February Half Term Success

It was such a great feeling to reopen the Harlequin after so many months. At last the bulk of the renovation after the fire is complete and the Hansel & Gretel production went ahead without problems. Audiences were a healthy size on most days, and even on the couple of days when you were only a few you were an enthusiastic few.

Thanks for all the kind remarks and good wishes, and thanks for being patient, and coming back.

Next on the books is the Easter Season with Toys on Parade in The Magic Toyshop.

Re-opening a week today!

The carpenter who started  repacing the fire damaged doors started in September. Then, having got me secure in a fashion he went off on other jobs. Then he went on holiday, came back and caught the flue and has only just been able to continue with the job. He hopes to be all finished by Tuesday. Then the flooring chap has to come and replace the burnt cork tiles around the threshold.

The electrics are nearly completed.

I’ve managed a couple of run throughs of Hansel and Gretel, and tested out stage lighting and sound etc. I’ve still a lot of cleaning and clearing, but there is nothing that could stop The Harlequin re-opening so I’m really looking forward to getting back into harness. I’ve even got a couple of dozen email and telephone bookings and so will have an audience. That’s the most important thing of course.

Roll on a week today, Sunday February 11th.

Almost there.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw a visit from Chem-Dry, the company cleaning the seats. They completed the cleaning of all 118 on the first day, then came back next day to re-fireproof the fabric. They are looking good.  On Thursday the electricians were here and are almost finished. I expect them again next week. The foyer curtains have been cleaned and are in the process of being re-lined, and should be back the week before I open.

My season starts on the 11th of February so I’m busy rehearsing Hansel and Gretel at the moment. I’ve also made a soundtrack for the cabaret section of the programme so things are coming along nicely. I’ve actually taken one or two bookings so it really feels like I will be back in business before too long.

It’s been quite a slog with a lot of frustration, but helped enormously by the friends and fellow puppeteers who have, unsolicited, given practical help in various ways.  I am very grateful  to you all.

Starting to feel like home

The Curtains are back from the cleaners and have been re-hung. They will need a lot of adjusting but already the theatre is feeling more its old self. There’s a long way to go yet, but a February half term opening is now “on” and assuming no set backs the Hansel & Gretel witch will be cackling her greeting to the kids .

The main curtain is of 60 year old red corduroy and the blue drapes are a similar aged velvet. Considering their age they have cleaned up quite well. I would have loved new, but insurance only brings you back to where you were before the fire.

The harlequin pattern curtains in the foyer have gone off now. Their linings, which faced the sunlight, will certainly not withstand cleaning so these curtains will need relining. The main fabric still seems pretty sturdy which is good since I doubt if I could have matched, or even near-matched, that particular pattern.

We will be open for February Half Term

This picture shows the auditorium after a partial clean. The walls and the roof have been done. The seats and the floor have still to be done. Before that the fire doors need finishing, and there will be a partial electrical rewire, and the stage curtains which have been cleaned now need re-hanging. And I’ve a lot of cleaning backstage – which only I can do.

But up to today the auditorium was full of scaffolding. This is the first time I have been able to properly see the cleaned walls.

Stage one complete

The cleaners have finished the basic cleaning of the theatre. They sign off tomorrow morning. Then early January the scaffolding (which fills the auditorium giving access to walls and ceiling) will be removed and hopefully the firm who are to clean the seats will be able to give me a slot. I know that they are busy with work on Anglesey cleanng up after flooding, but if they can manage to get to me by late January there is a good chance I can be open for the February half term.

The curtains have been cleaned and so can be re-hung. The doors need finishing and there’s quite a bit of electrical work, but it all seems more possible now that the main cleaning has been achieved. The only problem could be the seat cleaning, but the firm have promised to do their utmost to get to me sometime in January.

I am feeling much more optimistic, partly because of the possibility of a theatre re-opening in sight, but also because this week I have been busy with Christmas shows in Nurseries and Primary Schools and the the children’s excitement is infectious. It’s one of the joys a children’s performer shares with the parents of the  young,  to be able to enjoy Christmas through the eyes of the children.

Next day, Friday

The cleaners were back this morning and we had a walk round inspecting what had been done. It really is impressive what they have achieved in a couple of days. The auditorium is much brighter for not only have the smoke webs and soot stains been removed, but also the discolouration of the years of nicotine contamination. Smoking was allowed, and normal, in the early days of the theatre.

Even backstage where access was very limited due to the clutter they have achieved marvels.

I can’t post any pictures of their work because the scaffolding is still in situ – but I’m impressed.

The cleaning team as well as being obviously experienced and hard working were all, without exception, nice lads and obviously cared about the work they were doing. They’ve certainly given me a nice Christmas present in that I can now see a bit of light.

