A gig for kids

We asked Kid Carpet a few questions about The Super Mega Rockin’ Rock Show – the perfect half term treat for 4-10 year olds.

Super Mega Rockin Rock Show alternative.jpg

How did you start producing theatre shows for family audiences?

I started making theatre for children and families as a kind of naturally organic accident. After making a bunch of albums and touring non-stop to rock venues, festivals and nightclubs for 4 or 5 years, my partner and I decided to start a family. After the baby popped out I found it really difficult working at night. A year or so later as I was having that serious chat with myself about where my career was going I noticed that I had about 200 recordings of songs and skits made on my telephone whilst child-caring. Listening to those recordings I thought maybe I should make an album for kids. A few weeks later I saw a shout-out from Theatre Bristol and The Tobacco Factory asking for fresh ideas for theatre shows, especially from non-theatre artists. Looking back over those recordings I decided to apply for the residency to make a theatre/rock show/cinema experience that would make me feel like I was in The Muppets, Bagpuss, Tiswas and The Beastie Boys all at the same time. A year later and Kid Carpet & The Noisy Animals was on tour and my ‘career’ was rescued from impending oblivion.

Can you tell us a little about The Super Mega Rockin’ Rock Show?

Super Mega Rockin’ Rock Show is like a ‘best of’ my work for children and families. There are songs, videos, interactive audience participation bits, games and puppeteering, all presented as a gig for kids.

We get to meet Gorilla, Badger, Bear and Hedgehog (The Noisy Animals), we adventure through the story of their first show while occasionally nipping off into space, having a quick Penguin Race and flying on some Golden Eagles before we end up at a gloriously anarchic stage invasion and Dance Contest. Bring yer Dad, he’ll love it.

Actually, a Dad wrote to me yesterday after seeing Super Mega Rockin’ Rock Show in October and this is what he said: “We loved the show. So many children’s events are patronising, boring or just a bit rubbish. Your show is the opposite of all these things.”

What will the song writing workshop involve?

In our song writing workshop we will make up some brilliantly simple songs from scratch, brainstorm ideas, write lyrics, form bands, choose a really good band name and do our first gig. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got no experience of making up songs or playing music, we’ll make something fantastic and have plenty of fun doing it.

The Super Mega Rockin’ Rock Show is in The Salberg on Wednesday 15 February as part of Theatre Fest West. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com. The song writing workshop is now sold out.

Destiny, choice, friendship… and tap dancing Vikings.

Award-winning comedy cabaret duo House of Blakewell will be spending a week in Salisbury working on a new musical as part of Theatre Fest West. We asked Harry and Alice to tell us a bit more about the production and the process of creating the show.


Tell us a bit about yourself and your relationship with Theatre Fest West

We’re Harry and Alice, also known as House of Blakewell – we’re a duo that make alternative musical theatre with a strong comedy-cabaret flavour. Harry went to school in Salisbury (his first job was as a Box Office Assistant at the Playhouse!) and has worked here as a composer/sound designer on Bike, Hedda Gabler and Night Must Fall. Alice also trained in Bristol, but strangely we haven’t performed in the South West until now, so we were really excited to be included in the programme. It’s such a great opportunity for us to share our work with an audience while we’re still in the process of making it.

Could you briefly describe what your show is about?

thor-loki-2It’s loosely based on the Norse gods Thor and Loki, as described in the Eddas (collections of myths written by Icelandic poets in the Middle Ages.) It’s about the two characters and their attempts to prevent the day of Ragnarok – the end of the world – but really it’s about destiny, choice, friendship and embracing change, in order to create a better world. With tap dancing Vikings.

What do you expect audiences will take away from your piece?

Hopefully they’ll leave with a smile on their face, humming the tunes!

What’s been the biggest challenge/most exciting moment so far?

We normally work as a duo, but in this show we have a cast of five. It was initially slightly intimidating allowing other people into our creative process, but the first time we had the full company in a kick line singing in four-part harmony was amazingly joyous!

How important are Research and Development weeks and sharings when creating a new musical?thor-loki

Very important! There’s an old showbiz saying, ‘Musicals aren’t written, they’re re-written’. This is probably because there is so much to coordinate – music, lyrics, choreography – while also making sure that the dramatic rhythm works and the story is clear. Some of these elements are things you can only discover once the show is being performed live in front of an audience. In the old days, musicals used to have out-of-town tryouts, where things would get rewritten and restaged before going into town, but the advantage of workshop performances is that they allow us to try stuff out, adapt and gather feedback as part of our writing process. We can’t wait to share it with you!

