Bad Day Good Story: The Job Interview, Part 2

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Bad Day Good Story, Comedy, Entertainment

“I picked up an issue of Cosmopolitan the other day that had tips for job interviews, because I was like, ‘I need to get better at interviews.’ The article was basically about how to get someone not to hate you in 20 minutes. Every single thing they told you not to do, I was like, ‘I do that every day.’” – Jennifer Lawrence

 

Not read The Job Interview, Part 1? Click here.

The panel was made up of three women all of whom limply shook my hands before inviting me to sit down.

For the sake of this article, I will be referring to them as Angela, Bella and Caren to protect their identities (but is mainly because I don’t remember, nor do I care).

Angela was fixated on her mobile.  “Just to let you know I take notes on my phone, so don’t worry!  I’m sending texts throughout your interview” she explained.

I thought ‘Great Angela, why can’t you just make notes on pen and paper like everyone else in the world!’  I said, “You can’t fool me, I know you’re catching Pokémon”

Dead silence.

Shit.  Off to a fine start Ruth!  Well, if they don’t appreciate your incredibly witty and current joke (it was 2016 after all) you’ll just have to win them over with your adorable banter.

I had been asked to plan a 10-minute presentation about a specific spoken word artist and what digital media platforms I would use to promote them.  This took me around 5 hours of my life.  I worked hard on it, and I was psyched!  It would be bloody brilliant.  It had to be.  I had cue cards!

“Apologies” Bella piped up.  “We’re running a bit late.”  Again, no shit!  “So, that 10-minute presentation we asked you to prepare, we’ll be cutting you off at 5 minutes.”

What. The. Fuck.

I came all the way from Birmingham to give you this sodding presentation and now you tell me you don’t even care what I have to say.  Being my stubborn and competitive self, I decided to interpret this as a challenge.  I rummaged for my cue cards and took a deep breath: On your marks, get set, GO!

I was off.  Galloping through the gates at a million miles per hour.  1 cue card down… 2… 3, 4, 5… smashing both my presentation and the world record for the fastest speed anyone has ever spoken!  I slam the cards on the table and consulted the wall clock.  30 seconds to spare.  Game, set and match!  “Was that fast enough?” I asked, rhetorically of course.  I knew it was.  In your face bitches!  I am the winner! VICTORIOUS!

Dead Silence again.

OK, there was a chance I had lost track of why I was doing this.

“Right, well,” said Caren, smiling with her mouth but pure disdain in her eyes. “Let’s move onto some questions about you.”

Yep, clearly CRUSHED it!

But she didn’t ask me any questions you’d expect to hear at a job interview, the generic but suspected ‘Why did you apply for this position?’ or ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ No, there was none of that fluff!  Instead, it was a round of quick-fire yes or no questions.

I felt like I was in the big black chair in the Mastermind, the moving lights had circled round the studio and landed upon me. A bead of sweat pooled on my forehead and the camera began to zoom in.

“Can you use a computer?”

“Yes.”

“Can you use Word?”

“Yes.”

“Can you work Excel?”

“Yes.”

“Powerpoint? Outlook? Publisher?”

“Yes, yes and yes.” Although I feel like if you could use computers, Caren, you maybe would have put that all under the banner of Microsoft Office.

“Windows? Macs?”

“Yep and yep.”

“The Internet?”

“Er, yes?”

“Facebook?”

“Yep.”

“Twitter?”

“Yarp.”

“Instagram?”

“Yeash.”

I thought ‘I wouldn’t have actually been able to apply for this job without many of these skills Caren… and to be fair, all social media platforms are pretty fucking similar…’ but instead, I just creatively reimagined ways to say yes.

“Yeppers…Yepster…Yeperoonie…Yah…aye…yes I surely canly do!” BLAH BLAH BLAH.

At the end of her checklist she glanced up at me, a worrying glint in her eye, saying “And, finally Ruth, Can you explain to me why you’ve been out of work for the last 5 years?”

Dead Silence… from me this time.

But after a far too long pause I managed to muster up the following extremely eloquent and intelligent response:

“Er, I haven’t?”

“Well,” Caren continued, “there’s no evidence of any work here on your CV.”

“How strange.”

I’m not gonna lie, this had thrown me through a loop. I mean, why had they even offered me an interview if they thought I had never worked in my life?!

“Could I take a look at that copy?”

Unimpressed, Caren palms it over.

I analyse my CV carefully before looking back to Angela, Bella and Caren in turn.

“Um…”

Beat.

“Have any of you thought to turn it over?”

I couldn’t believe it! I had travelled for hours, spent the best part of a day devising a presentation and waited for even longer and they hadn’t even bothered to turn over a sodding piece of paper?!

