Choreography was worked on in the park and (on rainy days) a well-ventilated basement carpark!
Now.Here.This., besides being a nightmare title to type correctly, is also the latest show from the creators of the big Broadway hit [title of show]. It’s just hit the UK with its professional premier at Golden Goose, before heading to both Chiswick Playhouse and Ram Jam Records in the next month. So, what better time to catch up with one of the show’s producers, Natalie Beran, to find out how the show came to be and the joys of rehearsing in car parks.
The show follows the evolution and adventures of a group of friends on a day at the Natural History Museum, as they journey through time – from the present to the past and back again. They share their stories about friendship, hoarding, hiding, laughing, living, dying and middle school in an attempt to step directly into that elusive “present moment”: the Now. Here. This.
And as a Producer, what’s your role in getting it to the stage then?
Apart from the usual planning – schedules, budgets, grant applications, liaising with venues etc, this time round we’ve been watching a lot of news! Something changes almost every week with covid, what you could do last week or last month, you can’t do today, and depending on restrictions and government announcements we’ll see what happens next week. A lot of adapting and discussions with venues and figuring out how the rules apply to our work. Socially distanced rehearsals and choreography in the park or well-ventilated basement carparks was where you could find us, as rehearsal spaces were not open.
This sees the shows UK professional premiere, quite a privilege, how did that come about?
We loved the creators previous production [Title of Show] and felt the characters and stories of Now.Here.This. resonated with life at the moment. With covid restrictions on social distancing etc, we felt the piece could be staged without the cast getting too close to each other but still show their connection. In line with the restrictions that were in place at the time we were looking at rights and small cast shows, Now. Here. This. was available for us to perform across multiple venues and we were able to discuss with the licencing team all the ‘what-ifs’ if there were further lockdowns, postponements or cancellations.
The cast and crew seem to have quite an international feel, with members from New Zealand, Sweden, USA as well as a little closer to home. What brought you all together?
It just so happened that Griffin Jenkins (co-producer) and myself are both in London at the moment, we’d worked together on another musical a few years back in New Zealand. Through each other’s connections, we easily had a great cast and crew ready to get cracking on a project and itching to be creative after lockdown.
We couldn’t get through an interview without mentioning lockdown and social distancing, how has that impacted on getting the show ready for the stage?
Producing during a pandemic is a new one! When we began there were no rehearsal spaces open, so we started with zoom meetings and socially distanced music rehearsals to begin learning the songs. The cast have been fantastic learning everything with masks on. Imagine singing masked up for a full day!
When the museums began to open again with new booking systems, we went on a ‘character field trip’ to the Natural History Museum. Choreography was worked on in the park and (on rainy days) a well-ventilated basement carpark! Someone’s workmate was alerted of possible contact with someone with covid, so we self-isolated and got tested, continuing rehearsals online with music tracks and choreography videos recorded to learn with. Everyone thankfully tested negative.
For stage set/props we’ve kept this very stripped back to both keep things sanitised and for when we move from venue to venue. For marketing we’ve focussed more on social media and our networks, rather than traditional poster / flyer printing. We did some but have been limited in where and how we distribute them. We’ve also made a digital program attached to a QR code for the audience to scan on entry, to reduce the number of things people touch.
Being really flexible and having an ‘it’ll be alright’ way of working meant we and the venues could adjust how this was going to work every time something changes with the rules. Reduced capacity means a highly reduced budget, so we’ve also done “Crowd-Not-Allowed-Funding” where people who are not comfortable with travelling to a theatre and sitting with strangers at this time can support the production by buying an empty seat from us. (you can find more info on this at www.nowherethisuk.com)
The show has already opened at Golden Goose, how has that been? Especially given you’re the first big production to hit their stage (the opening show having been a much more simple one-person performance)
Opening a show at a new theatre space is always exciting and for the Golden Goose team to persevere during covid to get this new theatre up and running has been great to be part of. There is a real buzz from people who are super keen to get back to see some theatre and also interest from other groups to see how the new space may work for their own shows. To see the venue in action the week before we opened there was great, Mark’s show (Living with the Lights on) allowed us to see how the lighting worked, how the seating layout for social distancing and capacity would be worked out each night and how the room sounded.
You’re taking the show to Chiswick Playhouse and Ram Jam Records (Kingston), are you going to have to make adjustments given the stage area of those are a lot smaller than Golden Goose’s incredibly generous space?
We will have to make adjustments and reblock movement and cues for each venue – Golden Goose has a high, larger stage, with the audience on the floor on positionable chairs. The lighting rig is stocked with LEDs. Chiswick (Playhouse) has a slightly smaller stage area but performers will be on the floor with the audience in theatre seating with every second row blocked off. Lighting will be traditional theatre lighting (eg; parcans, gets etc). Ram Jam is very different, traditionally a music venue, so the stage area is smaller again and the audience will be seated pub style at tables and chairs, lighting will be bare / ambient with what’s available usually for musicians/bands. We will adapt as needed to fit the space but keeping the show as much as possible similar to what we’ve rehearsed in each space.
Like any touring production we will adjust and keep being flexible to fit the spaces.
Given the pedigree of the show writers we assume there must be plans to take it further after this run, anything in the pipeline yet, or if not, what are your hopes for it?
We do hope to take it further and expand our mini-tour. There has been some interest at other London venues as well as outside of London but nothing locked in as everything is hugely dependent on how each region is coping with the new tier systems and ever-changing local restrictions. Some favourite spots just aren’t in a position to plan very far ahead, for fear of further lockdowns or just can’t afford to run on limited capacity etc, so remain closed at this time. With all the uncertainty that also affects the planning for transport, accommodation, marketing, budgets, etc. To work the show into a venue for a lengthy stint would be great, to offer audiences more opportunities to return to more opportunities.
Our thanks to Natalie for finding the time in what must be a very busy day to chat to us.
Now.Here.This is playing at Golden Goose until 24 October, before heading to Chiswick Playhouse between 27 and 31 October. It then goes to Kingston-Upon-Thames’ Ram Jam Records from 3 to 8 November. Hopefully further dates will be added later. Check the show’s website for further information.