Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The History of Panto in a Day.

So after a brief lesson in the History of Pantomime the next obvious step would be to write about the history of Panto in a Day. Please note, as I refer to myself, I am Mark Evans and I started Panto in a Day in 2010.

We are a small company that has been going for four years, and like many small companies we have huge ambition. The initial inspiration came many years ago. Teaching children and being part of a drama club was one of the many phases of my childhood. However, this phase began to develop into a passion and eventually a profession. After graduating from Exeter University I attended a particularly prestigious drama school in London and completed an MA at Central School of Speech and Drama. The world became ones metaphorical oyster. But as more money went on my Oyster card auditioning rather than profiting I had to change my outlook. Ricky Gervais once said in an interview about ‘The Office’ 'you have to write your own opportunities'. 
The natural step for most actors after drama school is to experience the acting world on the road. It shapes and teaches an actor whilst they learn a huge amount about the industry. But all I heard was complaints from actors telling me they were exploited on such tours. Under paid and over worked. This is where I came in. I understood the logistics and then sat back and said the immortal, ‘I could do this better'. After around 28 seconds later the realisation of taking on companies that had been going for 15 years and have an established network of schools and contacts throughout the country maybe wouldn't be as easy as once thought (even if it was 30 seconds previous). My motto; ‘under promise and over deliver’. 
This was September 2010. 
JOB 1: A pantomime. And how better to choose than to pick your favourite? ‘Dick Whittington’ was the one. I wrote the entire show in three days. The general story is easily accessible on the internet but learning the key to writing a pantomime is slightly more complex. Once you learn it though, it doesn't matter the show, the layout and formula is exactly the same. 
So we had a show, we didn't have a set, costumes, actors or more importantly schools. Actors were always going to be the easy part, unfortunately the industry is vastly outnumbered with actors to jobs. 
JOB 2: Booking schools now seemed the priority. The original name wasn't 'Panto in a Day' it was...(and I embarrassingly type)...‘Dick Whittington At Your School’. No question about it, hindsight is a wonderful, and sometimes brutal reminder. At the time the theory was to just do the one show every year and change the venues. Looking back this was an impractical idea, but at the time wasn't really at the top of my priorities. 
After research and contact with the schools throughout London the bookings started coming in. 
JOB 3: The set. The canvas for the set was ordered and after a genius invention using drainage pipe the frame could be created at a very reasonable price. This was also very light for the actors and a quick set up when arriving at the schools. I had a great contact at channel 5's Milkshake! And she painted the set and it looked incredible. The costumes were borrowed, bought and accumulated. 

JOB 4: I need actors. Auditioning the actors confirmed my fears of the fact that the industry is over populated with educated and prestigious actors. My first commitment to the actors was to audition them with respect and reply to all of them regardless of if they got the job or not. Being the company’s first show I had decided to be one of the actors. The two other actors were females, Lucinda Forth and Annie Clarke, two great actresses and lovely people. My second commitment was to make sure their comfort was a priority. If they weren't happy, neither was I, I also made sure their pay was higher than any competitors. We want quality not quantity.  The show was a three hand piece consisting of seven characters. (This is a generic line I use when speaking to schools on the phone). 
JOB 5. Rehearse. Hiring a space around London is so easy, there are many unused rooms begging to be filled with creativity. As I'd written the show I had the whole play mapped out in my head. So rehearsals were quite literally taking the words from the paper onto the stage. (Well, maybe not 'quite literally'. Pet hate). So after four intensive days of rehearsals we were ready to take the show to the people!

JOB 6: On the road. We hired a comfortable seven seater car. (Not a white van, a luxurious and comfortable Vauxhall Zafira). The first three days, SNOWED IN. You got it, months of planning and all schools were shut for the first six shows. Fear settled in and I instantly regretted everything. Fortunately, as the snow melted away with my fears things began to pick up. The schools loved it and the children screamed their little heads off. We managed to rebook all the schools that we missed due to snow and returned in January. There were promises from the schools of rebooking for next year and it seemed wheather I wanted to or not, destiny had created 'Panto in a Day'. 
Panto in a Day

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