Every so often a project comes along and turns your world view upside down, forcing you to expand your strategies and push your process into new and uncharted territory. This summer I was lucky enough to be asked to direct the premier of a new British musical adaptation of the classic Ealing comedy PASSPORT TO PIMLICO to mark the ten year anniversary of Arts Festival SouthWestFest. #p2pMusical as it became known was performed in the streets, gardens and public buildings of Pimlico with the audience transported on Routemaster buses between locations, led by actors in character improvising and ukelele-ing their way around the course in a spirit of utter bonkersness. I’ve never known a rehearsal process like it. Our fearless company of Actor-Musicians instrumenthopped their way through three weeks of rehearsal, battling every conceivable obstacle and challenge to create a piece that was the most extraordinary feat of collaboration I have ever known. Add to this a 50-strong ensemble of local volunteers playing the smaller roles, the town council, the hawker flashmob and the crucial food throwing brigade who save the day, and you have a truly unforgettable production that will stay with me forever.
Here’s my favourite photo of the process:
Here’s the programme note I wrote for the festival brochure:
The rehearsal and preparation process for this show has been unlike any I have ever known. Having assembled a dynamite creative team and cast of hugely talented and fearless actors alongside our local choir, dance company and student flashmob, we took to the streets of Pimlico causing laughter and chaos wherever we went.
Rehearsals were slow progress. We set up, motorbikes drove past. No one could hear their cues. We started again. The music blew off the piano. Someone’s hayfever started up. We had no access to power and had to use an accordion instead of a keyboard to accompany the songs. A Fed Ex van needed to drive through our stage. The heavens opened and we had to run for cover. Everyone overheated and we had to run for ice cream. We all soon learnt that presenting a musical in this way is not for the fainthearted! But the common thread through the last three weeks has been an incredible generosity of spirit from our company and the local residents who have hung out of windows and come down into the street to sit with us and be a part of the creation of this incredible event.
Rehearsing in the afternoons in Peabody Avenue, we were regularly joined by a number of children and young people who gave up their time to sit next to me and tell me in no uncertain terms what was good and where the boring bits were – helping to shape this wonderful story about a community into a story which is truly FOR a community.
These performances are for Rahma and Ayah, Reney, Olive and Kathleen, and everyone else who considers themselves a true ‘Pimlican.’ It has been a privilege to share your space, thank you for your help and for making us so welcome.Now wish us luck, as who knows what will happen… Meet you at the other end!