire lad. This year he joins the cast of Beauty and the Beast at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax as the comic, playing the role of ‘Josh’ (see what we did there?).

Whilst Josh is new to Halifax audiences, he is absolutely no stranger to panto, having taken Chesterfield audiences by storm last year.

Josh has got some big shoes to fill, taking over the role that Neil Hurst inhabited for 10 years. However, all those who met him around Halifax recently will vouch for the fact that those shoes will be more than filled by Josh’s wonderfully effervescent personality, amazing comic timing and brilliant clowning ability.

Knowing how much the Halifax panto audiences love a custard pie or 10, we decided that the best way to introduce him to the town would be just that - a pie in every location!

We thought we’d take you through our day so you can see what we got up to! (and keep an eye out on social media for the video!)

Getting a pie in the face outside Harvey’s

Getting a pie in the face outside Harvey’s

Erm, are you sure you’re allowed to do that, Josh?

Erm, are you sure you’re allowed to do that, Josh?

Off to Halifax Borough Market…

Off to Halifax Borough Market…

Next up it was time to head to the Piece Hall (after bumping into the Halifax pink running man, but we didn’t get any photos) - surely Josh was safe from the custard pies here??

Next up it was time to head to the Piece Hall (after bumping into the Halifax pink running man, but we didn’t get any photos) - surely Josh was safe from the custard pies here??

Josh was very relieved to hear there were not going to be any pies at the Library, just a chance to borrow his favourite book, “Josh’s Joke Book”.

Josh was very relieved to hear there were not going to be any pies at the Library, just a chance to borrow his favourite book, “Josh’s Joke Book”.

Surely the staff at Eureka won’t pie Josh? Nope, wrong! Of course they will.

Surely the staff at Eureka won’t pie Josh? Nope, wrong! Of course they will.

Surely Josh is going to be safe outside the Minster with Revd Canon Hilary Barber?

Surely Josh is going to be safe outside the Minster with Revd Canon Hilary Barber?

Introducing Josh to some critical panto props

Introducing Josh to some critical panto props

Josh met Theatre Manager Tim Fagan - who was the first to put a pie in his face!

Josh met Theatre Manager Tim Fagan - who was the first to put a pie in his face!

We headed to Harvey’s to film - and the staff had fun pie-ing Josh (again!)

We headed to Harvey’s to film - and the staff had fun pie-ing Josh (again!)

I want to ride my bicycle….

I want to ride my bicycle….

Josh stops off to get himself a ‘new job’ card at Paper Wishes in the market

Josh stops off to get himself a ‘new job’ card at Paper Wishes in the market

…. and another pie in the face outslde Woresman’s Greengrocers, courtesy of Mick from Grosvenors butchers.

…. and another pie in the face outslde Woresman’s Greengrocers, courtesy of Mick from Grosvenors butchers.

Nope, of course not! This time it was a pie courtesy of Al’s Emporium!

Nope, of course not! This time it was a pie courtesy of Al’s Emporium!

Josh, we DEFINITELY know climbing up there isn’t allowed!

Josh, we DEFINITELY know climbing up there isn’t allowed!

5 minutes of down time outside the Minster…

5 minutes of down time outside the Minster…

Ha ha ha! Of course not. Nice shot Revd Hilary!

Ha ha ha! Of course not. Nice shot Revd Hilary!

The final visit of the day was to Shibden Hall… and naturally they wanted to play the new game ‘let’s pie Josh’ too!

The final visit of the day was to Shibden Hall… and naturally they wanted to play the new game ‘let’s pie Josh’ too!

Drip drip drop, little April Showers…. - Croydon Blog 3 - April 2019

Outside, time ticks on, and the signs of spring grow ever stronger. Inside the Imagine offices, April has been a month of huge activity on Cinderella at the Fairfield Halls, mixed in with the occasional shower (but thankfully no thunderstorms!) here and there! April showers really did live up to their name in the world of Cinderella.

