BLOG: Have you ever wondered how Christmas shows are made?

Amy McCombes gives us an insight into her role as Assistant Director and Federation of Scottish Theatre Bursary recipient, and the making of Cumbernauld Theatre Company’s production of Robin Hood.

My name is Amy McCombes, and I am assistant director on Cumbernauld Theatre Company’s upcoming Christmas show Robin Hood by Eve Nicol. I am a performer with Lung Ha Theatre Company, which is a theatre company for people with disabilities who want to learn about drama. I directed Yui, a rehearsed reading online with Lung Ha Theate Company, and Fiona was the directing mentor. We got on well and Fiona asked me to be her assistant on Robin Hood. This is my first experience of being an assistant director for an in-person show

I have been quite anxious about this role because I have never helped direct a live show with such a professional cast before, but I felt reassured when I was welcomed by others involved in the show and I realised I could take slow steps towards leading warm ups and other responsibilities. However, I wasn’t the only one feeling nervous, and Fiona helped significantly by understanding that I, like many others, might be worried about working with new people. This is especially so for someone with autism like me, which interferes with how comfortable I feel talking to new people. 

So what is the show…

I have been finding discussions at rehearsals quite interesting, including ones about some cultural references in the play which may be about original Robin Hood stories and popular 80s films, TV, and music. These references are present because Eve has written a modernised version of the story everyone knows as Robin Hood. It is the first ever version with an all female cast done as a non-traditional pantomime in a Scottish setting. All the usual pantomime characters have been replaced with a comical girl gang, a mysterious creature they find and a controlling councillor angered by the gang’s thieving. 

What I’ve learnt so far…

​​So far, I feel I have learned a lot of things about warm ups and rehearsals. This includes the components important in a physical warm up, how the use of props is practised in rehearsals, how songs and dances are rehearsed, and how a visual language will aid communication on stage between a deaf performer and hearing performers.

One of the actresses, Amy Helena, is a BSL (British Sign Language) user so BSL consultant, Jamie Rea, came in to discuss possible signs for common words in the script and how the characters communicate despite the language barrier. Seeing performers learn to communicate with BSL fascinated me and raised my hopes, knowing opportunities in mainstream theatre are being opened up. 

There are many props in the show, so a lot of time in rehearsal is spent with the performers getting used to the props . We spent a rehearsal with the actresses playing the friendship gang sneakily stealing props from another cast member; smuggling abilities improving every time! Later, when it came to rehearsing a scene where the gang finds a mysterious creature, they had to react as they imagined the puppet moving from under the floor while it was in the process of being made. 

We have also rehearsed how some of the original music for the play, written by Nova Sound will be performed on stage. The actors will sing live and act as if they are in a rock band, as well as practising dance routines too.

In future rehearsals, I hope to get to know people better through leading the warm up, to rehearse performances of the songs in the second act of the play a bit more, and to see how these rehearsals will compare to performances once all the props and costumes are ready. I hope to share another blog later in the production. I also hope that people reading these blogs will buy tickets and enjoy this spectacular show over the Christmas season!

If you would like to find out more about FST’s bursaries, visit their website here.

To find out more about Robin Hood and the rest of the cast and creative team visit https://lanternhousearts.org/events/robin-hood-christmas-2021/

Author

Sally Wilson

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