House of Blakewell will be sharing Thor & Loki  at 6pm on Friday 17 February as part of Theatre Fest West. Tickets are FREE and can be booked via the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or at www.salisburyplayhouse.com.  

A tale of nosiness gone wild


Nikki Sved, Artistic Director of Theatre Alibi, talks about Fish Eye – a tale of nosiness gone wild.

Can you tell us a little about Fish Eye?

Fish Eye is about a one woman mission to discover the whereabouts of a stolen side6g5a0135board. Pam justifies extreme measures with her deep suspicions of her neighbours. When she knits surveillance cameras into hand-knitted toys and plants them in her neighbours’ houses she discovers that things are even worse than she initially suspected…

What was the inspiration behind this production? 
Daniel Jamieson, the writer, was alarmed by the notion of the Snooper’s Charter which gives the government access to a huge amount of our data. All our emails,
our search history – it’s all at their disposal.  He wanted to explore whether it’s possible to find the truth amidst all the information, and whether it’s worth losing our privacy over.

maggie-obrien-in-fish-eye-credit-steve-tannerTheatre Alibi has been producing theatre for 35 years – what do you find most exciting about the south west theatre scene?

There are a lot of great storytellers in the South West; Kneehigh and Travelling Light to name but a few. There’s a strong culture of Theatre Making, with work that is created in a collaborative way using all that theatre has to offer from puppetry to music to film; all the means we have at our fingertips to tell a good story.

Fish Eye is in The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse on Saturday 18 February as part of Theatre Fest West. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

Production photos by Steve Tanner

Inspiration for the mind, heart and soul.

The Castle Builder is a Vic Llewellyn and Kid Carpet production which comes to The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse as part of Theatre Fest West. We asked Kid Carpet a few questions about the show.


Can you tell us a little about the style of The Castle Builder?

The Castle Builder is part rock gig, part lecture/documentary investigation and presented as a theatre show. We were attempting to write and devise a play about Outsider Artists who make massively weird constructions, follies and buildings and as that idea developed we staged a couple of test or scratch performances in Bristol and changed what we presented each time. We had a booking for a third such event but had no time to rehearse as I was touring with one of my shows for children and families. I remember saying to Vic, “look it’s ok, I’ll do the songs, you can do the talky bits and we’ll take it in turns”. It turned out that the format worked really well for us and spoke more directly about the characters and work that we were investigating. The show embodies the spirit of the artists we discuss with songs, dancing, tenderness and mayhem and we have the strange enigma of a guest ‘maker’ building something unique from furniture which Vic has just smashed to bits. It’s a wonky, shonky show which fits the subject perfectly.

What inspired you to create The Castle Builder?

Vic and I first worked together in 2012 while performing in The Lost Present, a Christmas show. During a dressing room discussion Vic told me about a book he was writing about a castle he’d seen in Norway. He was on a tourist boat trip around the coast and asked the tour guide about a castle he could see on the clifftops. He was told a story about ancient Vikings which all the tourists and The Rough Guide writer aboard the boat thought was wholly plausible. The truth about that castle was far stranger than what they were told.

We decided we’d like to make a show together about the castle in Norway. We found the blurred line between reality and fiction as inspiring as the actual castle builder. We began looking at other castle builders and found thousands of inspirational people and their works. Inspiration for the mind, heart and soul.

What do you enjoy most about producing theatre in the south west?

I love making work close to home. I want to be with my family and friends and not running away from them. Theatre in the south west is really supportive; there are many talented, clever and generous people in the field who readily offer their advice and help, there’s tons of work being made and hopefully that will continue to expand and develop.

The Castle Builder plays in The Salberg on Wednesday 15 February. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

Family feuds, love, The Lord of the Rings and the boundary line…

Lloyd Gorman plays Mike in the Salisbury Playhouse, New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch production of Worst Wedding Ever. Lloyd’s recent theatre credits include the West End production of Sunny Afternoon and the UK tour of Our House.

Worst Wedding Ever - Chris Chibnall - Salisbury PlayhouseDirector - Gareth Machin
Designer - James Button
Lighting - Peter Hunter

Andy - Oliver Bennett
Scott - Rudi Dharmalingam
Mike - Lloyd Gorman
Graeme - Richard Hurst
Mel - Martin Hyder
Brian - Glyn

Lloyd Gorman (centre) in the 2014 production of Worst Wedding Ever. Photo by Robert Workman.

Can you tell us a little about Worst Wedding Ever and the character you play, Mike?

