Approaching Christmas is always fun chaos and calamity in the UK and this weeks been no different. At the weekend I was on tourist guide duty as I had a niece over from the USA on her first London trip. As well as the usual hell of having to navigate the London eye and Madam Tussauds we had high tea at Dollys Basement Café in Selfridges- the best and most real and reasonably priced afternoon tea in town. Around £20 each instead of the usual £40 that Harrods and the Ritz charge!
Sunday I popped to Nordoff Robbins celebrity football match at Crystal Palace where a number of famous men kicked a ball around for our entertainment. On the cold November field were Shane Ritchie, actor Danny Dyer, Former WBO, IBF, WBC and WBA Super Middleweight boxing champion Joe Calzaghe who captained one team and McFly’s Danny Jones will captain the other. They were joined by a plethora of stars including the Weasley twins from the Harry Potter films, Oliver and James Phelps, EastEnders stars Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beale), Jake Wood, (Max Branning) and David Witts (Joey Branning), plus Darren and Mike from The Overtones and Tubes and Franky Fryer from Soccer AM. They all pulled on their shorts for a great cause. Nordoff Robbins delivers music therapy to adults and children with issues like autism, dementia and more and are one of my favourite charities to support.
Tuesday night saw me brave the streets of Camden to attend KOKO for the Soul II Soul concert to celebrate 40 years of Virgin Records. Soul II Soul are British music legends that are known worldwide, have a huge live festival fan base and one of very few UK black music acts that are known to Americans of a certain age. They most certainly would’ve helped put Virgin Music on the map years ago!
On Wednesday I spent a morning at the impressive Google HQ in London and was shown around their very futuristic, fun, playground of an office. At one point Internet inventor Vint Cerf walked past and I was genuinely gobsmacked at being in the presence of greatness.
Next I visited a quiet industrial park in Perivale, west London to see what special effects company ARTEM were up to. Artem have been quietly making huge SFX for TV and Hollywood movies for years and have an annual open day for the local community too. They showed us how they made SFX physically in a very digital world. We experienced gremlins that come alive, daleks that speak, halo characters, wind machines that swept us off our feet, 3D digital printers making feet (don’t ask), giant robots cutting and moulding movie character statues, giant animated foam heads and more! London is full of secret hidden stories of delight! Coincidently, ARTEM made loads of SFX for my next trip, which was to the theatre!
London’s West End has an abundance of musicals at the theatre, and I have in my time on earth, being a London resident since birth, experienced both of them. Most are great entertainment, a few aren’t worth their exorbitant fee, many are corny and cringe worthy as hell. This week I saw Charlie and the chocolate factory, which was everything a musical experience should be. At the world famous Drury Lane theatre, it is magical even as you approach the grand pillared building lit up with flashbulbs. The foyer sucks you straight into chocolate factory world with dressed up friendly and welcoming chocolate selling girls laden with trolleys full of Wonka bars in assorted flavours. (We bought two bars each and chomped them whilst watching)
The interior of the theatre is as ornate and opulent as you’d expect and hope for from an old London venue and the theatre was packed full of excited adults and children anticipating the evening. We were not disappointed.
The curtain rose to reveal a beautiful 3D set that floated and slid on and offstage at intervals. There were so many sets, all stunning and breath taking.
From Charlie’s grandparents under the railway arches poverty struck home, to the gigantic gates of Willy Wonkas factory to the numerous sweetie making workshops- it was all a whirlwind of magic! We all know the story but its beautifully added modern tweaks with characters and music whilst retaining its original style and tone. The production was strong in all areas, from the huge panoramic sound production, to little Charlie and grandpa Joe having us empathising with their every emotion.
But it was the lighting projection and set graphics that created amazing illusions of travelling through whizzing elevators and through buildings that was mesmerizing. At one point a child character blew up onstage and her debris scattered all over us in the form of purple tinsel!
It was Award-winning physical special effects company Artem who I had visited earlier that week, who had been commissioned to provide tailor-made physical special effects for Sam Mendes’ new stage production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Working with Marcus Hall Props, the brief included devising a series of experiments for the Oompa Loompas to carry out in their laboratory, and to design and build an inflatable suit that would transform Violet Beauregarde, the gum-chewing winner of one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets, into a giant blueberry.
The experiments needed to be visually engaging with bright colours, bubbles, and smoke, but they also had to be contained in a very small area on stage with dancing action around them.
Six different ‘laboratory’ units were built incorporating air and fluid pumps, with lots of tubing and crazily-shaped containers with bubbles floating from one and smoke rising gently from others to replicate the effects of the Oompa Loompas wacky sweet manufacturing experiments.
The inflatable suit was more complicated to create, as it had to fit each of the child actors playing the part of Violet Beauregarde and be self-contained under their outer costumes. It also had to be simple enough for the child actor to operate as well as being safe.
