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The Story

Behind The Scenes

This Years Show 2006 was technically in a different league to previous shows, with hundreds of hours spent on preparation, music editing, choreography, prop building and production you simply wouldn't believe what needed to be done to make the show happen.The concept was to recreate routines from shows gone by and update them and convert them to take the amount of dancers at the school. This created the idea of history and nostalgia so the hunt began for appropriate photos and memorabilia which eventually turned into the giant photos the small drama group used in the stage-hands performance, very amusing.The finale of the show with the giant lions head became one of the largest and most complicated pieces we have ever created. The question was, how can we build something large enough to make an impact, light enough that it can be moved onto the stage without hurting anyone and quick enough to erect in the middle of a performance of hundreds of children… not that easy, trust me.Finally after many hours arguing and deliberating Andrew came up with the idea of making the head from polystyrene which would be light and easy to shape, the problem is you can't actually buy a piece of polystyrene 5metres square, so it would have to be made in pieces, but then how to you get the pieces to stick together,? In one solid piece the Lions head was simply not viable so Andrew created the infamous African tree that was to be placed on the stage, suspended by cables and to feature during the whole Lion King section at the start of the routine. This was a brilliant idea that caused some very different problems. The only available time to get the several pieces of the lions head into position was a very short 34 seconds, if the head wasn't in position by then there would simply be too many dancers on the stage to carry on erecting the head, or any earlier and there would be over 50 dancers in the way. Andrew had another brainwave and told everyone if we create a diversion in the audience using a 6mtre tall giraffe, and turn all the lighting into the audience so they are partially blinded by the bright lights no-one would see us build the head and when the lighting returned to the stage the lions head would have appeared from nowhere hopefully giving the audience the wow factor. This sounds great but to do all that in under 35 seconds is not that easy. So rehearsals began with the 7 giant pieces of the lions head being brought on and fitted to the African tree, the first attempt took 1.45 minutes, the second attempt took 1.48mins, things weren't looking good. It was decided that the stage manager would fit one side of the lions face and another stage hand Jason fit the rest. Mark the stage manager was lightening quick and managed to finish before poor Jason completed the second piece, but they all practiced over and over again until they got it to under 30 seconds but it was a panic every night, but had the desired effect in the end, brilliant!

The Lions Head

HThe lions head was made from 5 sheets of 50mm polystyrene, the head shape was scanned into a computer, scaled up and cut into separate pieces that could be made into template shapes that were used to cut out the pieces of the face. Once the pieces had been cut to shape they were then placed layer on top of layer to build up the final form of the head and features then covered in a modelers plaster-of-paris very similar to what you would cast a broken arm in to give the polystyrene some smooth lines and strength. As you can see from the photos this was a very time consuming and difficult task. Finally the basic shape took place but one of the most difficult parts was then to paint it so it looked as real as possible. Have you ever tried to paint a 5metre square lions head? Trust me it's not as simple as you think. The main problem is how to create the details for theatrical lighting that will stand out, also how do you know if one eye is level with another when the eyes are further apart than your whole body, its simply massive!This job was undertaken by Kate Parsons and Philippa Stangroom who did an excellent job which created the finished article.The only problem left was to create the African tree that held all the pieces which was devised by Andrew making a flat tree with small dowel resting posts that each piece could sit upon allowing the piece to be help in exactly the right position so that even though each piece was mounted individually, no matter in which order they were fitted they all sat in the correct position to give the correct spacing and desired effect, no one would have believed it if you saw all the separate components lying in front of you, but when it all came together it worked like a dream.The Lions head was created by Andrew, built and painted by Andrew, Oliver, Kate & Philippa

The 6' Giraffe

Another difficult prop to make. The giraffe was produced from preparing several prototypes that were all modified and adapted until the final version was agreed upon. Many Saturday and Sunday afternoons were given up by many people to help solve the problems. How do you make something that tall and thin that isn't so heavy that Oliver could carry or walk in, that is strong enough to stand the theatre environment but looks graceful and theatrical enough for the finale of the show? Simple, chicken wire, fluted plastic and mod rock! Having made the basic shape, and created the head all that was left was to reinforce the structure, create a material body and go into production.Well as you can see from the photos the finished giraffe was finally given life at about 10pm two weeks before the show giving Oliver very little time to rehearse but as usual he rose to the occasion and trained his giraffe with a simple master stroke.


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