Thursday, 29 October 2020

INTERVIEW: With Chris Jarvis; writer and director of Happy Ever After at Lighthouse, Poole.

Chris Jarvis couldn’t be happier to be spending his Christmas in Poole, on stage at Lighthouse starring in and directing Happy Ever After, the show he wrote in response to being unable to do panto this year. 

“I think of Dorset as home so to be able to put on this very special show at Lighthouse, working with the amazingly talented team there and our lighting designer James Smith, who’s not only a genius but is from Poole as well, is just a real joy this Christmas,” says the CBeebies presenter who starred in Dick Whittington at Lighthouse two years ago. 


Happy Ever After is a one-hour Christmas show featuring a host of familiar pantomime and children’s storybook characters from Jack and Genie to Humpty Dumpty and the Owl and the Pussycat who come together to help Cinderella get to her next ball.    


“The story is told with the same texture as panto with comedy and songs, but it’s a fixed set and essentially a one-act play so the magic comes from the phenomenal skills of James Smith our lighting designer. His skill means the production values are high, but our ticket price makes us accessible to as many people as possible. 


“We are acutely aware that people have had a rotten year and that coming back to a theatre to shout and scream and boo and hiss and have things thrown around might not be what they want at this time. So, we have lots of characters people will knowI’ll be dressed as Buttons, and we’ll tell the story of what happens to those characters after their panto story. We find out that with the exception of one or two problems everyone is living happy ever after.” 


There’s a strong emphasis on Christmas in the show and some incredible special effects created with lighting, but with lots of in-jokes, corny puns and slapstick humour, as well as the familiar cast of characters, Happy Ever After is a show that brings the whole family together at a time when that hasnt been as easy as it could be. 


“It’s all about happiness, positivity and family and togetherness,” says Chris. “The thing is, pantomime has to feature certain elements and we have taken the view that physically they are not possible to do this year and remain safe. So people can come to Happy Ever after and sit in their bubbles with plenty of space around them and be entertained by a Christmas show – we want people to be relaxed and comfortable enough to enjoy themselves, have a laugh and join in with Sleigh Bells and Frosty and a medley of Christmas songs.” 


Chris wasn’t planning to do a pantomime this year, but when he found himself available he developed the idea he had for a children’s show and created Happy Ever After. 


“Lighthouse makes shows but they like to involve people from outside as well, which is where James and I came in. It has been a terrific learning experience – the conversations we’ve had about what’s possible in terms of lighting special effects have lasted for hours, writing the script has been relatively straightforward,” he explains with characteristic modesty. 


“I have spoken with so people in my industry whose world has literally been wiped away by the pandemic – not only performers, but the crew, writers, people with production houses and venues, they are absolutely desperate. There’s no doubt that performers have a need to perform, it’s what keeps us going so to be able to do this show is a blessing. We’re able to offer a live show to share with the community and the people of Poole and beyond are able to support Lighthouse by buying a ticket that will help it keep going.” 


Chris is well aware of the way Poole audiences come together to help in difficult times. In the wake of the terrible Boxing Day tsunami in 2005 he joined Brian Cant in Pantomime Relief to raise money for the Red Cross Tsunami Earthquake Appeal with the stars of Beauty an the Beast (Poole), Jack and the Beanstalk (Bournemouth) and Peter Pan (Southampton), performing shows at Lighthouse and Bournemouth Pavilion. 


We combined the panto companies and put on a revue that raised £25,000. We were meant to do one show at 10pm after the two panto performances, but due to a communication error (missing out the “pm”) we ended up doing another at 10am! Quite how we all got through four performances – because we still had the pantos to do – I really don’t know, but it was awesome to play a part and the audience support was absolutely incredible. 


“And just like that show, whatever happens this year is going to make it a very special one that we’ll remember for years to come, the way people are coming together to make things happen. It’s good for our mental health and wellbeing and with Happy Ever After we’re starting something now that means we can look forward to coming back stronger than ever next year.” 


