Opera meets radio-controlled chickens

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Director Tim Yealland’s thoughts from our Fantastic Mr Fox rehearsals

In the third week of rehearsal now and the last before we go into production week in Croydon. All the scenes are made and the big stitch is in progress – ie how one scene runs seamlessly into another. The opera is divided into two sets of action, but we need it to run cleanly – and to make the contrasts delightful and easy on the audience. We’ve been working on an extremely good mock-up of the complicated set in the rehearsal room, so we have a working revolving den and walkways above it. Most of the props are with us – and this is a show that is nothing if not full of great props. Shadow puppets, birds and butterflies, a lifelike puppet goose (that is fed) to name a few. We have invented a comic scene in which farmer Boggis tries to catch an escaped chicken and the technical team (Steve, Vicky and Alex) have come up with an ingenious solution for the problem of how to make the chicken move – we are going to try to insert a radio-controlled engine inside it. The whole show is made up of tiny details that we are trying hard to nail, so they become second nature to our wonderful cast. Speaking of which the singers are uniformly brilliantly cast – animals, and farmers and even Agnes the Digger (who is another blog entirely!).

Second rehearsal with the child foxcubs on Saturday. All 6 of them are perfect and full of both energy and professionalism, despite having never done anything remotely like this in their lives. They are from Rockmount Primary in Croydon, and are blessed with an inspired head (Liz Mazzola) – personally I’m thrilled with the relationship with the school as it’s been developing to everyone’s benefit and satisfaction over the last few years.

The goal at the moment is to get everything so tight and secure that when we get onto the set at the Ashcroft, and have to deal with technical logistics, we will be able to concentrate on those issues, and not on problems relating to the music and the action. The costumes – every time I see a new animal one at least – stagger me, despite having been part of the discussions, and having seen the designs.

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