They all burst into laughter. I joined in, though I was crying on the inside.

And so, the interview was drawing to a conclusion.

“Now, are there any questions you have for us before we end?”

I had a list; I always have a list.

“Do you have any tablets or company phones to test the mobile capabilities of your site because at the moment it isn’t auto responsive?”

Having quickly scanned the equipment when I was trapped in the office and accessed that most of the hardware seemed to predate the Commodore 64 I can’t say I was hugely surprised by the answer.

“No.”

Great.

“We are however in the process of launching a 5-year plan to make our website mobile-friendly.”

5 years?

5 YEARS?

What are you doing every day Caren!? Step One, turn on the computer, Step Two, wipe brow, well that seems like plenty of work for today.

And actually, more to the point, in 5 years your mobile-friendly website will be out of date. In 5 years, we’ll probably be viewing websites through high tech contact lenses! (Or they’ll be a pandemic which will stunt the economic growth of the world and put you, Caren, out of a job.)

“Well, thanks for your time,” I said standing up and rolling my eyes as loudly as possible. “Looking forward to hearing from you.”

And with that, I spun on my heel and walked out the door.

* * *

Now I know what you must be thinking. ‘You bought The Girl on a Train, where does this come into play?’

Well folks, if ever a book has a more depressing opening of hundred pages of soul-destroying sadness I am yet to read it.

If you haven’t read it, in a nutshell, two women have given up on life and are sleeping or drinking the pain away.

Now I’m assured it picks up. Its twists and turns are (allegedly) enough to keep any reader hooked. I wouldn’t know, I have never finished it.

Because those hundred pages…

Whilst sitting on a train wanting to give up on life and sleep or drink my pain away, it wasn’t exactly the escapist thriller I was hoping for.

Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining.

Bad Day Good Story: The Job Interview, Part I

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Bad Day Good Story, Comedy, Entertainment

Death will be a great relief.  No more interviews” – Katharine Hepburn

It was a bright autumnal morning as readied myself to embark on the 11.12 to London.

* * *

I had already got off to a bad start by waking up late and rushing off leaving my entire life at home.  The essential item I had forgotten was a phone charger (for my 2-year-old Samsung Galaxy which, in its current battered and bruised state, had a battery life of around 10 minutes).  With no time to go home, I ran (by which I mean walked quickly-ish, quicker than my usual casual saunter anyway) to Sainsbury’s, and bought the world most overpriced charger.  On a whim, I also picked up The Girl on the Train to keep myself entertained on the journey.  I returned to the station and boarded the train.

* * *

I travelled the additional hour-long journey on the tube* to Deptford ready for my interview.

! SIDE RANT ALERT !

I bloody hate how long it takes to get anywhere in London.  Everyone raves about the public transport system, and I will admit that the buses and trains are very frequent, but they neglect to mention:

  • Whatever your vehicle choice it only travels at about 10 metres per hour;
  • There are strikes every other day which means everywhere you look closely resembles a cattle ranch, the population herded on and off buses and being housed in extremely close quarters;
  • Scheduled maintenance guarantees whatever tube line you want to travel on will be closed;
  • If you want to go south of the river swimming through the Thames and then hitchhiking to your destination via Guam will end up being much faster.

! SIDE RANT OVER !

Now no offence to the people of Deptford (says she as she is most likely about to cause great offence to the people of Deptford) but Deptford is not a great place… I did see evidence of one shady looking hipster café complete with mismatched furniture and Edison lightbulbs (very original) which implies it is up and coming, however in my opinion its only redeeming feature was a very large and well-stocked Poundland.  I believe this illustrates perfectly that it is in fact very much down and going. 

My Interview was at the Local Arts Centre with a Poetry and Spoken Word promotions company and on paper looked right up my street.  Their Mission? Evolve this area of the arts so it is more widely received throughout London and the UK and to rid people of their preconceptions that all poetry is wanky, pretentious and weird.  A brilliant concept.

I signed in on time at the reception and went to chill in the café.  After 15 minutes I was approached by the recruitment officer who informed me they were running late (No shit) and invited me to wait in the office.  I thought ‘Nope, I am quite happy sitting here where you can’t see me checking social media on my laptop.  I would therefore not like to walk into your office where all your staff can stare at me making me feel excruciatingly awkward thank you very much, but not wanting to reveal the sarcastic cynicism that is my personality I said “Ooo yes, that sounds great!”

I took a seat and scanned the offices, a typical arts hub with ratty pictures of success stories on the walls, old furniture including a couple of bean bags to add the air of chill and funk and lots of hustle and bustle.  I opted for a chair, sat and picked up a leaflet from the coffee table and pretended to read (to look all profesh and deeply interesting) whilst subtly rotating my head so my ear was pointing in the direction of the raucous laughter in the corner. 