Happy Ever After opens on Friday 18 December and runs until Sunday 3 January 2021. Chris co-stars with CBBC presenters Naomi Wilkinson (Naomi’s Nightmares of Nature, Marrying Mum and Dad) and Ed Petrie (All Over the Place, Marrying Mum and Dad). 


ONLINE BOOK READING REVIEW: James And The Giant Peach: With Taika and Friends: Parts 5 + 6 - The Roald Dahl Story Company.

Episode five brings with it another new guest star, the week's being heart-throb and film legend Ryan Reynolds. Kicking off where episode four ended, the peach had previously dropped from the branch and ended up floating in the sea.

Panic sets in when James learns that most of the insects can’t swim but their minds are soon distracted by rumbling tummies, having not eaten anything since the previous morning. “We will get thinner and thinner” they cried. But James tells them there’s plenty of food on board to keep them going for days on end. Confused by this, James explains to them that they can eat parts of the peaches interior - as long as they don’t make any holes that will cause them to sink! Soon the animals are working in unison to scoop out some before enjoying a fine feast of peach. The ladybird (Reynolds) exclaims that she’s never eaten peach before and that she simply loves it. (Much more tasty compared with the green bugs she’s used to eating)

The centipede (also Reynolds) bursts into song - accompanied by Taika Waititi on guitar which he later throws off screen with a bang, laughing he goes through one guitar a day. Reynolds doesn’t sing as such, rather reads the lyrics in a lullaby type voice (he should record himself reading similar - I’m sure the gentle sound of his voice would cure all my sleep issues and help me nod off easily, sending me to dreamland), telling the others of all the wonderful things she’s eaten before, but nothing as tasty as the peach. James and his friends were all feeling happy now - their bellies were full and the sun was shining. “Look!”, cried the centipede, just as they were finishing their meal. A black thing was lurking in the water. “They’re sharks!”, gasped the earthworm. They were all suddenly very scared. (Cue Waititi with sound effects of snapping sharks using a pair of kitchen food tongs) - to be honest with his sense of humour I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if he’d started blasting out Pink Fongs “Baby Shark” at this stage. “Oh we’re finished now!” wailed the spider. The insects were terrified of being eaten by sharks. They all turn and stare at James, desperate for him to help save them.

Episode six brings with it guest stars actress Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years A Slave”, “Black Panther” and “Us”) and actor Josh Gad ('The Book Of Mormon' - on Broadway, film adaption of “Beauty And The Beast” and the voice of Disney character Olaf in the 'Frozen' films. I adore Josh Gad, so was really looking forward to this episode. Reynolds was enthusiastic and entertaining in episode five, but Gad is like a hyperactive child in a sweetshop - always full of laughs.

“We’re still reading it...!” announces Taika Waititi in this episode's introduction - “its longer than I thought!” he laughs (Yes - you and me both Taika! It feels never ending - hence why I’m now combining two episodes in one write-up, otherwise I’ll be cashing my pension before we get to the end!).

“There is something I believe we could try”, James Henry Trotter (Lupita) says slowly...”I’m not saying it will work...”. “Tell us!” begged the insects, “we’ll try anything”. They all move closer to James, eager to hear what his plans are. “We need hundreds of yards of string to make this work....any sort....just as long as it’s strong. Oh it won’t work - we don’t have any” cries James in despair. The spider and the earthworm soon get together to make plenty of strong string to set the escape plan in action. Their plan works and soon they all in turn climb out of the peach, using the string to attach to something outside of the peach to get to safety. A huge ship suddenly appears below them, floating on the sea. They don’t know it but this is the Queen Mary and it’s heading out of the English Channel and heading towards America. Guest star Camilla Parker Bowles aka The Duchess of Cornwall brings the voice of the ships captain. (She’s very wooden in the character and could bore paint off the wall). The Captain sees the sky above filled with birds and spies James and the rest of the insects standing on the birds using his telescope. The rest of the cabin crew think the Captain has lost the plot or is drunk.

