‘They’re behind you!’ – Gorleston designers set the scene for London panto
- Credit: Nick Butcher
For many in the theatre business, pantomime season represents a rollercoaster of exhilaration and exhaustion.
And this year a Norfolk firm will once again play a starring role in the staging of the country's most lavish Christmas shows.
3D Creations in Gorleston has been commissioned to design, build and install the set for the pantomime at the London Palladium for the second year in a row.
Its set for Cinderella – the first large-scale pantomime to be held at the theatre for 30 years – won the best staging and set award at the Great British Pantomime Awards 2016/17.
This year managing director Ian Westbrook and his 16-strong team have this year been tasked with creating a set for Dick Whittington, which will star Julian Clary, Elaine Page and Nigel Havers.
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Mr Westbrook would not reveal how much the contract is worth, but said: 'The set has taken five months to build and paint, with 16 people on the staff all doing 50-60 hour weeks. It has taken that time to create all the sets.
'There are a lot of built sections to the show. It is incredibly detailed and very colourful – we have used gallons of paint.
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'We have three big flying effects including a double decker bus and a ship which will fly into the audience without wires, two towers which are 11m high, and an underwater scene with a Sultan's palace.'
The set will be transported to London in a fleet of 10 articulated lorries, and will be installed by a team of 50 people over five days.
Mr Westbrook expects the show will transfer to another theatre after its run at the Palladium.
'It is a huge undertaking, and it means we have been able to employ four new members of staff because we have had so much more work on over the last four years,' he said.
'The producers have got the contract [at the Palladium] for at least the next three years so hopefully if they like this show – and what they have seen so far they have been pleased with – they will come back to us.'
It is not 3D Creations' first experience of big-time panto, having previously designed sets for Birmingham Hippodrome and Newcastle Theatre Royal.
The company, which turned over £800,000 in its last financial year, has also work on stages for music acts including Iron Maiden and Ellie Goulding.
The London Palladium panto in numbers
Creating a pantomime set fit for one of the country's most well-known theatres is no mean feat.
A team of 16 staff has worked to create the set at 3D Creations' studio in Malthouse Lane in Gorleston.
To create and decorate the built parts of the set, the firm's carpenters and artists have used thousands of metres of timber and hundreds of gallons of paint.
Alongside the built sections are more than 20 back cloths, each 14m by 7m, which have all been hand drawn and painted.
Installing the set at the London Palladium will be a mammoth task, taking a team of 50 – including seven staff from 3D Creations – up to a week to put into place.
A fleet of 10 45ft lorries will be used to transport it from Norfolk to the West End.
With around 70 pantomime performances taking place at the 2,300-seat Palladium over December and January, 3D Creations' set could be seen by more than 160,000 people.