Category

Panto

A finger points at an illustration of Cinderella on a computer screen

How we animated #Pantoverse with My Pockets

By | Blog, Panto, Shows, Uncategorised

Middle Child have asked me, Peter Snelling of My Pockets, to write a blog post on what it is like to create the digital content for their Christmas show, Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse. They have also said that what whatever I write, to be honest.  They have, to be honest, asked me this more than once. In fact, it might even be eight times. I don’t really know why I am resisting doing it. I don’t always like unpicking a creative process: I’m sometimes a bit lazy and sometimes I feel weird about putting things on the internet that will be there forever, like the terrible photo of me taken in 2004 that never goes away.

Anyway, I am going to do it now. I’ve made a cup of tea, I’ve got a salted caramel Hobnob snack bar, I’m going to keep writing until it’s done. Hello, if you are still reading; this is everything I know about making a piece of digital content for a Middle Child panto.

Animator Peter Snelling holds up a hand drawn picture of Pattie Breadcake

First of all Paul [Smith, artistic director] rang me up. I think it’s weird how people get to a point where they ring each other up. I met Paul at one thing somewhere, then somewhere else, then saw a Middle Child play and emailed to say I liked it, then asked him for a favour on something, then he rang me up to ask if I could animate a panto.

Over the years as an organisation that only wants to make creative work we have had times when we’ve been on the brink of running out of money. So I find it almost impossible to say no to creative projects. As My Pockets has become more established it’s something I need to address. I know that Elvis had the same problem with food. He’d been hungry once and so when he reached a point in his life where burgers were freely available, he found it impossible to not eat them all.

Not that Middle Child is just another burger that Elvis is stuffing into his mouth. Paul ringing felt more like an invite to a gastro pub. So we started to think about how to turn the panto into something that would work online. Our animations at My Pockets take ages to make. We create about 10 seconds a day. The conversation was in November and the panto needed to be the length of a play, so there was no way we could make it in the normal way. This year we have been experimenting with software that tracks your face and moves a kind of animated puppet along with it, then you wiggle the arms and legs with a mouse and the animation is made. It’s much quicker than the conventional way of doing it and felt like the perfect solution.

A pen in a hand, drawing all of the various panto characters on white paper

Next we needed to design the animated puppets. For me this is the fun bit. I’ve always loved drawing; I like the way it is so quick, that you can do it anywhere, that it needs no technology.  I also don’t think I’m very good at it, which is liberating. I think wanting to be good, or thinking you are good can be really limiting to creativity. It can get in the way of just saying what you want to say. Why is it that those blokes that joined Oasis after Bonehead left are much better at playing guitar, but somehow can’t make the same noise?

I think it’s because being good is not as important as… I’m not sure what it’s not as important as, but I know that if you ask me to draw a vase of flowers with a 2B pencil, the results are always very disappointing. But when I drew Pattie Breadcake in 10 seconds after reading the script I was like, “Yes, that’s her!”

In fact almost all of the characters were drawn first time in seconds, immediately after reading the script. I felt guilty about it and drew each one a few more times afterwards to try and justify my fee, but the first ones were all the best.

A finger points at an illustration of Cinderella on a computer screen

I know that the Middle Child panto is loved by lots of people and that it has this kind of anarchic energy. It’s alive and so the quick drawing seems right. It seems like a performance.  We made a few adjustments. Cinderella went from being in a pink princess dress to a tracksuit with headphones, while her face also went from being pink, to green to orange. But really I think that the spirit of the drawing and the spirit of the panto were so well matched it was pretty easy. I think finding creative people who share your spirit is the key to making things that work.

So the fun part was now over. Now I had to bring in the drawings, colour them in Photoshop and make them work with the animation software, against the backdrop of Natalie Young’s set design: photographs of an actual model box! Then I had to perform the whole panto, wiggling my head around in front of my webcam to capture all the movement, lip syncing to the audio files recorded by the actors over Zoom and mastered by Ed Clarke, with music composed by James Frewer. And then export it all, which took a whole weekend of checking the blue bar creeping across my laptop screen. Don’t waste your life watching the blue bar.

A screenshot of the animation software, with a picture of the Evil Queen being motion captured by Peter Snelling in another image box

I’ve finished my cup of tea. I’ve eaten my sugary snack. Now I’ve got to do some terrible Zoom call on a project that I’m not entirely sure I really want to do. Maybe this will be the one I’ll say no to. Maybe now is the time to make a break for freedom.