In a world where the average cost of a wedding is between £20-£25k, Worst Wedding Ever follows Rachel and Scott’s attempt to get married on a budget. Whilst the couple wants a simple, registry office wedding, Rachel’s family wades in and hijacks the arrangements to create the ultimate DIY wedding with a marquee and portable loos.  But sometimes having your family too involved in your wedding plans can lead to disastrous (and often hilarious) consequences.  It’s a modern farce with a heart! My character, Mike, is a singer in a band that is drafted in at the last minute (much to the annoyance of a member of Rachel’s family) to play at Rachel and Scott’s wedding.

You were in the original cast of the 2014 production – why do you think it was so popular with audiences?

The characters, situation and relationships are incredibly relatable to and familiar.  It’s really entertaining, and laugh out loud funny.  It’s emotionally generous.  It’s about family feuds, love, pain, The Lord of the Rings and the neighbour’s boundary line.  I think we can all relate to at least one of those!

What was it like working on a brand new show?

It’s really nice to work on something brand new as there are no preconceptions and no comparisons. It leaves you feeling freer in the way you approach the character and gives the cast and creative team the chance to leave their lasting mark on a project.  Obviously there’s always the chance that it could be a complete flop and not sell a single ticket, but luckily that didn’t happen with Worst Wedding Ever!

Worst Wedding Ever was written by Broadchurch-creator and soon-to-be Head Writer of Doctor Who, Chris Chibnall – what is it like working with him?

It’s great. He’s supportive, flexible, non-precious but secure in what he wants – a real team player who appreciates every facet of putting something together. The writing is cheeky, warm, funny and very human. And most of all, he’s a really nice guy!

Have you ever been a member of a band? Did you play for weddings?

I was in bands when I was growing up, but haven’t actually been in one full time and as an adult.  I’d like to be, but it’s one of those things that I never get round to organising!  I’ve been to some weddings with cracking bands but I’ve only played at one wedding myself…but it was a little tamer and less dramatic than in Worst Wedding Ever.

Are there any surprises in store for the Worst Wedding Ever audiences?

Maybe I should keep the surprises a surprise!  There’s loads of unexpected stuff going on in Worst Wedding Ever.  You’ll hear a band in the foyer as you come in, you’ll see characters appearing from all sorts of unexpected places, and I really wouldn’t keep two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in a confined space for too long.  Cryptic enough?  Come and see it, you won’t be disappointed.

Worst Wedding Ever runs in the Main House at Salisbury Playhouse from Thursday 2 to Saturday 25 February 2017. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com. It then plays at New Wolsey, Ipswich (Wednesday 1 to Saturday 11 March) and Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch (Wednesday 15 March to Saturday 1 April).  

A technicolour trip through the last proper youth movement

Nora, Dora and Kat from In Bed With My Brother explain more about their latest production, We Are Ian.

We Are Ian image.jpg

Can you tell us a little about We Are Ian?

We Are Ian is about our mate, Ian. Ian is 46. Ian is from Manchester. Ian is a former DJ and a Painter and Decorator by trade. As three women in our twenties doing theatre, we don’t have much in common with Ian. But Ian was our age in 1989, the height of the Acid House movement in the UK. It’s a technicolour trip through the highs and lows of the last proper youth movement, told straight from the horse’s mouth. Mainly, the show is a lot of fun; not conventional, but it’s a fast-paced spectacle – a visual and often hypnotising whirlwind with a surprising political punch. we-are-ian-credit-matt-austin-1

What inspired you to create this piece?

Ian asked us to make a show about him. Originally he wanted us to make an epic 12 part drama about his entire life, but we had other ideas… As a working class man, Ian’s voice is not often one that is heard in theatre so it was really important to us that his was the only one present in the piece. His stories, humour and just general being is what has inspired this show. It’s as crazy, fun and vibrant as Ian is.

What do you enjoy most about the producing theatre in the south west?

All three of us met whilst studying together at Exeter University and we decided to stay down here after being given the graduate residency at the Bike Shed Theatre. There is such a great, creative community down here and what we love about being part of this community is how supportive and nurturing everybody is. It’s difficult sometimes talking about theatre in the South West because London is supposed to be the centre of the universe, but there needs to be more recognition for regional theatre-making; there’s more time, more affordable space and there’s a lot of talent. And also, everyone’s your friend, and there’s loads of cider, which is always good.

We are Ian is performed in The Salberg on Friday 17 February as part of Theatre Fest West. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

Photos by Matt Austin

Everyone loves to see the little guys win

The fantastic Stuff and Nonsense returns to The Salberg in February half term as part of Theatre Fest West. We asked performers Katie Underhay and Peter Morton to tell us more about the production.


Can you tell us a little about 3 Little Pigs?

