A whirlwind introduction to Imagination Workshop – at Edinburgh Fringe

Beckie Smith – new Head Of Marketing

04/08/2016

 

Wow, what a week to be introduced to global theatre company Imagination Workshop, famed for the 5* hit shows Faulty Towers The Dining Experience and its latest production The Wedding Reception, produced by Interactive Theatre International. Having only joined the company less than one week ago, you can imagine my enthusiasm when I found out that my first week at work would be at the famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Twenty four hours later, and my head is buzzing. Yesterday was an adrenaline fuelled welcome to the company by Company Director Ali Pollard-Mansergh, complete with hugs all round by the three strong cast of Faulty Towers The Dining Experience. Without so much as a cup of tea, I was catapulted straight into logistics planning as less than eight hours later it would be opening night and – as with any theatre production – there were some last minute obstacles to overcome. In this instance, the question in hand was ‘How can we manage the massive crowds that our show attracts, and ensure that every member of the audience can see the actors, all the while keeping them out of harm’s way from traffic?’.

Given that Faulty Towers The Dining Experience takes place in a quaint rustic restaurant on Drummond Street, you can understand my confusion as to why we had to shepherd the audience on the street.

“The experience starts as soon as the audience comes round the corner” Ali explains. “You see before the show starts properly, the characters meet and greet the audience, whilst they enjoy a pre-show drink.” Interactive right from the work go – it clearly seems.

Discussions, rehearsals, and decisions later, a solution had been found and I found myself laughing out loud as the jokes came rolling off the tongues as fresh as a peach.

I couldn’t stay long though, as the next appointment of the day was looming, so we stormed across town to our other Fringe venue – this time in the sumptuous George Hotel in New Town where preparations were well underway for The Wedding Reception – another hilarious interactive comedy theatre experience in which four actors adopt nine characters in a wedding party you will never forget.

Thrown straight into the deep end getting my hands dirty I found myself helping to set up tables, laying out confetti, positioning the wedding favours with a keen eye for detail – just as though it was my own wedding. All the while, chaos whirled around me as actors rehearsed, production teams set up, the hotel staff learned the ropes and I soon realised this was unlike any wedding reception I have ever been to – and one that I just know audiences will queue at the box office to come and see.

It is easy to see how these shows have become such a core visit of any Edinburgh Fringe attendee – if you haven’t already seen Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, it will undoubtedly be on your ’Must See’ list for 2016, and The Wedding Reception is set to follow suit, riding on success of the former, but with a clear, unique identity and completely different experience.

Lunch was a blast of information, company history, who’s who, a run through of global success but before I could digest the last mouthful, we were whisked away, as a 10 second teaser video for STV was needed – it is great that the media are supportive of our shows.

By this time the crowds were beginning to build and we needed to make sure that flyers for Faulty Towers The Dining Experience and The Wedding Reception were making their way into people’s hands along with the hundreds of other flyers that fellow theatre companies were handing out. It can be a daunting task flyering, but it was encouraging that many people we spoke to had heard of our shows and some were planning on coming already – it is lovely to work for a company which is so popular.

It would be spilling a secret if I were to shed light on what happened at Will and Kate’s party in The Wedding Reception when I saw it that evening, but safe to say I genuinely lost myself within the experience, I forgot that I was in a theatre show and the story line took me on a whirlwind journey through a variety of emotions that I really wasn’t expecting.

Tomorrow, I’ll find myself joining Basil and Sybil Faulty and of course the marvellous Manuel for a concoction of chaos in Faulty Towers The Dining Experience – but I’m lucky to get tickets as they are starting to sell out already and the Fringe hasn’t even properly kicked off yet.

Here’s to another successful year for Imagination Workshop at Edinburgh Fringe!

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