Working with Middle Child has been a real pleasure. It’s been fun and creative. And they have been so supportive, it’s a breath of fresh air. I can see why their shows are so great; it’s because the people and the company are great. I hope that our animated show helps to plug the 2020 gap of panto anarchy that people will be missing. I can’t wait to see what people think of the Pantoverse.

A snowy winter scene with a young person on a sled, another person in a wheelchair and a dog.

Christmas theatre in and from Hull

By | News, Panto, Uncategorised

We finally get to share Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse with you from tomorrow, but we’re not the only Hull-based company making work this Christmas. 

We’ve pulled together a round-up of all the excellent shows that theatre makers in the city have been working hard to bring to people over the holidays.

An invitation to watch Prince Charming on a snow background, with toy soldier figurines.

Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker
Hull Truck Theatre, 22 Dec-4 Jan

A festive fairy-tale adventure sprinkled with surprises, sparkle and a hint of magic, free to stream into your own home, thanks to the support of Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

This year, Prince Charming is once more throwing open the palace gates and invites you to attend his annual Christmas ball, the eagerly anticipated ‘Christmas Cracker’. The hottest ticket in town, it is a ‘do’ like you’ve never been to before, and the Prince certainly knows how to party!

From festive music to Karaoke, unexpected guests and lashings of humour, the Christmas Cracker has it all. But this year, everyone, especially Cinderella, is in for a big surprise! There is more to this Christmas Cracker than originally meets the eye.

More info
A snowy winter scene with a young person on a sled, another person in a wheelchair and a dog.

Winter Wonderland
Concrete Youth, 18 Dec

It’s winter: the days are shorter, the trees are looking bare and the temperatures have plummeted. But…there’s no snow! The Snow Machine in Winter Wonderland has broken and, if it can’t be fixed, winter will be ruined forever!

But all is not lost. Jack Frost and the Snow Queen have heard that you, the winterns at home, can help them.

Can you work out why it’s broken? Will you help Jack and Snow mend it and save winter? And does yellow snow really taste like chicken?

Following their 5-star, online production, Shebaa’s Adventure to Jopplety How, the multi-award winning, Concrete Youth, in partnership with Hull New Theatre, present a brand new, pre-recorded multi-sensory show for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

Packed full of frosty sensory moments and fun, Winter Wonderland is the perfect, snowy show to get you in the holiday mood.

More info
Photo of one of the Roaring Girls in Christmas pyjamas laughing and pointing at her laptop

The Roaring Girls Christmas Parties

Christmas is just around the corner and after a year of working from home and closed pubs, let The Roaring Girls into your Zoom waiting room for a fun-filled 90 minutes this December.

Say goodbye to overpriced drinks & overcrowded pubs. In 2020, let the party come to you. 

The Roaring Girls are waiting at the end of their internet connection to provide you with an evening of festive entertainment, perfect for staff parties or friends who are looking for something different.

Just remember – A Roaring Girl is for life, not just for Christmas!

To book your exclusive Roaring Girls Party, or to find out more, email Rachael on hello@theroaringgirls.co.uk.

Christmassy image that says 1Upstarts presents DeliveRudolph

DeliveRudolph
1Upstarts, 19 Dec

DeliveRudolph is 1Upstarts’ specially designed, socially distanced Santa visit service, created exclusively in response to the ongoing Covid crisis. 

The company understand that a lot of people will really struggle with a large proportion of Christmas services being disrupted by Coronavirus. As such they wanted to create a safe and simple way of keeping a timeheld Christmas tradition for a lot of people, visiting Santa.

Their exclusive service will see us bringing the Santa visit to you. 

Once you have booked, their professional Santa will make his way to your house on the day of your choice along with any additional giftbags you’ve purchased and give you and your family a five minute personalised visit.

What better way to maintain the magic of Christmas than having your very own Santa on your doorstep!

More info

Spirits of the Season
Smashing Mirrors, 23 Dec

“It’s Christmas time in Hull. Nearly Christmas Eve. And strange things can happen on Christmas Eve don’t you know…”

Smashing Mirrors Theatre have linked with Hull New Theatre to bring you real-life tales of hauntings in Hull. Settle down for classic local ghost stories over the festive period, with this brand new exclusive short film.