Man, I would be a great spy!

Unfortunately, what my sneakiness revealed was not some delightful anecdote about a poet they were with the other day. Alas, No. These middle-aged women were hysterically divulging their individual, very personal, Tinder Dates.  Now, I’m no prude, I love a funny tinder story as much as the next person, but in the pub or on lunch or in the office when you don’t have complete outsiders and potential employees coming in and out all day.  I turned back to my leaflet, now actively trying to read its incredibly dull content.  Anything to attempt to erase the all too graphic images of these strangers and their explicit sex lives that now seem to be burnt on the surface of my mind’s eye.

Finally, the recruitment officer called my name.  They were ready for me.  I was marched down a corridor to a small meeting room.  The door opened.

And so began the worst job interview of my life.

TO BE CONTINUED…

A Children’s Book Adventure: Zog and the Quest for the Golden Star

Posted Leave a commentPosted in attractions, Entertainment, Events, Publicity

Finally, in a year of lockdown, the end seems in sight and on day one of the exit plan Step 43,865 Warwick Castle has opened its doors with an awesome event which centres around one of the bestselling books from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Zog, the story of a clumsy dragon who just wants to be top of the class at Dragon School.

Having had at least 3 months of being able to plan this event since a Merlin attraction was last open it did have a few too many glitches for my liking but it does have a fab layout with clever use of the outside area of the castle. (Especially when you are legally unable to go inside!)

Guests follow a map to different years of Dragon School where they complete challenges and collect stamps to earn their very own Golden Star to show their friends they’re the best in the class.

With 5 stops to attend in total there is some great inspiration for arts businesses up and down the country to create events suitable for all kinds of budgets to get the crowds back in when the world opens up:

  • The first year of dragon school is a simple photo stop where you can pose with Zog while you learn to fly! Not only is this perfectly situated at the entrance, but it is a exceptional way to immediately trigger some social media interaction. People love a photo op plus this can be a cheap and easy thing to set up! My advice? Make sure your social usernames and hashtags are made visible to encourage that user-generated content!
  • The second and third years see interactive floor buttons which triggered great special effects to teach Zog how to roar and breathe fire. Admittedly this is for a higher budget including effects to outdoor speakers, dry ice and water fountains but there are loads of easy and cheaper ideas to encourage interaction. You could use anything from simple tech like QR quotes to send you to videos, polls or pages of your website or some old school carpentry like lifting flaps and spinningwheels! Just make sure there’s some alcohol gel around for hands-on activities!
  • Dragons learn how to capture a princess in year four with two assault courses (one made accessible for wheelchair users) assembled from tree stumps and branches and painted in orange and blue on brand with the event. This is the perfect event for children (and childish adults) and a really clever use of natural, easy to source materials; an excellent idea for any budget!
  • In the final stop dragons learn to fight! A marked-out area with a couple of actors playing knights, including the legendary Sir Galahad teach you to battle. I’m not gonna lie, kids with fake swords can be pretty lethal and I’m really not sure how covid safe it is as social distancing seemed to go out the window, but it certainly created an amazing memory to take home! Also a sneaky way of upselling with a strategically placed merchandise hut containing both Zog memorabilia and an array of medieval weapons, shields and armour you could purchase to take into the training arena. Do you have places where you could add sales to your arts business?

Anything linked with a bestselling children’s book is bound to make tickets sell. It also immediately provides you with another marketing outlet and fanbase!

For some companies, I appreciated that the potential royalties for current books might make them inaccessible but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  Authors like David Walliams or Michael Morpurgo for example have worked with a wide array of theatre companies, from Heartbreak Productions, a small-scale outdoor theatre company to the Birmingham Stage Company which tours mid to large scale theatres and has been known to house venues of the West End, so they can be made available to a spread of different budgets.

It’s also worth thinking about popular works that are out of copyright.  Generally, these become free 70 years after the writer’s death. (There are exceptions like Peter Pan where the royalties were given to Great Ormond Street Hospital by J. M. Barrie so all copyright is received as a charitable donation.)

So, look back through history! Anything by William Shakespeare… that’s free. Jane Austin, the Brontës, Louisa May Alcott… free. Dickens, Conan-Doyle, H. G. Wells… you get the idea. It’s also worth checking out school curriculums, creating educational days out to attract parents and entertain children. Books like Animal Farm by George Orwell are just out of copyright and a popular choice for GSCE due to the fact that it’s short and engaging.

Do your research, reach out to schools or authors and agents, collaborate with other arts companies to pool your resources! It’s been a difficult year for arts companies worldwide and will need some serious innovative thinking to keep them afloat!