Katie: Tall Pig, Middle Pig and Tiny Pig need to build themselves a house, but they can’t seem to catch a break from the wolf! There are only two of us in the cast, so we play and puppeteer multiple characters throughout the show. It gets pretty frantic swapping puppets and changing bits of costume and I think that adds to the frenetic vibe of the whole thing!

Peter: 3 Little Pigs is the story that you expect but told in unexpected and satisfying ways with an ending that gets the whole audience huffing and puffing. It is a show that revolves around the characters; the audience falls completely in love with Tall, Middle, and Tiny Pig and even have a soft spot for J. Arthur Wolfington Smythe. 3-little-pigs-image

Why do you think the story remains so popular with young people and families?

Peter: It’s a tale that has stood the test of time, the concept is beautifully simple: 3 pigs building houses to keep away from the wolf. Like all good old stories with these facts the narrative can be woven by the teller who can embellish and add detail and create a different ending to suit their audience. Everyone who comes to the show has their own preconceptions of the story and it’s fantastic to play with the audience on this.

Katie: It’s one of those stories where the plucky, unlikely heroes beat the big scary baddy and I think that resonates with everyone – whether you’re a 6 year-old relating it to a bully from school, or a 30 year-old thinking of standing up to a co-worker who has been walking all over you!

Everyone loves to see the little guys win. And this show in particular is amazing with families. I think the parents are expecting to have to ‘sit through’ a baby-show, but within the first minute, they’re laughing themselves and you can tell that they are really surprised and relieved! We talk to the audience during the show and you can see that 2, 4, 9 and 60 year olds are all having an amazing time which is so nice as a performer.

What do you enjoy most about working on productions using puppetry?

3-little-pigs-alternative-2Katie: I’ve always loved puppets. It was a fantastic realisation when I finally worked out you could work with them as a career! I love creating characters and as an actor you’re pretty limited because you know that your character is always going to look a bit like you do. But when somebody gives you a chubby little pig puppet and that’s your basis for a character it opens up so many ideas you probably wouldn’t have thought of! This production is quite unique because we play the same characters as puppets and actors, so the voice and movement we create for the puppet also has to translate to the way I act the character. It’s an unusual challenge but always keeps you on your toes. I’ve performed in 3 Little Pigs over 150 times and I keep thinking of new ways to make my acting versions of characters more similar to the puppeteering!

Peter: Puppets are a fantastic way to present the characters in this story. Whereas an actor is a person who we all know is someone who isn’t really “Tall Pig” (they are “Peter the touring actor who exists outside the show”), the Tall Pig puppet is Tall Pig. The puppets are created to play the role and therefore the audience sees only the character in the show. I love working with puppets because of the investment the audience can have in a piece of foam and cloth. There is no thought in the audience’s mind that, as the wolf goes to eat tiny pig, that it is just a puppet and doesn’t really matter! No, IT’S TINY PIG!!! WHO’S GOING TO SAVE HIM!!?

3 Little Pigs is in The Salberg on Monday 13 February 2017 as part of Theatre Fest West with performances at 1pm and 3.30pm. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

A heartfelt love letter to songs

Little Bulb Theatre writes about its latest production, Wail.


Can you tell us a little about Little Bulb Theatre and the work it creates?

At its heart Little Bulb Theatre is a group of friends who love making theatre and music together.  We originally formed at Kent University in 2008 and, following the success of our first show, Crocosmia, in Edinburgh that year, we’ve been lucky enough to keep making work ever since.  Over that time we’ve performed in a huge variety of formats from small intimate gigs to large-scale bespoke commissions and everything in between.  We often work with music, live and recorded, and love the challenge of writing songs and composing in new genres for different projects, sometimes even learning new instruments if we feel it’s necessary.  We are fascinated by, and constantly exploring, the relationship between theatre and music and Wail is no exception.

What was the inspiration behind Wail?

Wail came about because of an invitation by the Nuffield Laboratory to work in collaboration with a scientist from Southampton University to create a Work in Progress performance for their Fulcrum Festival in 2014.  The subject and scientist with whom with felt the greatest affinity was Professor Paul White whose research into Underwater Acoustics and the song cycles of Humpback Whales we found fascinating, and thus began a rehearsal process full of fact-finding, song writing and whale-style wailing (which we may or may not get you to do too)

What can audiences expect from the production?

Well, lots of songs, a bit of science and definitely some silliness, as is true for most of our work.  There’s a live quiz, Male Whale Choir, and, if you’re lucky, a short visit from a (huge and aquatic) surprise special guest.   In brief, it’s a comical but heartfelt love letter to songs, singing (whale and human) and the reasons behind why we communicate in song.

