A Spotlight On - First Impressions
A backstage pass into the theatre industry
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Theatre can often feel like a closed book. Yes, we experience the thrill of a live show, seeing the marvellous performances and witnessing a creatives work, but once the show ends we go home and that’s it. We may peruse a programme, reading up on the individuals behind a production but it is impossible to garner a sense scale of work involved to bring our most beloved productions to life. A Spotlight On looks to change this. But what is it all about, how does it work and will it be able to embed itself into theatreland as hoped?
Its joint founders, Chris Wheeler and Paul Morrissey, describe it as the bonus features, like the ones available in the DVDs days (remember them), that adds commentary and context to enhance the main feature. Chris describes how in her interview Paule Constable discusses her choice of palette in her lighting design for the acclaimed production of War Horse, “in the beginning she uses all these sepia tones to mirror the time, but as the play moves on those sepia tones become acrid yellows to suggest the chemical warfare that was beginning to come in and I don’t think anyone knows this so when you revisit these productions with the added context you’re experience is richer and more authentic because you know something you didn’t know before.” This added detail has the potential to expand the viewing experience and add a certain rewatch value armed with new insight into the creative decisions.
Interviews, hosted by Radio and TV broadcaster Penny Smith, deputy editor of The Stage, Matt Hemley and TV and West End theatre star and all-round national treasure Mel Giedroyc, will give the professionals space to openly talk about their careers. How they found their way into the industry, the pressure of performing and their techniques for pushing their art forwards. In a truly heartwarming interview, already live on the website, star of Newsies, Michael Ahomka-Lindsay, chats to Mel about the weight of stepping into well-known roles as he has done both in Newsies with the role of Jack Kelly and last summer as Emmett in the Regent Park’s production of Legally Blonde. Ahomka-Lindsay’s dedication to finding fresh perspectives on existing characters is compelling, striking the balance between what audiences expect but equally where he feels the character should go. Hearing him discuss the detail, right down to the choice of Emmett’s shoes in each scene add a whole new layer of respect for the creative process - unseen details that amplify a performance.
It is not just interviews on offer, A Spotlight On promises masterclass, performances and more all via the website or app (launching soon) from professionals across a multitude of fields and disciplines. Whilst there will be recognisable faces the platform equally aims to feature those less often in the spotlight. Theatre YouTuber Mickey Jo Boucher is launching his own series on the site titled “In The Wings,” a selection of shorter interviews dedicated to the unsung heroes that help ensure the curtain rises. Roles such as graphic designers, front-of-house staff and injury prevention consultants are all to be given their moment to demystify their jobs and highlight the plethora of routes available into the world of theatre. “There are so many people featured on this platform that have done tremendous and exciting work and I think it’s important that we celebrate them,” says Mickey Jo.
Now, this is early days for the platform and its success is yet to be determined. The cost is an instant barrier to entry for a lot of people, with the site charging £50 per year or £5.99 per month but for many, this will be an exciting new way to connect with the world they love. Having a community space to hear from those involved in their favourite shows whilst discovering new creatives may be exactly what many fans or aspiring professionals need. There is scope particularly for those outside of the London bubble to feel more connected to a world that is permanently a pricey train ticket away as well as for schools and universities tasked with training the next generation, now able to bring the best of the best virtually into the classroom. Founders, Chris and Paul also teased future content coming to the platform - including expanding to cover not just UK theatre, but also Broadway and partnerships with productions that lift the lid on the entire process.
This is a way for the theatre industry to evolve and develop further, platforming talented and hardworking individuals to enhance their careers in exchange for their collective insight and analysis of this ever-changing landscape. I believe there is space for this product and hope it finds success despite the significant challenges of launching a platform at a time of financial instability.
A Spotlight On is now live with interviews already available to watch on the website, with much more on the way.
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