Beccles scenery designers bring Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime to life
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Behind every good cast is a set of carefully hand-crafted scenery, taking you from your theatre seat to a world of magic, music and happiness.
And with a warehouse of more than 200 show scenery designs made over the years for amateur theatre pantomimes and musical productions, Beccles company Scenic Projects know only too well how to use their creations to make a stage come alive.
Based at Ellough Industrial Estate, the company, formed by Nick Garrod and Martin Wilson in 1996, has been chosen for the sixth year running to create the scenery for Norwich Theatre Royal's pantomime - Peter Pan.
The pair, along with art director Stephen Wilson and other members of staff, have been involved with amateur theatre group the Lowestoft Players since the 70s, where their passion for creating high quality scenery began.
Mr Garrod said: 'We've got a love for panto because our background is from amateur theatre.
'We had a theatre park business for ten years and we used to design for the London, Edinburgh and Hamburg Dungeons and various other attractions.
'But because of our background we saw an opportunity to create a quality product for amateurs. We went to see a show at Norwich Theatre Royal and we were a little bit critical about the quality of the scenery and thought there needs to be better things out there for amateurs.
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'Because we do four of our own shows a year, we understand the needs of amateur theatre and we make sure our designs can be easily packed up, loaded onto a lorry and put up in a few hours.'
Over the years Scenic Projects have made scenery for Norwich Theatre Royal's productions of Jack and the Beanstalk, Dick Whittington, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.
Mr Garrod said: 'Working with Norwich Theatre Royal has been an excellent opportunity for us because their pantos have got such a great reputation.'
When approached to create scenery for a show, the team often recycle and refurbish scenery they have in the warehouse, created for similar shows in the past, or work with the theatre to come up with new designs.
Mr Wilson said: 'They tell us what panto they are doing and then we see if anything we have got in stock works with their plans or scripts and if they need us to design something special.
'We work with them and give suggestions about what might look good and we work out what the budget is.
'Some things come from our stock but we've then got the challenge of bringing the new elements in line so it feels like it belongs together.'
Some of the scenery being used for this year's Peter Pan production was created for The Lowry theatre, Salford, including the children's nursery and a rocking pirate ship, which will entertain audiences with some surprise slapstick.
The scenery also includes more than a dozen back cloths, hand painted at their studio in Brampton, including views of the Darling house and Neverland. However creating scenery for pantomimes is only about 20pc of the business. The company supplies about 450 shows a year and have recently worked on sets for Legally Blonde and Sunset Boulevard.
Mr Garrod said: 'Norwich is one of the last pantos we do. Most of them start at the end of November or start of December but Norwich have theirs the middle of December and into January. We are working on 35 other pantomimes at the moment. We go as far as Dunfermline, Chesterfield, Buxton Opera House, Theatre Royal Winchester and Poole.'
Based on JM Barrie's children's story, Peter Pan with a pantomime twist will be on stage at Norwich Theatre Royal from December 18 to January 18.
The cast will be headed by West End performer and former Coronation Street favourite Kevin Kennedy, who will be taking on the role of the fearsome Captain Hook, along with CBeebies presenter Sid Sloane who will wear a selection of fabulous frocks as Aunt Delilah.
The show will see the return of Norwich Theatre Royal mainstay Richard Gauntlett as Smee, who also plays a major part in things behind-the-scenes as both writer and director, and two of the cast of UK hit West Side Story Charlotte Baptie and Sinead Kenny will play Peter Pan and Tiger Lily.
Tickets range from £5.50 to £21, with discounts for over 60s, under 18s and groups. Tickets are available from the box office on 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
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