Having decided not to open Cooper Hall to the public for live events just yet, due to the pandemic, we were still really keen to have our presence felt during this year’s Frome Festival. We decided to “take it to the streets” instead and use the current restrictions as a positive force for bringing the Cooper Hall name directly to the community and right into the town centre – to entertain new audiences and connect with our regular supporters.
With that in mind, we sponsored two events this year – a free, ‘Flash Mob Opera’ with Give Music and commissioned ‘Not On The Buses’, a brand new comedy walking tour of Frome with Rare Species Theatre Company. Here’s what they had to say about the process:
5 reworked scripts
7 (hundred) Covid mitigation plans
The magnificent Cooper Hall and LOADS of wonderful Frome Festival audience.
We had an absolute ball playing Frome with our newly commissioned Flash Mob Opera. It was such a joy to get back in the rehearsal room (a very slim 3.5 hours in a vast church hall in Tooting!) and a total privilege to be back in front of a live audience. We all worked so hard to create something new and uplifting that could be enjoyed, in safety, across generations and we were so thrilled that so many people turned up to watch and listen and contribute their energy to our high octane 30 minutes!
Thank you everyone for your lovely feedback – fingers we will be back again next year!
Until then – our love,
Daisy Brown for Give Music x
Rare Species Theatre Company ‘Not on the Buses’
It is both exciting and a little bit daunting putting together a new show but with our “whistorical tours” of Frome we have developed a winning formula. …We always start with strong, well rounded characters …They invariably have a memorable name and catch phrase too; Virginia Saggers, Gerald Terd, Christine Clunk, Jack Harpon. We try to use a device which unifies the audience (this time it was a 70s dress code and party hats) which adds to the performance from the spectators perspective as the audience become part of the action.
Once we’ve settled on a route we get to work writing funny alternative histories of the various landmarks based on truth but using stream of consciousness flights of fancy to embellish. It’s storytelling but we also add poetry, song and familiar characters from popular TV/film culture into the mix. There is a lot of serendipity about the process such as dates coinciding so the audience sometimes believe the most spurious of claims. Obviously as we are performing in the public domain we never quite know what we’re going to encounter along the way. Although most of the show is scripted, we are both seasoned improvised street theatre performers so we can think on our feet and take advantage of real- life situations to add to the comedy.
We are also extremely lucky to have the support and friendship of many local business owners so can add a real-life shop/salon visit or window display to the tour which adds to the element of surprise for the audience. We definitely feel the second show went better than the premier and was really well received (lots of big laughs). The first, although good, had a few teething troubles but allowed us to hone and tweak material for the next performance. It’s not really something you can dress rehearse due to it being so reliant on the audience getting on board with the humour and silliness so in future we plan to run a preview showing for new shows to iron out any possible mishaps and test the material.