In case I don’t add anything in the next few days I will wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful 2018.

We are on our way!

The cleaning company arrived today, a new team this time from Liverpool. No messing about, they got on with the job and although they’ve only been here half a day I am getting the feeling that they know what they are doing and that there is and end in sight. In fact they hope to be finished by Friday of this week. I am confident enough to be actually planning the show for February Half Term. Whoopee!

You couldn’t make it up.

Last Wednesday the cleaning company telephoned to ask if they could send a cleaning team next Tuesday to Friday. Ironically, this being the last week of the Christmas term it is a week when I am busy travelling to school shows and having kept me waiting since August this is the week they choose. Of course I agreed!

An hour later they rang to confirm.

An hour later they rang to ask if they could come earlier – Friday. Although this only gave me a day’s notice I agreed.

Each of these calls was by the same girl yet she had to go through the same list of security questions each time, and each time had to ask if I had suffered a fire or a flood.

So the team arrived today. The nice guy in charge explained that he was standing at the last minute in for the chap who should have been doing my job (again).

I showed him the scaffolding in the auditorium erected on their instructions and for their use. He explained that they couldn’t work in the auditorium, they couldn’t go on the scaffolding until they had the OK from their health and safety officer. They first thought it was an asbestos issue, but a dozen phone calls later it turned out to be a scaffolding issue. Someone apparently has to give them the go ahead to mount the scaffold and the person involved wasn’t available. Nothing  had not been arranged. All they could do was work in the foyer.

Now in order for them to work in the auditorium a great deal of stuff normally stored there had all been transferred into the foyer and piled up there, as had been arranged. The idea being that when the auditorium was cleaned this would be moved back to give them access to clean the foyer. They did what they could but that was limited.

They are coming back on Tuesday – but it will probably not be all the same team. So although we talked about what they might need and how they might tackle the job there’s no certainty of continuity. I also have no confidence that they will have sorted out the their health and safety issues when they come back next week.

The team who came were very pleasant, and what they could do they did well,  and it was perfectly obvious that none of this was their fault. But apart from the frustration I am feeling I also think of the cost of all this bungling. No wonder insurance is so costly.

Still I’ve a couple of Christmas Party Shows over the weekend to keep me cheerful and, not being a multi-million global company, I suppose I’ll have to arrive on the right day, in the right place and at the right time and deliver the performance they have been promised. I’d be mortified if I did otherwise.

Jack Ketch would have been proud.

The scaffolders arrive 8.30am and pulled out all the stops. They were finished before 4pm having scaffolded over the whole auditotrium and cabaret rostrum – quite a feat on a raked floor. Now I must see if at last the cleaners will do their job – an enormous task I realise – but until they have done their work the seats cannot be cleaned nor the new electrcal wiring be installed, nor the curtains (cleaned months ago) be re-fitted.

Some good news and a bit of history….

I won’t bore you with telephone and email exchanges between me, loss adjuster and cleaners and scaffolder except to report that something is going to happen.  The scaffolder has promised that he will contact me next week and then arrange to install the scaffolding in the theatre auditorium. This will take a couple of days. I will then inform the cleaning company and ask them to arrange to come in and clean the walls and ceiling etc. and hopefully get rid of the still dreadful smell. So at least there is some movement …….

And now a bit of reminisence. Eric Bramall, as a boy started building his first puppets during the years of World War II and often told me how scarce were materials and resources. He recalled that little was wasted and most things were recycled. He said carving wood was impossible to buy so the only chance of getting hold of seasoned wood was from old furniture or perhaps look out for old gate posts being replaced. When he died, 50 years after the end of the war, I found a couple of logs of fruit wood under his bench, layed down when green and set aside for use when seasoned.
He also told me how lucky I was to be able to pop along to a ironmongers (hardware shops which are now largely extinct) and buy a vast assortment of adhesives, nails and screws and fittings. In the war years even the basics were in short supply. I remember when I was a boy screws were never thrown away and even old nails were carefully extracted and straightened if bent and carefully stored for re-use.
Eric said that screw eyes, especially small sizes, were impossible to find and it was a few years before they came on the market again. Now screw eyes are essential for marionette making and so puppeteers had to make their own. This whole reminisence was triggered by my finding yesterday in an old box of mixed screw eyes two that were obvious examples of his work. They have apparently started out as two brass screws with their heads sawn off. The shank has been hammered out, flat and wide enough to drill a hole of a size to take the linen carpet thread which was used for marionette strings. Since there are a minimum of eleven stringing points on one puppet quite a few hours must have been spent in just fashioning the screw eyes.
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