I seem to have forgotten how the story pans out. It’s been years since I read it and it certainly didn’t seem that long reading it as a child. Still, I prefer the book over the film adaption any day. Stay tuned for episodes 7&8 coming soon.

And to catch up on my earlier episode's reportage, you can follow the following links:

Episode 1:

Reviewer - Lotties Davis-Browne
on - 27/10/20

NEWS: There's a little something for everyone happening live this December at Poole's Lighthouse.



Here are the details of December 2020’s shows and events at Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts. In line with the Government’s latest safety advice all performances are for socially distanced audiences. 


BSO: Musical Gifts 
Wednesday 2 DecemberConcert Hall7.30pm 
Case Scaglione conducts Schumann’s striking Second Symphony and Wagner’s Siegfried Idyllcomposed for his wife and capturing his rarely seen intimate side.  
Although a limited number of ‘in person’ tickets are available, all BSO concerts this autumn will be available to watch from home as digital livestream concerts direct from Lighthouse. 

Liane Carroll  
Friday 4 December, Theatre8pm 
With her powerful blues-tined voice hailed by critics and fans alike as one of the finest in British jazz, we are delighted to welcome Liane back to Lighthouse. 

Tenors Unlimited Christmas Show 
Saturday 5 DecemberConcert Hall8pm 
Joined by multi-award winning local choir Sing People Sing, the 'Rat Pack of Opera’ are back in town with a special festive set that ranges from Nessun Dorma and The Pearl Fishers duet, to Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful and their very own Christmas chart topper Who Is He? 

BSO: Grosvenor Plays Chopin 
Wednesday 11 November, Concert Hall, 7.30pm 
New BSO Artist-in-Residence Benjamin Grosvenor performs Chopin’s E minor Concerto with the BSO conducted by Marta GardoliƄska. Fanny Mendelssohn’s Overture in C and Haydn’s Symphony No 88 complete the programme. 
* Although a limited number of ‘in person’ tickets are available, all BSO concerts this autumn will be available to watch from home as digital livestream concerts direct from Lighthouse. 

Live and UnheardDD Allen, Sophie Griffiths + CfO Live 
Thursday 10 DecemberTheatre, 7pm  
The return of our monthly showcase of unsigned local talent with three more highly rated acts. A growing buzz surrounds the pop-rock singer songwriter DD Allen as he returns to showcase his latest material. Also billed are Sophie Griffiths, whose songs find the common ground shared by Joni Mitchell, Amy Winehouse, Adele and Norah Jones; and CfO Live, the performance arm of Chaos from Order Productions. 

Coastal ComedyStephen Bailey + Sam Russell + Ria Lina 
Saturday 12 December, Theatre, 8pm 
Having hosted C5’s Celebrities on the Farm and been the resident Agony Uncle on the Zoe Ball Show, Stephen Bailey has been called “everyone’s favourite gay best friend”; while opening act Ria Lina makes her Lighthouse debut having won Best Comedy Show at the Greater Manchester Fringe. Hosted, as ever, by local comic Adrienne Coles, the bill is completed by newcomer Sam Russell whose upbeat comedy focusses on life’s weirder moments. 

BSO: A Baroque Christmas 
Wednesday 16 December, Concert Hall, 7.30pm 
Robert Howarth conducts the BSO with guest soprano Anna Devin inn a programme that features Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, arias from Handel’s Messiah and Autumand Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. 
* Although a limited number of ‘in person’ tickets are available, all BSO concerts this autumn will be available to watch from home as digital livestream concerts direct from Lighthouse. 

Happy Ever After 
Friday 18 December - Sunday 3 JanuaryTheatre, various times 
A cavalcade of favourite pantomime and children’s storybook characters from Jack and Genie to Humpty Dumpty and the Owl and the pussycat come together to help Cinderella get to her next ball in this very special one-hour Christmas show written and directed by CBeebies’ Chris Jarvis who also stars with CBBC presenters Naomi Wilkinson and Ed Petrie. Happy Ever After has been made COVID-secure in Poole specifically for socially distanced audiences. The magical lighting effects have been created by Poole-based international lighting designer James Smith.