Filmed during the dress rehearsal at Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Digital Journalism students at University of Huddersfield have created this great video featuring “The Sun Will Rise” and an interview with director Kristine Landon-Smith. Many thanks to the students and to Ella at the Coliseum for this one.
On the day that “Wuthering Heights” sees its world premiere in Oldham, we bring you another video where you can hear the creative team talk about why this quintessentially English novel makes an ideal Bollywood musical (click HD to watch in higher quality):
Tamasha has thrown its wardrobe doors wide open and has put the ladies from Sex in the City to shame – this week, it’s all been about dress up.
First off, we’ve been putting on our party frocks and doing our hair for the ‘Touch of Bollywood’ Fundraising Dinner that was hosted at the Lyric Hammersmith. Cast, company, board members, friends of Tamasha, invited guests and celebrities enjoyed a sneak preview of selected scenes and songs from Wuthering Heights; after that, they enjoyed dinner and a charity auction and raffle, where our guests’ outstanding generosity raised over £20,000 for Tamasha and its future work.
And the glam and glitter hasn’t stopped there. The cast have been trying on huge amounts of costumes with the design team (some actors have seven costumes!) and the results are dazzling.
Check out this week’s gallery for exclusive pictures of the ‘Touch of Bollywood’ fundraiser, costume fittings and a camel.
Now you definitely wouldn’t find a camel in Sex and the City.
The best part of going to the movies is the trailers. Everyone loves a sneak preview of what’s coming next, snatched glimpses of the action to whet your appetite – you can’t beat the movies for trailers. Until recently.
If you’ve been following the blog so far, you’ll already have seen some video interviews with the cast or watched them rehearsing.This week , we’ve got another exclusive video: Pushpnder Chani (‘Krishan’) and Youkti Patel (‘Shakuntala’) in rehearsals for the show’s main love song The Sun Will Rise.
Wuthering Heights will be like a classic Bollywood movie by following a classic Bollywood convention: actors lip-synching to the songs sung by professional vocalists. Wuthering Heights will embrace this convention to encapsulate the spirit of Bollywood cinema. So check out the clip below to see Pushpinder and Youkti being real movie stars in the rehearsal room:
Meanwhile, the work is building up and spilling out of the rehearsal room and spreading out across London: singers are being recorded in studios, TV and press are being contacted in the office, and in our design team’s workshop they are building a fold-away camel by the name of Sister Josephine.
An extraordinary amount of people are each putting in their bit to bring the show to life. Director Kristine Landon-Smith tells us how, even though work on the show is happening at all points of the compass, the real excitment will happen when these parts are brought together:
“Two more weeks left in the rehearsal room before we move to production week in Oldham. The work is progressing apace – next week Nikki should finish her choreography and John his final mixes. Week 5 will see the final mixes coming in to the rehearsal room and I hope that will give us plenty of time to run the work in the rehearsal room over and over again. The rhythm of the piece as a whole is so important and one only finds this through constant running. The technical side of the show is also very complicated and this is why it is so important to have all the work with the company absoluely pinned down before we move to the theatre – once we get in there most of my attention will have to be on the technical side. Suddenly the rehearsal room seems very safe – moving into the theatre is the next big jump to take!”
Amongst all the people helping Kristine and the company to Oldham are the Observers. Tamasha has always been a strong supporter of up and coming artists with the Tamasha Development Artists porgramme and on Wuthering Heights five directors have had the opportunity to watch rehearsals and discuss with Kristine about her methods. We caught up with a few of them to see how they felt it was going:
“It has been inspiring to observe Kristine’s talent of directing through play and pleasure with the actors at the centre of this creative process. Our lunchtime meetings and her inclusiveness and openness throughout the rehearsal period has encouraged me to pursue and explore this process in my future career and role as an actor trainer.”
“The last 4 weeks have been fascinating – Kristine’s ability to nurture the actor’s talents, to know when to give direction and how specific to be is a honed skill she’s obviously developed through years of experience. It’s made me realise that knowing each individual actor’s process is vital, as everything stems from them. The atmosphere set up in the rehearsal room is one that’s buzzing with energy. It’s great to be a part of and I’m excited for Oldham now that everything is finally coming together in this epic show!”
Meanwhile, here’s some new shots from this weeks rehearsals:
So if, like myself, you fancy yourself something of a Bollywood star, you can practice lip-synching along with the song by singing into your hairbrush in front of the mirror.
Alternatively, you can just sit back, grab some popcorn, enjoy the trailers and wait for the lights to go down on the main feature.
Kings Cross is an absolute building site – and I mean that in a good way.
Since the new St Pancras International train station opened, Kings Cross has been buzzing with construction: flats, offices, hotels, concert halls – you name it, they’re building it.