Wail is performed in The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse on Saturday 25 February 2017 at 2.45pm and 7.45pm as part of Theatre Fest West. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

In a secret location near Salisbury Playhouse…

all-the-journeys-i-never-tookIn a secret location near Salisbury Playhouse, All The Journeys I Never Took is an immersive spoken word show for one or two audience members at a time. With the cityscape framed, the audience become a voyeur to the bustle around. Here we take the time to be, to listen, to let our senses roam. A personal story emerges. A story that explores what it is like to leave behind the middle man – lover, father, priest – & discover our place in the world. A space that echoes with unravelling journeys, break ups, first dates, family, confidences. Here we ask the audience to take an active role. Here we mutter poems of love, of loss, of the human. The city provides our actors & backdrop. Here the everyday is elevated. Told through interactive theatre, text and objects, this immersive journey explores the individual’s connection to the whole and art as provocation & event.

Writer and performer Rebecca Tantony tells us a little more about the production:

What inspired All the Journeys I Never Took?

It sprung from a seed; from conversations over coffee and the desire to co-create work with the brilliant women around me. It came from political frustration.

Why did it feel important to deliver the show to one person at a time?

I think the explosion of poetry in the mainstream and its increase in popularity means live performance is offered to bigger audiences. I am interested in how to capture the personal intensity of a performance where you feel like it is just ‘for you’. The team wanted to explore ways in which we could do that through a one on one delivery.

What has been the audience response?

People seemed extremely affected by it and we have had comments including ‘Theatre so rarely makes me feel moved or like it was made directly for me.’  And ‘Gracious, ecstatically loved up, in awe. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.’

All The Journeys I Never Took is performed in a secret location near Salisbury Playhouse on Saturday 18 February 2017 as part of Theatre Fest West. This show is performed to 1 or 2 audience members at a time and there will be FREE 30 minute performance slots available between 12pm-2pm and 3pm-6pm. Bookings can be made via the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 from 1 February 2017.

Writer & Performer | Rebecca Tantony

Director | Raquel Meseguer

Designer | Synnøve Fredericks

Producer | Lucy English


Writing a play for a robot

Jon Welch from Pipeline Theatre writes about the creation of Spillikin – A Love Story.


Spillikin – A Love Story. Photos by Steve Tanner

It’s not often, as a playwright, that one’s given an opportunity to write a play for an actual, state-of the-art robot. However, in 2014, Cornwall-based robot-maker extraordinaire Will Jackson, having seen our play Transports (which also later played in The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse in 2016), took a chance with us and so we started the process of putting one of his astonishing creations on stage. His robots are life-sized, humanoid, and exhibited around the world at museums, Universities, Ted Talks, but this was the first time one of his robots was going to be in a real play, playing a ‘part’. His words to me were: “I’ve spent ten years designing a piano – now I need someone to write the music.” So, no pressure, then.

The immediate issues were, one: how to make it ‘theatrical’ (not having the special effects and narrative shortcuts available in film), and two: how to avoid the clichés – in fiction robots generally either become ‘human’, or kill everybody. What was the story going to be? Around the same time, our artistic co-director’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and the idea of combining an endlessly patient robot-companion with someone embarking on an unknowable journey of forgetfulness and loss came into focus.


Because this robot is so special, and looks so amazing, it became obvious that it would have to be a bespoke companion. So it became a love-story – a robot designed by a robot-maker (himself with not long to live), specifically for his ailing wife; an ersatz husband, uploaded with his memories and ‘personality’, a whirring, twinkling, singing, game-playing, memory-prompting love letter created to stick by her from beyond the grave, as her Alzheimer’s worsens.

As a writer, it’s a been a journey for me too; not just in terms of the robot, but in the contact I’ve made with human carers – selfless, good-humoured, unsung heroes. It’ll be a long time before a robot can replace any of them. Seeing them stubbornly continuing to honour the totality of a person’s life and humanity, even as it diminishes in front of them, has been humbling. This is why I felt that our story should also take in the couple when they first meet, their early awkward, teenage photo-steve-tanner4romance, at their silliest, a full future ahead of them, and in their prime. Alzheimer’s is a dark theme for a play. But as audiences have attested so far, there are laughs, and plenty of them, in amongst the tears.


I really hope you’ll come along and jump on the rollercoaster with us. Afterwards there’s a special ‘Q&A with a difference’, where you’ll be able to get up close and personal with the robot.

Spillikin – A Love Story is performed in The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse on Friday 24 February 2017 at 7.45pm as part of Theatre Fest West. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com.

Spillikin is a collaboration with Engineered Arts, makers of the ground-breaking, cutting edge Robothespian.