Production notes for "Masters of Mayhem"
Welcome to Master of Mayhem.
Once again Julian has come up with a cracking yarn, a menu of outrageous characters, and a world where the bizarre has become the norm. He has also, once again, assembled a crack, or should that be crackpot, team to help him conjure up this illusion. Enjoy.
This year is the 17th Christmas show we have produced in the Sir John Mills Theatre since starting in 1988. Back then the Record Office was in the process of being converted, the large depository (said to be earthquake and nuclear bomb proof) was still being built, and the car park was literally a building site. However, we managed to convey 1200 hardy souls safely across the debris for some 21 performances of Mr Pickwick’s Victorian Christmas. At a talk I gave in Mendlesham the other day a couple came up to check if that was really the first Christmas show. They told me that if it was they had seen every one since then. If they read this in time and announce themselves at the bar we will be more than happy to present them with a glass of punch and a mince pie each.
This year we could be playing to nearly 6,500 people over 54 performances, which is capacity, and we are likely to achieve 96% of that. In fact this year has booked faster than ever before and we look to be 80% booked by opening night, a record we never achieved before even when we were doing fewer performances.
All this is very good, of course, but leaves no room for expansion and for getting new audiences in! And we know that we could sell a lot more tickets if we really pushed the show. But at present the only way to seat more people is to do more performances, which is not really feasible due to our own energy, our reliance on volunteers for front-of-house, and the general need to be getting on with the year’s touring activities.
We do also dream of additional facilities. We know it is part of the appeal that the show looks like it’s being done in the hall of a big house, as a kind of private party, but we are literally bursting at the seams. During rehearsal our foyer doubles as the wardrobe, the bar is the green room and music rehearsal area, the dressing room is a paint shop and prop making department, and the office staff have to go outside to reach the loos and coffee. During the run there is no backstage loo, washing facilities or dressing area – and when you get onstage, hell, there is no backstage!
So we are now actively looking for another space to perform in. Preferably it will be as versatile a space as possible where we can assemble our seating, erect a lighting rig, install dressing rooms etc. You’ll be amazed what we can convert.
“Hold on a minute!” I hear you say. “We love the intimacy of the Christmas show. We don’t want it to change! You just want to make more money and commercialise another part of Christmas that we hold sacred.” Er, not true. We just want to give you a bit more – some clever lighting, some extra effects, an extra musician, maybe an alcoholic drink, but neither do we want to swamp you. An extra 60 people per performance would allow us these possibilities and also make life for the performers just a little more comfortable and enable us to improve and extend our facilities for disabled people.
Where might we find such a place? Well the first thing to say is we don’t want a theatre. What we are looking for is a used warehouse, possibly an old agricultural building, up to 400 m2 (5,000 sq.ft) and preferably in a non-residential area. It could be on the edge of Ipswich or just outside. It will no doubt take time, but if you know anyone who has spare buildings or have seen somewhere standing empty, then perhaps you could tip us off.
To be honest this is not something we can put off forever. And the earlier we start the process, the more chance we have of preserving the essential quality and atmosphere of our Christmas show. Ok, over to the lion tamers…