But down a side street off the main road, you’ll find the area’s most exciting building project has just been completed. In their new rehearsal room for the next fortnight, the cast of Wuthering Heights now have a reconstruction of the upcoming set on which to act, sing and dance; and on top of this new and exciting playground, our cast are working with the latest members of the creative team – choreographer Nikki Woollaston and musical supervisor and co-arranger John Rigby, freshly returned from music recording sessions in India. Our director Kristine Landon-Smith told me how excited she is with the creative team members and the new additions in the rehearsal room:
Week 3 and things are moving very fast. I have laid down the whole work in detail and I ran the show last Friday and again this morning (Monday). Nikki, our choreographer joined us today and I handed things over to her. This is always an interesting transition point – its wonderful to begin to get another significant input on the rehearsal floor – already Nikki has picked up on things that needed some attention and she has begun to tease out movement detail (which impacts on the whole) in the large choreographic sequences and also in smaller moments. So now we are working together with a shared vision and the actors need to adjust to having both me and Nikki guiding them through the work. Deepak, book writer and Sudha who wrote additional text were also in rehearsal today and I discussed textual details and Hindi pronunciations.
John Rigby, orchestrator and arranger, is back from his travels in India and is very enthusiastic about the music he has brought back. He and I start work with the playback singers tomorrow – what I am loving about this production is the way there is no let up – each day a new element of the jigsaw comes in and we all have to keep up and keep moving forward.
So I am not fully back in rehearsals till Friday – looking forward to see how work with John and Nikki impact on the whole!
The other thing that is exciting this week – our marvellous production manager Ben and stage management team have managed to give us a very close representation of the set in rehearsals – so we are now working on four levels that resemble the rolling hills of the desert. We are starting to see how to take maximum advantage of the fantastic horizontal lines and levels designer Sue Mayes has given us in her set – always a thrilling moment!
Below you’ll see Nikki and the cast hard at work constructing the big numbers, as well as adding a magical touch to the play’s more poignant moments.
Gary Pillai (Vijay) and Youkti Patel (Shakuntala) with Nikki:
Meanwhile, Kristine and John are hard at work in Nitro Studios up the road from the rehearsal room. John has brought back the score, which he recorded with Chandru and his crew out in India, and together they are working with the playback singers to create the perfect Bollywood soundtrack for the show. Hear a sneak preview of a couple of the musical numbers from the show as John and the vocalists rehearse:
Ambika Jois and Kartik Raghunathan (the voices of Shakuntala and Krishan)
Irvine Iqbal (the voice of Vijay)
All the building blocks for the show are in place: soon the playback singers will be moving into the recording studios for the final phase of the music; the dances and choreography will be set down; and within the next two weeks rehearsals will enter into the final stages and these the two elements of recorded music and live action will be brought together to construct the Bollywood experience.
Now that’s some building that we can’t wait to see.
Monday morning at work is never an exciting prospect for anyone. But step through the door of the rehearsal room for Wuthering Heights and the first thing to strike you is how lively the place is: the cast are dancing to Bollywood soundtracks as they warm up for rehearsals wearing colourful dupattas and saris. Even the director and stage managers join in. Suddenly work doesn’t seem so bad.
With so much energy in the room, it’s not surprising that the company have already made leaps and bounds on the play. It’s no mean feat: there’s singing, dancing, different langauges and a set consisting of a palace and camel market; but director Kristine Landon-Smith tells me how everyone has risen to the occasion:
“The big challenge is becoming more and more obvious and that is how to believe we are in the deserts of Rajasthan and yet play in a musical. So I am having to very careful about the balance between the real texture we are trying to achieve in the scenes, and the more heightened moments of song and dance – it really is walking a tightrope. It’s a very subtle and delicate balance and quite elusive at times; however, the actors are terrific and are really stepping up to the challenge.
I use anything and everything to help me in my work with the actors. I use improvisations a lot. For example, when we were playing the death scene, I asked the three actors involved to imagine they were in a Hindi film (a good one!) and each actor was speaking their particular Indian language (in this instance Gujerati, Punjabi and Tamil). I played a bit of romantic music into this improvisation and suddenly we had exactly the right texture for the scene – our next job is to translate it all back to English – but now that we can see what is needed the job is easier.
It’s a fascinating challenge – sketching and rubbing out and sketching again – this is how I describe it. Three more days and we are at the end of week two!”
Kristine and the actors at work:
We also managed to grab our two leads, Pushpinder Chani (Krishan) and Youkti Patel (Shakuntala) for a quick interview. Pushpinder tells us about his love of the original Bronte novel and reveals that lip synching is harder than it looks:
What attracted you to the role of Krishan?
Did you research the original novel?
What’s the biggest challenge been so far?
Meanwhile, Youkti tells us how she’d love to be a Bollywood star and reveals her favourite Bollywood film:
What attracted you to the role of Shakuntala?
Are you a fan of Bollywood?
What’s your favourite Bollywood film?
Whether it’s the harsh moors of Yorkshire or the sun scorched deserts of Rajasthan, extreme weather is a major feature of Wuthering Heights; so it’s perhaps fitting that the first day of rehearsals was cancelled because of the snowstorms that brought Britain to a standstill.
However, undeterred by bad weather and refreshed after a day of building snowmen, the first day of rehearsals took place on Tuesday. The company gathered at the Lyric Hammersmith (the show’s London venue) and the room was packed with everyone involved with the show, both onstage and off. Even at this early stage you get a sense of how big this production is going to be.