Supported by Hull City Council.

Facebook Live. 8pm. 23rd Dec

Pattie Breadcake and four animated panto characters are sucked into a vortex, against a pink background. Text: "An Interview with Finn (Age 5)"

An Interview with Finn (Age 5)

By | Blog, Panto, Uncategorised

Five year old Finn, the son of Middle Child’s general and production manager, Emily, is a regular fixture behind the scenes at our annual, rock’n’roll panto.

You can often find him sat in the middle aisle during tech rehearsals, making his way through a bucket of pick and mix while his mum works on the show.

Finn is as much a part of our panto as having a dame is these days, so we’re missing his beaming little smile as we work on an online, animated Christmas show this year instead.

Who better then, we thought, to speak to ahead of the release of our panto-inspired YouTube production this Saturday – Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse.

Give Finn a listen, right, as he’s interviewed by his dad, Matt, or read the transcript below.

An Interview with Finn (Age 5)

Matt: What’s your name?

Finn: Finlay

Matt: And what do you do?

Finn: Go to school and play with my friends and play with Lego.

Matt: What’s your favourite thing about Middle Child panto?

Finn: Watching shows.

Matt: Why do you like watching the shows?

Finn: Because they’re funny.

Matt: Who’s the silliest character?

Finn: Pattie Breadcake

Matt: So you get to see behind the scenes, what do you like about that?

Finn: Playing with the light and sound. And playing with Paul.

Matt: Can you describe what Mummy does on panto?

Finn: Bosses people about!

Matt: What are you missing about panto this year?

Finn: Watching the shows.

Matt: Anything else about watching the shows?

Finn: Playing with the light and sound.

Matt: So if you could be any panto character, who would it be?

Finn: The crab

Matt: Why would you be the crab?

Finn: Because he’s funny.

Matt: What would you like to say to all of the children who might be listening to this?

Finn: Come to Middle Child, it’s good.

Marc Graham as Hull panto dame Pattie Breadcake, in a sparkly top and pink dress, with blonde wig and crown.

BBC Radio Humberside to broadcast our 2020 Christmas show

By | News, Panto, Shows
Marc Graham as Hull panto dame Pattie Breadcake, in a sparkly top and pink dress, with blonde wig and crown.

We are very excited to reveal that our panto-inspired show, Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse, will also be broadcast on BBC Radio Humberside in the run-up to Christmas. 

The story of our favourite dame’s quest to help four classic panto princesses retell their tales for a modern audience will be aired across four mini-episodes, from 20-24 December. 

The partnership with BBC Radio Humberside is part of Middle Child’s commitment to make our work as accessible as possible.

This includes making the original animated version free-to-watch on YouTube, as well as providing both English and Polish subtitles. 

Artistic director Paul Smith said: “We’re delighted to partner with BBC Radio Humberside, to broadcast the show as four mini-radio plays, ensuring that people without internet access can also enjoy some theatre this Christmas.”

The scripts will be adapted and performed for radio by the original cast, to be broadcast on the following dates: 

  • Episode 1: Sleeping Beauty by Ellen Brammar – Sunday 20 December, 2.30pm
  • Episode 2: Maid Marian by Hannah Scorer – Monday 21 December, 8.30pm
  • Episode 3: Evil Queen by Maureen Lennon – Wednesday 23 December, 8.30pm
  • Episode 4: Cinderella by Deborah Acheampong – Thursday 24 December, 8.30pm

The original animated version will be available to watch on demand, on YouTube via our website, between Saturday 19 and Thursday 31 December.

You can listen to BBC Radio Humberside on 95.9FM in the Humber region, online at the BBC website or on the move through the BBC Sounds app. 

Pattie Breadcake and four animated panto characters are sucked into a vortex, against a pink background. Text: "Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse"

Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse, a panto-inspired animated Christmas show

By | Artist Development, Panto, Shows
Pattie Breadcake and four animated panto characters are sucked into a vortex, against a pink background. Text:

This year’s long-awaited Middle Child Christmas show has finally been revealed – and for the first time ever it will be animated and free to watch from the comfort of your own home.

Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse sees our favourite dame, Pattie Breadcake, magicked into an animated version of Hull, where she must help four panto princesses retell their stories for a modern audience.