 

First comes a casting shower! We are delighted to be able to announce that our Ugly Sisters have been cast! Jason Marc Williams and Alistair Barron join the Croydon cast, bringing within them a wealth of experience in pantomime. Both have appeared in the Imagine Theatre pantomimes for the past 3 years, and promise to be hilarious…. if their past on stage performances and photo shoot antics are anything to go by! They are outrageous and great fun for the whole family. There’s also some HUGE casting news to hit during May so keep your eyes peeled! We’re super excited.

Jason and Alistair get in front of the camera

Jason and Alistair get in front of the camera

 

There’s also been a shower of design work completed by Mark Walters! He’s sent the first design concepts through now, and we’re moving onto the next stage which is the white card model. We are so excited. The designs are absolutely stunning, and we can’t wait to let you in on some of the ideas we’ve been working on! More about that in our later blogs 😊

What an amazing place (with a fabulous name!)

What an amazing place (with a fabulous name!)

 

25th April saw a deluge of photos being taken as the stars of Cinderella gathered together for the photo shoot. Tim Vine, Cat Sandion and our ‘Uglies’ Jason and Marc were joined by a fifth, “yet to be announced”, cast member! We spent the day at Cherry Duck Studios in Wapping, and created some great content to share with you over the coming months. We hope you enjoy the behind the scenes images we’ve shared with this blog.

How much makeup does it take to turn the Ugly Sisters Ugly? Answer - quite a lot!

How much makeup does it take to turn the Ugly Sisters Ugly? Answer - quite a lot!

 

The venue will be launching their first brochure shortly, the work on the space is progressing really well, and all is on schedule for the re-opening in September.

So, we move into May and all the progress and excitement that will bring – watch out for our next update… oh, and that exciting casting news!

Tim Vine has Videographer Ben and Laura from Imagine in utter hysterics as he’s recording his videos. We had to retake it several times as all you could hear was the whole room laughing out loud behind him!

Tim Vine has Videographer Ben and Laura from Imagine in utter hysterics as he’s recording his videos. We had to retake it several times as all you could hear was the whole room laughing out loud behind him!

Jo adds the finishing touches to Jason’s makeup

Jo adds the finishing touches to Jason’s makeup

Jason Marc Williams and Alistair Barron play the Ugly sisters - and sometimes things didn’t quite go to plan at the photo shoot!!

Jason Marc Williams and Alistair Barron play the Ugly sisters - and sometimes things didn’t quite go to plan at the photo shoot!!

The amazing Cat Sandion from CBeebies plays the Fairy Godmother (thanks for making her look AMAZING, Jo)

The amazing Cat Sandion from CBeebies plays the Fairy Godmother (thanks for making her look AMAZING, Jo)

The utterly hilarious Tim Vine plays Buttons. He had us crying with laughter the whole day - here he is with his pet Boa…. don’t ask!

The utterly hilarious Tim Vine plays Buttons. He had us crying with laughter the whole day - here he is with his pet Boa…. don’t ask!

Who on earth does the fifth pair of shoes belong to?

Who on earth does the fifth pair of shoes belong to?

Selfie Time

Selfie Time

Cat grabs 5 minutes to put her feet up

Cat grabs 5 minutes to put her feet up

Alistair goes for the understated look

Alistair goes for the understated look

Craig and Laura are checking out the photos of Cat

Craig and Laura are checking out the photos of Cat

Marching into Cinderella - Croydon Blog 2 - March 2019

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Whenever we’re asked what we do and we respond that we’re pantomime producers, one of the questions we can guarantee we’ll get asked is “what do you do for the rest of the year?”. Our response is always to explain that, pantomime is for life, not just for Christmas! It may seem like we’re a long way from panto season 2019, but here at Imagine we’ve been working on this particular production of Cinderella for a year already. Bearing this in mind, when we tell people that we’ve been busy working on pantomime in March, we do get some very strange looks!

 Focus is still very much on Mark Walters (designer) and the designs he has planned for Cinderella. He and George Wood (director) recently met to discuss the creative vision for the show and how the scripting, design and musical planning will all hang together. We can’t wait for the next production meeting when Mark presents his thoughts to us in more detail.