Kristine Landon Smith, the show’s director and Tamasha’s co-Artistic Director, has plenty of experience directing large scale shows and musicals, but even a seasoned professional still gets a case of first day jitters:
“Finally first day of rehearsals. Highest records of snow in eighteen years meant we had to cancel it ! I couldn’t believe it, I had woken during Sunday night (I always have a fitful sleep the night before first day of rehearsals) and had not felt optimistic. When we decided to cancel at 7am on Monday morning, my immediate thought was that I would have another day of preparation for what lay ahead. That meant 45 laps in the pool on Monday afternoon – some directors pore over their scripts, I did a six-mile run on Saturday and another 45 laps on Sunday! The thing that is so important for me during a rehearsal period is to have the right energy level to maintain a lively rehearsal room with a large company over the course of five weeks. And that takes some doing – particularly on day one. Introductions, sharing your vision for the show, quickly building the right atmosphere, and persuading a whole range of people to come along with you.”
With all that exercise, it’s amazing that she can still stand up, but her infectious energy is already rubbing off on the rest of the company. Pretty soon, she and the cast will be keeping the snow at bay and will have turned this rehearsal room into the world of Rajasthan, full of song, dance and music.
Music is perhaps one of the first things you think of when someone mentions Bollywood, and this show will be no exception. In keeping with the Bollywood tradition, all the music will be prerecorded and the actors will lip-synch to the songs during the musical numbers just like they do in the movies; but it’s not just being recorded anywhere.
On the other side of the world and far away from the snow of England, Musical Supervisor John Rigby has been in Bangalore, India recording the music for the show with co-arranger Chandru and his musicians at Bollywood Strings:
“I’ve been in India for about 10 days so far and I can’t remember when I last had a more exciting or interesting time working on a show! It’s pretty hectic here, schedules are constantly changing and Chandru has done an amazing job of keeping everything on track! At times the work is a little frustrating as we have to record each musician separately and so it is sometimes hard to imagine what the final result will be until it is all put together, but we are very excited by what we are hearing and it really feels like we are creating something very new. The quality of the musicianship here is very high and they have such pride and passion about their instruments that it is a real pleasure to work with them.
Yesterday we had sessions all day and evening with the guitarists, and several other local musicians – all Chandru’s friends – turned up to hear. Of course events led onto Chandru’s terrace at the end of work and the whiskey was poured freely as we looked at pictures on the internet of London in the snow! Chandru is both a wonderful musician to work with and a fantastic host. The food and weather is amazing although there has barely been time to leave the studio. I hope I at least see the city before I have to board a flight home a week tomorrow. There is much to do before then though and our sitar player awaits so I’ll have to sign off. Can’t wait to hear the final mixes and put everything together back in London (and have a roast dinner and a proper pint!) but for now I’ll enjoy every moment of the culture, people and music of this wonderful country.”
When the music is complete in another week (providing the whiskey doesn’t flow too freely), we all look forward to hearing the amazing work that John, Chandru and his team have done. Until then, if you’re looking for somewhere to keep warm and beat the cold, you might just find, tucked away in Hammersmith, a sunny little corner of India.
As part of a government initiative to get more young people into the arts, theatres across the country are giving away 1 million theatre tickets to anyone under 26.
Oldham Coliseum Theatre is just one of the venues taking part, and from Tuesday 17 February, a limited number of free tickets will be available for Wuthering Heights when it premieres there in March.
For more information on how to get your hands on them, call the Oldham Coliseum Theatre Box Office on 0161 624 2829.
As of today, we can finally confirm the full cast for Wuthering Heights.
The lead roles of Shakunlala and Krishan will be played by Youkti Patel and Pushpinder Chani respectively. Pushpinder performed in Tamasha’s first Bollywood musical, Fourteen Songs Two Weddings and a Funeral, and has a number of theatre, film and television credits behind him. Youkti graduated from the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in 2007, and was a series regular in the three-part BBC drama Casualty 1907. Wuthering Heights is Youkti’s professional stage debut.
Gary Pillai will play their wealthy neighbour Thakur Vijay, Anil Kumar as Shakuntala’s brother Hari and Sheena Patel as Vijay’s sister Anita. The domestics, Yusuf and Ayah, will be played by Nish Nathwani and Tamasha stalwart Rina Fatania. Also appearing will be Shammi Aulakh as Baba, Divian Ladwa as Changoo and Amith Rahman and Davina Perera as part of the ensemble.
For full cast biographies, click here.
Tickets for Wuthering Heights are now on sale. The tour – Tamasha’s biggest to date – will visit eight cities and towns across England and Scotland.
For our main London dates, we are delighted to be returning to the Main House at the Lyric Hammersmith – a venue which has staged many of Tamasha’s past productions, including Balti Kings, Fourteen SOngs, Two Weddings and a Funeral, Ghostdancing and Strictly Dandia. Wuthering Heights will run from 29 April – 23 May – residents or workers in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham can get free tickets for the first performance on 29 April, and a number of £10 tickets are available for the rest of the first weekend. For more information, call the Lyric box office on 0871 22 117 29 or visit their website.
Click here for the tour schedule and box office phone numbers. Note that concessions and preferential rates for schools and groups of 10 or more are available at all venues.