Has your company utilised children’s literature in events? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments.

Bad Day Good Story: The Speeding Ticket

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Bad Day Good Story, Entertainment

“Drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested.” – Hunter S. Thompson

I was running late!  I grabbed my keys, jumped in my car and floored it, pedal to the metal.

* * *

I had recently upgraded my vehicle.  My old and first car, Lisbeth the Green Nissan Micra, had croaked her last.  I was freelancing at the time and had a week to find a new set of wheels.  This led me to a slightly panic bought Fiat Punto.  It is, in short, the worst car I have ever owned but at this point in time, I hadn’t noticed.  I had a new love: Hans Hoofington the 3rd or Howard for short.  Unlike my Nissan Micra, Howard could accelerate.  His 1.2-litre engine had blown me away.  I could now go from 0-60 in 30 seconds (as opposed to the 10 minutes it used to take).  The novelty had not yet worn off.

Another added bonus? Howard was bright yellow, very easy to find in a car park.

* * *

I was only half a mile from my house when I saw the police officer.  At first, I thought he was waving me around some sort of crash.  That was until I saw the speed gun in his hand.

Shit!

Shittedy shit shit shit!

I slowed down and wound down my window. (Electric by the way.  Just another life-changing feature.  No more back-breaking winding for me)

“Hello,” I said.

Awkward!

“Could you read what it says here?” he asked, showing me the screen on the speed gun.  He was stern and cold, like Liam Neeson I was sure he would show no mercy.

“44 miles per hour.”  I was in a 30 zone.

“And what can you tell me about that?”

I sensed this was a trap.  In hindsight, I should have played it cool.  Used my right to remain silent. But instead? This is what I said…

“Presumably your equipment is very accurate.”

Smooth.

I parked down the next road to see his partner. Before parking up, I shouted to him: “I’m just going to find somewhere to turn round.  I promise I’m not running away!”

As you can probably tell by now, I do not cope well with confrontation, especially not with authority figures.  My brain melts on the spot and with it, my thought to speech processing completely abandons me generally leading to the blind rambling of whatever comes into my head.

I knew I didn’t have a leg to stand on.  I had been caught red-handed and pretty much admitted my guilt, so I decided to admit defeat.  I walked towards him saying “I’m really sorry”.  The policeman looked up and smiled.  Phew.  I had encountered bad cop already, thank god, his partner was the good one.

“Can I start by taking your name?”

“Ruth West,” I blurted.

“And your surname?

I looked in disbelief.  You are a policeman who has asked me my name.  I kind of assumed you would require both first and last.

“Er, that’s it, Sorry.”

Pause.

“Ruth West.”

Longer Pause.

“My parents weren’t quirky enough to call me Ruthwest.”

Jesus Christ Ruth, engage cognitive processing.  To compensate I hung my head shamefully and hoped I was pulling off remorse.

He continued with his list, all straight forward enough.  I made sure to annunciate and stop slurring words together.  I felt like he’d been talking forever before realising what was going on.

“You don’t have to say anything…”

Oh God, I thought, slow on the uptake, I’m being cautioned!

“…but it may harm your defence if…”

I’d never even got a detention before.

“…you do not mention now…”

Ok, so not never, a couple of class ones but they were other peoples’ fault.  And there was one for not submitting my science homework but it’s not like I didn’t do the homework.  I’d got it because I stuck to my principles and refused to slide my hard work into a dark classroom under the door.  I mean, how very uncouth!  And there were a couple in primary school but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count if you’re under the age of 10.

“…something you later rely on in court…”

And I suppose there was that time I’d got a caution for ‘Trolley-napping.’ I kid you not, this was actually written on the official warning sheet we were given. Some friends and I were caught joyriding around a public park in a shopping trolley but I reckon the policeman only gave it out to scare us, or to so that we could show off by parading the slip around school because he knew this story would make for great banter… which we did… and it was.

“…anything you do say…”

Well, clearly I wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t like I’d microwaved a toddler.  This seemed way too harsh!

“…may be given in evidence.”

Damn it Ruth, focus!

I didn’t know what to do, so I asked: “Um… is there anything I should answer?”

The police officer actually laughed.  “How about ‘fair cop’?”

“Oh yes, you can write that down.”

And then I was on my merry way (at a very cautious 26mph) when I suddenly remembered what I was driving.  My new Fiat Punto: the colour of the sun; the most in-your-face offensive yellow; visible from outer space.  Why on earth did I think it would be a good idea to rag it around the Solihull Borough’s suburban streets?