To add to the excitement, a radio version will also be broadcast on BBC Radio Humberside across four mini episodes before Christmas, making it accessible to those without internet access.

With coronavirus restrictions closing theatres in Hull throughout December, this will be the first year Middle Child haven’t performed a panto in-person since we started the tradition at Fruit in 2011, before moving to Jubilee Central in 2018.

We couldn’t not offer families some Christmas cheer this year though, so have teamed up with local animators My Pockets to bring the spirit of panto to life online. 

  • Read more about the decision behind this year’s panto in Paul Smith’s blog post

We’ve also assembled a team of four incredible writers to work alongside Middle Child artistic director, Paul Smith, on the scripts that combine to tell the tale of Pattie’s adventure into the Pantoverse.

Cinderella by Deborah Acheampong

Deborah Acheampong is one of our nine new associate writers and her version of Cinderella is her first ever commission. 

Deborah said: “It’s honestly been amazing working with Middle Child for their Christmas panto, it’s felt like such a whirlwind.

“I didn’t think that, after sending them a script of mine in the summer, I could end up working on something so fun and whimsical for such a wide audience.” 

Maid Marian by Hannah Scorer

Emerging Hull writer Hannah Scorer, who took part in our Writers’ Group in 2019 and scratch night with Silent Uproar this year, has written Maid Marian for her debut commission.

Hannah said: “I’m a long-time Middle Child panto fan and took my daughter for the first time last year, where we started what will become a new Christmas tradition for us. 

“Before doing the writers’ group with Tom Wells I couldn’t have imagined I’d ever get a commission, so it’s been such a privilege to make something joyful in this weird year. 

“I expect to be completely overwhelmed when I watch it with my kid.”

Sleeping Beauty by Ellen Brammar

Company member Ellen Brammar, who wrote I Hate Alone in 2017 and is currently on the BBC Writers’ Room Northern Voices programme, has written Sleeping Beauty’s tale.

Ellen said: “Panto brings me joy. Full on, pie in the face, wee my pants, joy. So being asked to write for Middle Child’s panto was a Christmas wish come true. 

“I can’t wait to snuggle in with my family and enjoy the mayhem.”

Evil Queen by Maureen Lennon

Finally Hull writer and associate artist Maureen Lennon, who wrote our karaoke cabaret Us Against Whatever last year, has reimagined the story of the Evil Queen from Snow White. 

Maureen said: “I hope people get as much joy from watching it as I have from writing a piece. 

“Never have I felt like I needed children booing, and stupid jokes and messages of joy and hope more than this year. It’s been the absolute dream.”

Paul Smith, who wrote Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, has penned Pattie Breadcake’s introduction and closing missive, performed by company member Marc Graham. 

Paul added: “This Christmas show is extra special to us for being able to commission so many writers and continue to develop their practice, in a year that has already seen Daniel Ward win the George Devine Award for The Canary and the Crow.

Animation by My Pockets

Animator Peter Snelling, of My Pockets, said: We are thrilled to be part of Middle Child’s 2020 Christmas show. When we first moved to Hull we used to sneak into the Middle Child rehearsal space in Darley’s Youth Club when working with young people there.  

“We liked all the posters on the wall, the quotes and the books on the shelves, and thought, who are these guys? Since then we have become big fans and love the way they put theatre in places that it doesn’t normally go, to be seen by people who don’t normally watch. 

“Creativity for everyone is something we really believe in. That and lots of tea breaks.

Will our four heroes get to update their stories before an adoring audience in the (still, just) UK City of Culture this Christmas? 

Find out in Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse, available on YouTube from 19-31 December.

You can also listen to the radio version of the show across four mini-episodes on BBC Radio Humberside, from 20-24 December. 

Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse is made possible with support from the Cultural Recovery Fund.

The Little Mermaid - Hull Pantomime - Sarah Beth

Christmas, coronavirus and… panto in Hull?

By | Artistic Director, Blog, News, Panto
The Little Mermaid - Hull Pantomime

By Paul Smith, artistic director and joint-CEO

Somehow it’s already that time of year. You know the one? Where we dust off the rat puppets, cobble together an under-rehearsed yet well intentioned finale and let our dame, Marc Graham, run wild on Hull audiences. But it’s not quite the same this year, is it?