Laura Sindall, an Artem technician, created a couple of alternative designs that were trialed to get the best look. The air supply had to be tiny in order to be hidden, but at the same time had to be capable of ensuring full inflation of the suit. It was decided that diving components with their safety margins and long reliability record provided the ideal solution. Additional safety controls and the use of switching by the child meant the pneumatics could be contained in a small backpack the actor is wearing. Other safety valves ensured the suit could not over inflate and squash the child!
Mike Kelt, CEO of Artem, told us: “It was very amusing when the prototype was first tried out, satisfying for the production and, of course, great fun for the child! The challenge when working on such an iconic childhood favourite is to create something recognisable but at the same time innovative.”
I go to the theatre to see shows very regularly and can honestly say this was a magical evening. We were all in awe, the whole audience was buzzing and the visuals effects, sets and sound production was awesome! We were gasping in delight every few minutes- (when we weren’t stuffing our mouths with copious amounts of Wonka bars that we had bought LOL!). It really is a musical on another standard level compared to many west end musicals today. I felt like a child again the visuals that stayed with me were so strong…Willy Wonka and Charlie actually floated in an elevator above my head! The show is booking until November 2014, and it’s suitable for all ages so If you are planning a trip to the theatre with children, as a couple or with tourists I suggest this as the one stop you make an effort to make!
ONESNTWOS ONLINE TV SITCOM
I finished my week by attending an invite only screening for a new online TV show called Ones n Twos which is written by a lady I’ve seen grow and develop in this entertainment industry- Annika Allen and her co writers Ben Peters and Marc Senior. Ones n twos is a modern day sitcom in the same style and tone as well loved TV series like desmonds and the real McCoy.
The show was released online last week on 14th NOVEMBER 2013. Starring names and faces that you already know and love aswell as new comers like Danny ‘Slim’ Gray, Kat B, Mighty Moe, Axel Comedian, Linden Walcott-Burton Leonie Elliot, Paris Robin, Lenéa Herew, Ava Charles, Monique Fontaine, Michael Moulton, Johnathan Ukeuku and Wakjira Feyesa. Ones n Twos is a unique online comedy series that follows the lives of an eclectic bunch of DJs that broadcast live on pirate radio station OnesNTwos FM – the biggest little station in London. In each episode the DJs broadcast from the stations custom built studio in the station manager’s girlfriends flat. With clashing personalities, secret crushes and power struggles life is never simple for the team at OnesnTwos FM. This series takes the classic sitcom format placing it online for a great mix of humour, drama, comedy and entertainment.
ANNIKA ALLEN, ANGIE LE MAR AND JASMINE.
Annika sat down with me to tell me about how the idea was born ‘We felt that there wasn’t a show on TV that we could relate too or represented black culture in a fun way without focusing on drugs, guns or violence. One half of our directing team Ben Peters came up with the initial concept. He spoke to the other Director Marc Senior about being involved and me to produce it and we kick started the project from there. Coming up with character outlines and a story arc etc.’’. She continued ‘‘we all come from an era where we remember our parents watching Desmonds and we loved The Real McCoy and The Fresh Prince of Belair. We wanted the show to have the comedy elements of these shoes and also a nostalgic feel for that time. Plus we’re all big music lovers. Ben has directed music videos for the likes of Wiley and Example and used to DJ. As a journalist and magazine owner I’ve interviewed some of the biggest music artists and we all have a favourite pirate radio station so we felt this wasn’t an area that had been tackled and it was something we could all relate to’’.
Like most new start up projects Annika explained the hustle that brought the team together ‘’I’ve known Ben for over 10 years and Ben introduced me to Marc. I think individually we all have different skills that we brought to the project that produced great results. For the wider team we pulled in favours and used our network to come on board. each episode is 10 minutes long and will run over 12 weeks every Thursday at 7pm on our YouTube channel @OnesNTwosTV.
Annika also told us it’s a new rules world as Jay Z said ‘’We wanted to create a show that was exactly how we wanted it to be without any outside influences. Plus if we waited on traditional funding or a commission we could still be waiting now. So we decided to do it ourselves in the hope that we can re edit the format to 6 x 30 min episodes for a TX on TV. With Felix Dexter passing, ChoiceFM no more and people from BAME backgrounds leaving the creative industries in their droves, we feel its a good time for a series like this to leave its mark. It features 3 of the best UK comedians, a catchy theme tune by Mighty Moe from the Heartless Crew, who plays Niceness in the series along with an amazing cast of aspiring actors who find it difficult to secure roles and had a great time starring in this series’’.
You can watch the show here on YouTube @OnesNTwosTV …http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOZ8XGyilMA
With new local London TV station LONDON LIVE starting to broadcast in April next year commissioning young black actor/producer Samuel Benta’s show ‘’all about the McKenzie’s’’, the time to make your mark by going it alone via the internet has never been greater!