I had learnt a very important life lesson: Slow and steady wins the race…

…Nah I’m just screwing with you. The moral is: Keep your eyes peeled for police officers especially when driving fluorescent automobiles.  You are much easier to see coming.

APP OF THE MONTH: Google Arts and Culture

Posted Leave a commentPosted in App of the Month, Art, Entertainment
Name Google Arts and Culture
Product Description Compiling Knowledge from over 2000 institutions worldwide to allow you to visit and inspect museums and art galleries right from your Smart Phone during a global pandemic.
Availability Available from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and through your browser.
Key Features ·       Art Transfer – stylise your photos to look like works by your favourite artists.

·       Art Selfie – Ever wanted to look like Van Gogh or dress up as the Girl with a Pearl Earring. Now you can with ease.

·       Art Projector – Check out exactly what artworks look like in their real size.

·       Pocket Gallery – Visit hundreds of art galleries worldwide during the lockdown.

·       Art Camera – Inspect your favourite artworks close up.

·       360° videos and Virtual reality tours – With VR technology you’ll truly feel like you’re at the museum

·       Street View – Tour famous sites and landmarks like the graffiti of Banksy across the world

·       Exhibits – Take guided tours curated by the worlds leading experts

·       Favourites – Save your favourite artworks into galleries to share you’re your family, friends or students

·       Nearby – Find museums and exhibitions near you to explore when Covid is over!

·       Notifications – New content and features are added weekly to keep you hooked

·       And much more!

Prices and Plans Completely Free!
Biggest Pro The ability to get your arts and culture fix in lockdown! Absolutely brilliant!
Biggest Con It’s a little bit glitchy here and there but I think that’s down to the enormity of content and activities available.

 

If you’re missing galleries and museums this is for sure the next best thing! But be warned… you can easily spend hours on this app exploring art, playing games and re-immersing yourself in the wonderful world of culture.

BAD DAY GOOD STORY: The Skipping Rope

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Bad Day Good Story, Comedy, Entertainment

‘A smooth race never made a skilful racer’ – Nascar Racing

This tale is truly on a par with the mighty Shakespeare.  My pen is my sword.

Why?  Well, I can pretty much guarantee had this incident not occurred I would (almost definitely) be an Olympic Athlete by now running alongside Hussain Bolt, probably faster, having been the only female ever to compete with the men.  I would have at least twenty gold medals hanging around my super strong neck.

But alas, this dream was not meant to be.  It was shattered a long time ago on a cold spring day in 1994.

* * *

I was 5 years old.

It was lunchtime, our time, a time to let our imaginations run away with us.  We could be anything we wanted.

Do you remember those times?  Where running was an enjoyable activity performed for fun?  We could run for hours and hours and never tire or bore!  They seem so far away now I’m a little bit podgy and a lottle bit unfit – but whatever, if I ever find myself being chased by a bear I only need to be faster than the slowest person in the group, right…

Well, today was one of those running days.  I was running, and running, and running some more.  No purpose, no destination, just running.  Little did I know I was being watched.  Not in a weird stalky way, more accurately, I was being scouted.

“You run fast.”

“I know.”

“Wanna Race?”

I couldn’t believe it!  Me, the lowly Ruth West had been challenged by Tia Maloney, widely renowned as the fastest girl in the infants!

“Yeah, ok.”

She summoned an audience for what was bound to be a spectacular event.  The rules were simple.  First to the wall and back would be the winner.  Two of her minions came forward, each one carrying the end of a skipping rope.  This would be our finish line.  There was just one thing I noticed.  One tiny, insurmountable detail that I picked up on.  Just prior to our finish line position lay a rogue skipping rope which was directly in our path.

‘Someone might trip over that’ I thought.  I looked at the raucous crowd leaping in anticipation.  This was no time to raise a concern.  ‘Meh, they probably won’t.’

“On your marks, get set, GO!”

And we were off!  I leapt out the starting blocks flinging myself forward.  I thought I’d been fast, but Tia was faster.  I looked up to see her pulling away.  Had I tired myself with all the running I had done already done that day?  No!  Focus!  This wasn’t a time for doubts.

I pushed onwards and as I approached the wall, the halfway point, I was gaining on her.  I kicked off for the return across the playground: Harder, better, faster, stronger.  I was level now.  Thrusters on maximum I pulled ahead gaining more with every step.  The finish line was so close now I could taste it.  If I just reached out…

BANG!

I hit the floor mere metres from the finish line.  I gazed around I saw Tia run past, arms raised above her head, victorious.  She had won.

But how could this have happened!  I was so close, what could have stopped me?  I looked down at my grazed knees and just beyond I saw it.  The Rogue Skipping Rope, that traitor!!!

Only after Tia had been crowned champion did the faithful followers flock around me to see if I was ok.

