Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Pixies at the Opera

Image from www.flickr.com
Two companies new to the Fringe this year are Little Pixie Productions and Relative Pitch Opera. They have at least one thing (or rather person) in common - Rebecca Little. Rebecca has been talking to Keith Savage about the companies and the productions she is bring to the Fringe. 

"Little Pixie Productions is based in Derby although my co artistic director, Vicky, is based in Buckinghamshire. We are a brand new company - formed at the beginning of the year, although we have a wealth of experience between us, especially in theatre for families. These two shows are the first that we have produced on our own, but we have already co-produced with a company called Pocket Panto -www.pocketpanto.com

"I have been a professional actor for 14 years mainly in musical theatre and family theatre for well-established companies such as Tutti Frutti and Kinetic Theatre, also repertory theatre around the country (you can usually catch me at the Nottingham Playhouse every year in their Pantomime!). My co artistic director is my sister Vicky who after initially performing, retrained at the Laban Centre in Community Dance and Movement going on to teach dance in various forms especially within the special needs spectrum.

"We are dedicated to taking original writing and productions out into the community and rural areas, believing that everybody should be given access to live theatre and music performances." 
What became of the red shoes? tells the story of a child's explorations in Granny's attic. How did this piece come about? "Vicky and I have written the show, inspired by the original Hans Christian Anderson story and the famous 1948 film The Red Shoes directed by Michael Powell. We also took a look at other genres that have influenced us as performers, mainly the Hollywood MGM musicals and performers such as Gene Kelly, put all these sources together, shook them up and saw what came out of it all!  But mainly it is a piece of contemporary writing that connects with young people showing how they perhaps don't need to rely on gadgetry as a form of entertainment, using everyday objects that spark their imaginations to go on incredible journeys.

"The audience get to go on that journey with Ruby the child and they do get to meet Granny as well as a whole host of other characters, not all of whom are human! It's a 45 minute piece all played out by just one performer, which happens to be me! Granny however, does get to be the star of the show - but you'll have to come and watch to find out why!

"We think that in order to involve the children you need to quite simply captivate them through good strong storytelling, you don't necessarily need an all-singing, all-dancing set or productions with whizzes & bangs to keep them interested. You also need to give them some sort of participation, which we have also included in the show. I guess this comes from my strong Pantomime background. We have designed our show in such a way that we will be inviting audience members to sit at floor level with us, if they wish, so they feel a part of the experience and we don't mind if some of the younger audience members are a bit lively and don't sit still in the conventional theatrical way, we would much rather they felt free to express their enjoyment. Although advertised at 3+ it really is a show that all ages can enjoy together and has as much in it for the children as the adults.

"I suppose our logo is quite girly but we haven't found any difference in response between girls and boys to it. Obviously this is our first solo show so it will be interesting to see if girls respond in a different way to boys, although our poster and flier design for Red Shoes is definitely neutral I think."

Operatastic! is advertised as suitable for opera virgins and opera aficionados alike. What about opera sceptics who think the whole thing is overblown? "Opera, overblown eh? Well I guess what we are trying to do with Operatastic! is to give the audience the experience of hearing opera sung fantastically well, with a live musician but without the perceived stuffiness that turns some people away from it. As my husband who is trying to 'get in to opera' says - 'this show is great for people who may have heard the odd tune on the radio and wants to learn more but would feel slightly out of depth turning up to the Royal Opera House!' We hope the informality and stripped back directness of the show will help introduce people to the themes and stories in opera whilst the more opera savvy audience members will enjoy the fantastic vocal talents of the performers in an intimate setting. 

"Some of the programme may have what you could call 'a greatest hits' factor, but a sizeable portion of it will contain arias that perhaps only the opera purists will be familiar with. I think it will appeal to both experts and novices as on the night they will be performed by two wonderful opera singers, who have both performed extensively with many major opera companies around the country such as Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and English National Opera to name but a few, accompanied by an up and coming pianist and conductor who’s reputation is growing quickly in the opera world. What we are not going to do is dumb down this art form but rather give new audiences a guiding hand into a new musical world. It’s exactly what it says on the tin - an 'Accessible Guide to Opera'.

"The show is two hours but that does include an interval of 15 - 20 minutes, so it runs at the same length as most classical concerts would run at and a fair bit shorter than a Wagnerian 4 act opera! We have also added an actor to the show, to help the evening along, so if you were to attend, you may learn an interesting fact about a particular opera or composer or why they were written and what they have influenced since.

"We called our classical musical division Relative Pitch Opera because one of the singers in Operatastic! is another sister (would you believe it and no, we are not the Family Von Trapp! Coming from a large theatrical family there may be other family members involved also, but that's a whole other story!). Relative Pitch is a play on words for the three of us sisters being relatives to each other but also to the musical terminology Relative Pitch."

What became of the red shoes? is being performed at the Methodist Church 17-19 July, 2.30-3.15pm. Operatastic! is at the same venue on 23-24 July, 7.30-9.30 and again on 25th, 2.30-4.30.

by Keith Savage - Published 20/06/2009

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