Nothing’s quite the same. Instead of excitedly planning this year’s family Christmases or work parties we’re sat wondering what’s going to be left

It’s just Christmas” some people say, but really it’s about more than that isn’t it?

It’s about seeing family and friends. About seeing kids’ faces light up. About belting out some Wizzard with strangers on Whitefriargate, while dressed as a Christmas pudding. And for us at Middle Child it’s about panto. Usually it is, anyway. But not this year. This year we haven’t said a word about panto.

Panto.

That much loved tradition that is, frankly, a bit odd, but a lot special. Where else in this stressful, anxiety-inducing world do adults and children alike come together to share in such unbridled joy? To cheer and boo, laugh and cry, hope and dream together, all while watching a dame dressed as a milk bottle tearfully sing to two actors bent double in a cow costume? 

We love panto. 

For us it’s what all theatre should be: totally devoted to its audience, woven into the fabric of local communities and able to magically transport us away from the real world, into one of magic and wonder. 

But this year it is the very nature of panto that makes it so challenging to realise. The things we love about it have become a barrier to it happening at all: being together in a space with loved ones and strangers, being noisy, being close, singing along, dancing together, avoiding the dame’s eye contact, being dragged up on stage, flashing our wands, rustling our sweets, elbowing granny to wake her up and reliving our favourite moments together in the interval.

It’s about connecting with other human beings through a story that is ridiculous and silly and soppy, but full of searing hope and belief.

It’s everything we’re already missing.

So why haven’t we said anything about panto? Why haven’t we been bombarding you with posters and trailers and ticket offers?

Nigel Taylor dressed in yellow with a blue baseball jacket and fish hat with his hands on his hips

I guess you know why.

In every good panto there’s a moment where all looks lost and we have to dig deep to believe we’ll get to the ending we’re all hoping for. 

We’ve been stuck on that plot point for a while now, hence the silence. Honestly? We didn’t want to say it out loud. That panto can’t happen for us how it usually happens and has happened for the last eight years, from our beloved Fruit to the last two brilliant years at Jubilee Central. 

We’ve had an inkling for a while now.

The nature of our show is proudly intimate. It matters that you (yes, you) are there with us. If you shout out we will hear you. We will respond. Your voice matters. You being in that chair matters. So, frankly, right now a live panto simply isn’t an option for our humble show. The production usually ‘pays for itself’ and without your support, there is no panto. We don’t use celebrity casting to bring in audiences. We rely on word-of-mouth. We rely on the hard work of our incredible local cast and crew. We rely on you, coming together and having a great night out. 

So I guess this is us saying it out loud. 

Panto can’t happen for us how it usually happens.


But that’s not the end of the story. Like all good panto heroes we’re refusing to accept defeat when the odds seem stacked insurmountably against us. We’re trying to find a way up the beanstalk, to the ball, through the enchanted forest. But there are challenges lying in wait and the ending is truly uncertain.

So what we want to do at this point is be honest with you. Tell you how it really is.

We aren’t going to be able to bring people together in a space to do panto this year.
We’re really sad about that.
Like, really sad.

But, we’re trying to do something else. Something digital.
Which, as I’ve said before, isn’t what we do, so we’re linking up with some brilliant people who do.

It’s something that we think could be really special.
It won’t be the same.
But we really do think it could be really special.

Thing is, we’ve never done anything like it before.
And we’re excited about that, but we’re also a bit scared.
Will it work? Will you like it? Will the internet be able to handle Pattie Breadcake?

Marc Graham as Hull panto dame Pattie Breadcake, in a sparkly top and pink dress, with blonde wig and crown.

And then there’s the virus, which is making it even more difficult.
Giving us even more to overcome.
Causing unpredictable twists and turns at every stage and in every detail.
Making us ask what happens if we tell you what we’re trying to do but then, for whatever unforeseeable reason, it can’t happen like we hope it can happen.

So this is where we are. 

We would like to make three promises to you:

1/ We are trying really hard to bring you something special this year to combat the gloom. Something you can enjoy for free from the comfort of your own home which will help us celebrate Christmas together again.

2/ We are doing all we can to make it happen, even if we don’t know what is around the corner. 

3/ As soon as we can, we will tell you more.

All we ask, is that you keep the faith and don’t give up hope. In us, in panto and in being together again.

This story isn’t over yet.

Big love and stay safe.

Paul x

EN PL