I was not.

I couldn’t get up.

My mum came to pick me up.  She carried me from the car into the house and plonked me on the sofa.  I refused to walk.  I was in agony.  Mum was getting increasingly angry with me.  Apparently, it was just a graze and I wasn’t even trying.  She set me a (in hindsight) cruel challenge, placing Smarties around the room, instructing me to walk to collect them.  I tried!  I really did.  But I couldn’t put any weight on my foot.  I just about managed to hop to the first one and eat it, but I was too exhausted to carry on.  I sat on the floor and cried.

PANIC STATIONS!

My mother must have thought ‘SHIT!  She’s not even going to get chocolate!  There must be something seriously wrong here’.  She scooped me up in her arms and rushed me to the Surgery.

“Hmm,” the Doctor pondered.  “It’s definitely not broken.”

Good news!

“But I’d go to the hospital just to check.”

Dad met us in A&E where the Doctor said “Hmm, it’s definitely not broken.”

Great News!

“But I’d go to the X-ray department just to check.”

A couple of hours and a full leg cast later it transpired that it was, in fact, one of the worst breaks you can get.  It had split diagonally in two and shifted out of place.  I was in a wheelchair for three weeks and on a zimmer frame for three more.

Six weeks out of training was too long.  My hopes of Olympic Glory disappeared.  I knew it was nothing more than pipe dreams now, evaporating like steam from a kettle.  All those moments lost in time, like tears in rain.

Dream: An Interactive Theatre Experience in your Living Room

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Entertainment, Technology, Theatre

Thank God this pandemic happened in the 2020s! Even 10 years ago we didn’t have the same level of technology we do now, where we can communicate through images, text and video to anyone from wherever we are in the world. Such is the beauty of the evolution of the Smartphone!

Utilising this wizardry alongside technology evolved from their 2016 performance of ‘The Tempest’ the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), in collaboration with Manchester International Festival (MIF), Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) and Philharmonia Orchestra, brings ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ directly to your home through VR.

Dream gives a unique opportunity for audiences to directly influence the live performance from wherever they are in the world. Audiences will experience a new performance environment easily accessed on their mobile, desktop or tablet via the dream.online website. The performance uses the latest gaming and theatre technology together with an interactive symphonic score that responds to the actors’ movement during the show.

The live performance is set in a virtual midsummer forest. Under the shadow of gathering clouds at dusk, lit by the glimmer of fireflies, Puck acts as the guide. Audiences are invited to explore the forest from the canopy of the trees to the roots, meet the sprites, Cobweb, Mustardseed, Peaseblossom and Moth, and take an extraordinary journey into the eye of a cataclysmic storm. Together with Puck, they must regrow the forest before the dawn.  When day breaks, the spell breaks.

The 50-minute online event will be a shared experience between remote audience members and the seven actors who play Puck and the sprites. Audiences can choose to buy a £10 ticket to take part and at key points in the play directly influence the world of the actors, or to view the performance for FREE.

At the moment, the only way for our artistic work to reach an audience is through the magic of the internet, and though no one is looking to replace attending artistic events in real life the creative industries are being forced to explore alternative options.  Now is the time to reach out to tech or design companies and create shared experiences that showcase both your work and theirs in a mind-blowing collaboration.

So, get researching tech and design companies in your area and reach out. If you’re Midlands based (like me) you have The Silicon Spa right on your doorstep! That is one of the largest hubs of video game designers in the UK hidden in the rural Victorian bath town of Leamington.

And don’t be scared!

If you have a great idea, reach out to these kinds of companies and figure out what’s possible. The worst they can say is no. And the best? Having cooperate sponsorship and starting a creative revolution from your home office!

Have you done any awesome work with companies like these? If the answer is yes tell us in our comments! We’d love to hear about them!

The Shows Must Go On: Performances in the Pandemic

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Entertainment, Funding, Theatre

I’m a Theatre Girl. A bonafide Drama Geek.

 

I love it, everything about it.

 

The early arrival, the buzz in the foyer, the glass of wine served in a plastic cup to take into the auditorium, the usher guiding you to your seat, thumbing through the programme as you wait for the show to start, the dimming lights, the interval chatter, the overheard conversations of other show-goers opinions as you purchase your ice cream, the ice cream itself, the bows, the clapping, the cheering, the standing ovations.

 

I soak up the atmosphere.

 

It is and will always be the true love of my life.

 

If there’s one thing I have missed this lockdown it’s going to the theatre!

 

Thank God the Arts world has stepped up to bring The Shows Must Go On from Andrew Lloyd Webber.

 

I’m all about musical theatre! And this epic West End fundraiser has kept me going during this pandemic!