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 Sarah and Laura from Imagine also headed down to central London to meet Kevin and Emily from the Fairfield Halls marketing team to finalise the marketing plan and timeline. It’s really strange talking about planning to use the digital screens inside a building when we can’t actually see them, only plans and diagrams of what they will look like and where they will be positioned!

 Casting is well and truly under way. The production team are now in talks with agents to bring the rest of the cast together to surround the already announced Tim Vine and Cat Sandion. More announcements on this soon!

 We are also delighted to welcome a couple more members of the production team to the ‘Cinderella Family’. John Young joins us as production manager for the project, and the fabulous Jamie Corbidge joins us as lighting designer. We’re thrilled to have both of them on board for the project and their reputation and expertise in the theatre industry speaks for itself. We’ll do more of a feature on them both in later blogs. This production of Cinderella really is going to be something special.

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 This month also saw Fairfield Halls have a visit from a real Royal Prince! Prince Edward visited the venue to check up on the progress of the refurbishment. It’s great to know that a Royal Prince has checked out the suitability of the Halls for us in advance of panto!

 The other news that we’d like to share is the date of the children’s ensemble auditions. It’s Sunday 30th June and auditions are to be held at Braithwaite Hall. We’re looking for 3 teams of 8 children to take part in the show. More information can be found at http://www.imaginetheatre.co.uk/pantomimes/2019-cinderella-croydon.

 These auditions are open to all children of all backgrounds and performance experience, who are in year 4 and no younger than 9 years of age on the first day of rehearsals (Saturday 23rd November 2019) to year 11 and no older than 16 years of age on the final performance (Sunday 5th January 2020). Please note that the auditions are for dance only. We will not be asking children to sing or act. You don’t need to register with us in advance – just turn up on the day. We’d love to see as many young people as possible for registration at 9:30am on Sunday 30th June.

 So off we head into April, looking forward to seeing what it has in store for us all!

Photos by Kevin Quilty, Head of Marketing, Fairfield Halls

Cinderella Is Throwing Us Into a Spin-derella! - Croydon Blog 1 - February 2019

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It’s a month now since Imagine Theatre were announced as the producers of pantomime at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon, and it’s been quite a month for us!

Even though Imagine have produced pantos all over the country for almost two decades, this project is unlike anything we have ever worked on before. Why is this? It’s because whilst the building is still being refurbished and isn’t open to the public, we’re not able to actually go into a venue, look around and work out our plans from a physical space.  Sure, the concert hall actually exists and we’ve stood on the stage – but it’s full of scaffolding. We know there are lifts in the floor, but we can’t see them because they’re covered in protective cladding. We know there will be seats in the auditorium, but we can’t sit in them to work out sight lines because they’re not actually there. We can’t even see from the back of the space to the stage as the scaffolding is so thick.

So what can we work with? Lots of plans (and we mean LOTS) and lots of measurements (and we mean LOTS!).

Cinderella is going to be unique and exciting. It’s going to be a family focussed pantomime suitable for all the family with some really amazing wow moments, but played in the unique setting of a concert hall rather than a traditional proscenium arch theatre. It’s a blank space, and we have to take it from a space suitable for orchestras and choirs, to the magical, exciting and vibrant realm of pantomime.

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To create a project like this takes real team work, and each person doing their bit at the right time.

Initially it’s the job of Mark Walters, our designer, to come up with the concepts for the show. It’s his amazing vision which will bring the world of Cinderella alive. And to say that he held 8 adults utterly spellbound at the second production meeting on Monday 25th February is an absolute understatement. His ideas are remarkable, his concepts are ingenious, and his imagination is endless. We sat open mouthed as he described his vision for bringing Cinderella’s world to life.

Mark’s brief isn’t just to design the set, but also to bring the costuming to life, and again his thoughts and ideas were breath-taking.

We will let you into a bit more of the secret as the year progresses and Mark’s ideas start to turn from ideas on paper into set models and then finally into the reality of a full production.

In the meantime, the work continues. Cinderella at the Fairfield Halls is going to be an amazing experience. Don’t miss out, because trust us, if Mark’s design concepts are anything to go by, Cinderella really will go to the ball, and blow you away all at the same time.