The saga so far …
This August (2014) "The Sagas of Noggin the Nog" is going to the Edinburgh Festival (I hope you'll come and see it) but why, where, when, who, how … what is the story so far? I'm glad you asked me that!
For those of you who don't know … Noggin the Nog was a series of films made originally in black and white; they were created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, who also created Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine, the Clangers and many others. The films were shown on British television from 1959 onwards. The films centred around Noggin, a Viking (a terribly English Viking), who was "strong and fair and brave as the men of the Northlands are". Noggin had many adventures and was always dogged by his wicked uncle, Nogbad the Bad. The films were charming, eccentric and moved at a slower pace than the frenetic television programmes of today.
Back in 2012 Tony Gleave, Third Party Productions impresario, and Clive Holland, Director and Founder of the then fledgling Mischievous Theatre Company, were strolling along the beach in Margate talking about this and that. One of the thises was about wanting to make a piece of family friendly theatre. We came up with hundreds of ideas, ranging from the ridiculous (Doctor Jekyll and Mr Pastry) to the sublime (Noggin the Nog). We decided to look into the possibilities of producing Noggin. Tony went away and talked to his Third Party partner, Nick Collet, who also thought that Noggin was a good idea, then contacted Daniel Postgate and Peter Firmin to see if it would be possible to get the rights to produce Noggin as a play. They said yes and were incredibly positive and supportive.
We then talked to theatre director, John Wright, who has worked with Third Party on many projects … he was also incredibly positive. To cut a very long story short, we applied to Arts Council England for some research and development money … they were also incredibly positive and during the summer (2012) we assembled a group of actors, puppeteers, musicians and designers and, under the guidance of John Wright, we set to work trying to find a strategy for turning the original black and white films into live theatre. After two weeks of running into cul-de-sacs and strolling through the dark, we eventually burst into the light and knew how we were going to make the play.
That, of course, was only the start. We rehearsed and produced the first half of "The Sagas of Noggin the Nog" and performed it at the Summer Squall, a fabulous Arts Festival in Ramsgate, Kent, to see if it worked. The reaction was even more than we expected … people loved it. We then talked to the New Diorama, London who liked the project and "threw in their lot" with us. We then wrote and rehearsed the second half of the play and performed the finished article at the New Diorama in the period leading up to Christmas (2012). In the meantime, of course, we had put together a tour of venues in the UK. And during the spring of 2013 we travelled the land in the Nogbulance and performed to thousands of people of all ages in venues as far afield as The Lowry, Salford, The Lighthouse, Poole, The New Wolsey, Ipswich and many other locations in between.
After the tour we all had to move on; other projects, money to earn and the detritus of everyday living took over but always, in the back of our minds, we knew we had to do more with the show. During the tour we made an amazing discovery; this play is truly a piece of family theatre! Yes, it works for just children, it even works for just adults (we did one performance with only about four children in the audience) but its charm, its joy, its eccentricity, seems to work particularly well for family audiences.
It is very rare these days that we sit in a large room with people of all ages or from different parts of our family, and share an event; share an experience. After one performance we were chatting to the audience and discovered that one of the parties that had watched the show were four generations of one family; Great Grandparents, Grandparents, Parents and Children… and they loved it, each and every one of them. It is this shared experience, that makes "The Sagas of Noggin the Nog" an important and worthwhile project. It is because of this discovery that we want to take the play further. We want to make more of the play, take it to a new level and take it to new audiences. It is for this reason that we are taking the play to the Edinburgh Festival.
Why Edinburgh? The Edinburgh Festival is the largest Showcase for performance in the world. If we are going to succeed in achieving more with Noggin, then we have to be there! There will be thousands of arts professionals, theatre professionals, venue directors, bookers, producers and the like at the festival … we want them to see our show, and see the value of it; we want to meet them, talk to them, let them see our commitment to it and its success, and we need them to trust and value us as Theatre Professionals.
The cost of taking a team of people, a show and a very large Dragon to the Edinburgh Festival is more than most people would imagine … me included! There is a rough breakdown of the budget elsewhere on this project page. The cost is over £16,000. We have raised, much of it from our own pockets, £12,000 … there is, therefore, a shortfall of £4,000. It is this shortfall that we are asking you good people to help us with.
As we head towards the start of the Edinburgh Festival, we are preparing ourselves for the challenge. At the beginning of July, which is, as I write this, upon us tomorrow, we start to re-rehearse the play. In order to fit in with the schedule of the festival, we have to cut the play so that it fits neatly into a one hour slot; it currently runs at eighty minutes. We were casting around looking for a rehearsal space and somewhere to preview the new version of the play when up stepped the Theatre Royal Margate. The Theatre Royal Margate has acted as a champion for the play since early 2013; it is now working In Association with Third Party and Mischievous Theatre to help us make the show a success. They have given us rehearsal space and an opportunity to preview the show on their fabulous stage. We are doing two performances; one free for schools in the afternoon and one that is open to the general public in the early evening. The previews take place on Friday 11th July 2014 … the start of a new adventure for Noggin the Nog.
The Simple Budget with a ten per cent contingency.
Risks and challenges
There are, of course, many risks with any project from the mundane but nonetheless crippling, vehicle failure to the illness or worse of a cast member or anyone connected to them. These are risks that as professional touring theatre companies we are fairly well equipped to deal with … sometimes you just have to cancel the performances and say sorry; this has only happened to me once in over thirty-five years of touring!
Risks and problems, beyond the above, that are connected to this actual project are minimal. If the project is successfully funded we will perform our utmost to complete the tasks and goals that we have set ourselves (we rarely set ourselves goals that are unachievable).
There are many challenges: making the play as good as we possibly can, creating a good and safe working environment for all concerned, getting as many "bums on seats" as we can, creating an excellent impression of ourselves, our companies and our project, achieving as much press/media coverage we feel is necessary for the product and the venue, and so on.
We will keep all of you updated as we go along the way through the blog, Facebook, Twitter and through this page; so please look out for these updates.
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