 

Last season saw West End Classics from The Phantom of the Opera to The Sound of Music and more modern classics like Hairspray.

 

And this season plans to give even more! It opened up with Fame followed by an all-star concert with Michael Ball and this weekend is set to be a West End Performance of Midnight Tango with Strictly stars Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone.

 

The completely awesome thing is that they are putting on real-life musical theatre shows with most productions that are currently on hiatus in the West End taking part.

 

Generally, an excellent fundraising idea which has also been utilised by companies like the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic.

 

But this isn’t limited to theatre companies! The British Museum has released documentary-style films about specific exhibitions Art Galleries have done similar work, with Grande Exhibitions beginning to tour Van Gogh Alive at Birmingham Hippodrome, navigating the storm that is Corona Virus.

 

Have you got any pre-recorded shows or footage from an exhibition? Considering offering this as content with an option to donate to try and fundraise for your company during these turbulent times.

The Escape Room Evolved: ‘Stab in the Dark’

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Creative Industries, Entertainment, Theatre

It is always important to keep up with the latest trends in any industry and in recent years the entertainments world had been taken over by Escape Rooms.

If you don’t know what an escape room is basically where have you been?  There are hundreds, if not thousands of these up and down the country.

The trend began in the Japan and the concept is simple: get “locked” in a room must solve a series of puzzles to escape.

These come in all shapes and sizes, at a variety of prices and in any possible theme imaginable!  Great for team building activities or just fun nights out with a group of mates they are generally popular little money spinners!

 

So, what happens when you take these to the next level?

Enter Show Up Productions.

 

From 1st October 2019 Show Up Productions will be launching the previews of their ‘Immersive Crime Scene Experience: Stab in the Dark’

Young Essex based entrepreneur Rachel Dingle has taken the concept of the escape room and turned it on its head:

 

It’s 1995. There has been a murder in a prestigious fashion store. You have been called in by the local police to help the investigation.

Spend an hour in the crime scene looking for clues and collecting evidence.

Take your findings to the police station where you can submit evidence for forensic analysis, speak to witnesses, and eliminate possible suspects.

Can you solve the case?!

 

This isn’t about speed.  It is experimenting with the concept that guests are specialist detectives brought into investigate and solve a murder with live, talented, multirole-playing actors to assist you on your journey.

This is a completely immersive, interactive event but, more to the point, by playing on the ever growing and continually popular Escape Room market Rachel has developed a completely unique theatrical experience.

If you’re in the Southend-on-Sea area go and check it out!  This is one not to be missed! Get your tickets HERE.

 

But could your company jump onboard the Escape Room train?

There are loads of ways you could play with the general concept of the Escape Room that would encourage a new audience to get involved with your arts organisation so put those thinking caps on.

Not only do these not have to break the bank but they could also be great money spinners and raise your profile:

  • KnowEscape currently have somewhat of a monopoly on the portable escape room.  Their travelling Escape Bus covers everything from personal parties to professional events across the UK.
  • Similarly, container entertainment has been growing over the last few years (meaning shows that are built into recycled lorry containers).  Darkfield do great things with containers, and although I know this isn’t strictly speaking an escape room, they are a fantastic example in simplistic theming and concept that can easily be toured.  They use surround soundscapes through headphones in the pitch black utilising your different senses to create horror genre environments.
  • Museums and Galleries are a great place to experiment with the Escape Room.  They have the existing space available to play with performative experiences and are generally only open during the day so contemplate evening openings in limited spaces to attract that 9 to 5, Monday to Friday working crowd in midweek!
  • Already running an escape room?  Have you thought about kid-friendly rooms, shorter in length and easier to solve.  You could run these in your existing rooms during half terms and holidays to boost those sales and increase your audience?  Doing this may even inspire the parents and guardians to come back and try these escape rooms for themselves!
  • Hit up the corporate market by expanding your escape room into full day experiences.  Companies love a team building daily excursion!  You could even incorporate some of the immersive aspects Show Up have thought about in order to expand!
  • Don’t have a venue? No problem, think about developing ‘escape cities’ or ‘parks’.  Online treasure hunts are growing and their biggest pro is that walking round a city is free! Remember though: this isn’t quite the same if you’re running tours or public treasure hunts as there is a certain amount of red tape that needs cutting and permission that needs gaining!

And this is only spin offs for escape rooms!  Every week brings a new fashion, so keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to the latest trends and think about how you could use these in your organisation!

The Technical Spectacle

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Entertainment, Technology, Theatre

Our worlds are becoming increasingly more engulfed by technology. Even the little things we do in life are often governed by our mobile phones.  I’m sure I’m not alone when I tell you that the first thing I do in the morning is roll over and check my phone for messages and emails I may have missed in the night.  In fact, if I ever leave the house without my mobile I feel like I’ve lost an arm. But if technology is so prominent in our everyday life, shouldn’t this be reflected in the work we create?  How would that work?

