Back in September 2018, one of our trustees (Dave Hearn of Mischief Theatre fame) introduced us to the wonderful team at the charity Rays of Sunshine. RoS grants wishes for very poorly and life-limited children and had the team took great delight in telling me about a recent wish where they sourced not only Richard Hammond, but also a pink Lamborghini - which involved wrapping a white one to make it pink! Richard Hammond was the easy part! This charity also has a fantastic scheme called Hospital Activity Days, where they bring fun, creativity, crafts and play into children's wards of hospitals. And this became the main focus of our meeting - they wanted us to create a 30-minute show to become a centrepiece for their party. And we jumped at the chance!
Once our 2018 Christmas hospice tour was up and running, our director Claire got to work creating our new show. She brought in some non-Christmas related numbers and characters from previous tours, and also lots of new material to create a lovely two-hander interactive, multi-sensory show called "The Big Birthday Adventure" The show tells of Benson and his friend who go on an adventure to fill the contents of a magic colouring book - meeting fun friends and singing songs on their way.
And then it was time to rehearse - in two and a half days! We were sure we could do it, as we were comfortable with the material and knew what we wanted for the show in terms of staging and music. We just needed to find a pool of actors who were up for the challenge - and we had no problem on that front!
We drew initially from actors from our previous children's hospice tours of 2016-2018. And then we also offered the opportunity to four fantastic performers who auditioned for our 2018 Christmas tour, but were not cast that year. We had a wonderful response and suddenly had a pool of twelve wonderful actors to work with - including Claire and I of course, who brought ourselves out of C4K 'resting' to get involved with this project on the ground!
Our two days' rehearsals were held at the Unicorn Theatre who generously donated their space for free. We laughed, we sang, we learnt and honed puppetry skills, and we created some wonderful characters. Maurice the monkey ranged from Geordie to Scottish to Californian depending on who was playing him, and Larry the Lantern Lighter with his beautiful finger-light rendition of "Row Row Row Your Boat" was joyous from everyone!
Each pairing of actors brought different things to the story and everyone became well-versed in ad-libbing by the end of the process. Those ad libs started to grow and created more magical moments as we went along. We culminated the process in a series of run-throughs on the Sunday, and Claire and I were amazed and thrilled with how much we had all achieved in just two days of rehearsal.
Our new venture was born, and is in twelve sets of very capable, talented and passionate hands. We can't wait for reports back from the shows - watch this space for hospital performance blogs!