Astour continues to wow audiences in Cardiff following its opening night on 30th July, we spoke to Company Manager Neil Wright about the logistics of running a production that includes amongst its cast 18 children, ranging in age from 5 – 13.
The London production ofhad three teams of children, is it the same with the tour?
We have three sets of children that will be with us now until November. One of the teams is from London and the other two from Cardiff. The teams work in rotation so they each do three days with us, then have six show days off and then come back and do three days. When they are with us we have to provide tutors for them, have chaperones, we have to accommodate them, feed them, everything…
And is it also things like having separate dressing rooms for boys and girls?
Regulations for children working now are so much tighter than they ever were. There are so many things – like separate dressing rooms, separate toilets from the adults in the building, we have to make sure they have at least 15 hours a week tutoring when they’re with us. So in rehearsals, our Cardiff children came in at 10 o’clock in the morning, go to class for three hours, and then work in the afternoon and evening – so they had quite a long day, and they still have to do all their school work as well.
For other touring shows – I am thinking specifically of– the children are recruited locally.
This does happen for some shows where children do not play featured parts but of course with The Sound of Music the children are such an integral part of the show. Their parts are amongst the largest, so to put the children into the show takes five weeks’ rehearsal and we just couldn’t do for every theatre, especially where we’re only doing a three-week run!
So did the Cardiff teams come up to London to rehearse?
Yes – they got the train up on a Tuesday morning and home on Saturday afternoon after rehearsals. We provide tutoring in the morning for them, and then they rehearse from 2-8pm every day. They have Sunday and Monday at home, and then back with us… it’s a long week. The youngest ones are 6 or 7.
The children range in age from 6 to 15, do they all have one tutor?
We only have to tutor the two Cardiff teams at the moment, so they all get their schoolwork from their local schools – or actually most of their school work is done online at the moment – and then they come in, they’ve got their work from the schools, but also our tutors do different lessons with them and stimulate them as they do in school.
It sounds like a logistical nightmare!
But that’s the thing, any tour with children as principle performers raises a lot of issues. And the children are obviously such a big part of this particular show. It would be rather noticeable if we cut one or two of them out!
Do most of the children come from stage schools?
No, very few of the children are from stage school. They’re mostly normal schools.
So you found them solely through open auditions?
Yes, we did auditions in Cardiff and in London. In Cardiff we were absolutely shocked by the amount of kids who turned up. They were really, really talented children as well. It is made more difficult with The Sound of Music because you’ve got to get those exact heights as well, but in Cardiff we found two brilliant sets of children. And actually one of the London teams has got a Cardiff boy as well.
We spoke to the children from the last cast at London and many of them were stage and screen veterans. Presumably these children are less experienced?
Well some of our children have done quite a lot regionally rather than in London. I have to say there is the old adage about never working with children (or animals!) but the kids on this show are so impeccably behaved so far and they’re just great fun to have around. Also keeps the adults in check! (Laughs).
You have to mind your language?
(Laughs) It’s terrible, you suddenly get so conscious about your swearing!
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