Let’s start by looking at the 2017 production of ‘The Tempest’, from the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).  They didn’t get an endorsement from Kim Kardashian or throw in a celebrity that came 4th in X-factor in 2009.  No, they did something different.  Something that has never been attempted in theatre before.  They decided to employ tactics from the technical revolution working alongside Intel to create the first ever live avatar with an onstage performer.  Just the idea of this spectacle seduced curious audiences into buying tickets months in advance and has challenged theatre on the whole to work out ways to integrate available technology into their own work.

 

The idea of creating a spectacle to sell tickets isn’t original in itself.  This can be seen throughout history, all the way back to the Roman Amphitheatres where a variety of shows from gory gladiator fights taking centre stage to entire arenas being flooded where epic sea battles could be re-enacted.  The Tyne Theatre and Opera House in Newcastle is the only remaining theatre in the UK to have full working stage conveyor belts upon which galloping horses could run towards the audience (obviously not used today, imagine the paperwork, but fascinating none the less).  And I once saw a circus in Shanghai, where I assume health and safety laws are slightly different to the UK, in which a motorcyclist rode into an enormous spherical cage with enough speed to propel him upside down on the ceiling.  What’s more amazing is that he was then joined by not one, not two, but FIVE additional riders all travelling round missing each other by inches.  What a finale!  My point is the RSC understood that spectacle sells, conceiving a unique idea which would intrigue and astound.  And the new way to do this?  Technology.

 

Before Pokémon Go and Wizards Unite, Intel created an incredible Virtual Reality (VR) experience at their Annual General Meeting in 2014.  Audiences downloaded an app on their phones and filmed the main cinema screen which was showing a computer animated whale.  Much to the shock of the spectators the whale burst out of the screen and out over the crowd.  This footage went viral and, more importantly, gave the RSC an idea.  What if this technology could be pushed a little further?  What if we took Ariel, a fantastical fairy known for his mood swings, and designed magical projections to illustrate them?  Is there a way the fairy can mimic an actor’s performance live onstage accurately?  In asking these questions and reaching out to Intel an exciting partnership began.

 

I must admit I have a great respect for the RSC in reaching out to a company like Intel to work with and sponsor their production.  I mean, the resources that a company like intel has available to them in additional to the funding they can afford to invest must be incredible.  Imagine Intel put in £100,000.  They have processors in pretty much every computer and laptop available on the market.  That must seem like pocket change to them, but imagine what that kind of money means to a charitable arts organisation.  Additionally, they have the talent and equipment to push these boundaries.  For them to be seen using these facilities to increase awareness and audience for the arts is beneficial for both parties.

 

Now, I know what many of you will be thinking.  The RSC is one of the largest theatre companies in the country.  They also have the added bonus of being popularised within the tourism industry.  The Swan Theatre is, of course, in Stratford, the birthplace of the most famous playwright ever to have lived, William Shakespeare.  The budget they have every year is insane!  In a small scale company with a minute if not non-existent budget a feet like this would be improbable, impractical, impossible.

 

But Why?  Why should we be limited by the size of our company?  Why not limit ourselves to the size of our endless imaginations?

There are plenty of small start-up tech firms or talented freelancers out there who would be delighted to give some of their time to work on a cross collaborative project. One to keep your eye on over the next couple of years is ‘Digital Midsummer’ in which Artistic Director Rebecca Gadsby is creating a production intending to lead the way in performative digital technology to connect younger audiences and first-time theatre goers to Shakespeare.  It is innovative theatre companies like this that I hope will inspire the future of productions.

 

Another thing to consider is that as technology becomes more advanced it gets cheaper to produce and more accessible to the masses. You need only look at intel’s development of entertainment drone shows to see how quickly technology can progress starting with their collaborative Christmas show with Disney only 3 years ago where you could just about make out a revolving Christmas tree in the sky, to their most recent and world record breaking display at the end of last year where 2018 drones flew perfectly synchronised into the sky to form a wonderfully detailed image of a brain.

 

It is about finding something different. It’s about working with someone different.

 

Have you used technology or worked with technology companies in any of your creative endeavours recently? We would love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

Find out more about the Tyne Theatre and Opera House HERE

Watch that Intel Whale burst out the cinema screen HERE

Watch the 2016 Intel and Disney Christmas Drone Show HERE

Watch Intel’s World Record Breaking Drone Show HERE

Learn more about Rebecca Gadsby’s Digital Midsummer HERE