My First Show Stories: Arian
So many fans of theatre can remember the first time they saw a show and the excitement of the experience. Taking someone to see their very first show can be a wonderful experience, and as so many families have visited the theatre this summer for the first time, we asked our TodayTix Squad to share their #MyFirstShow stories. Here’s Arian’s:
29th November 2004, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds. I was a very excitable 10-year-old Asian boy sat in the audience for the opening night of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Prior to this momentous evening, I had experienced annual trips to Bradford Alhambra Theatre for their seasonal pantomimes, but nothing on par with the production I was about to experience.
I had always enjoyed C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia throughout my childhood and days as an early teen. I spent endless evenings listening to a playlist of ‘Magical Songs’ which included, (ironically) the Harry Potter theme tune and a variety of Antonio Salieri compositions. The music, along with Lewis’ words transported me to a land very different from our own. I was the weird kid who preferred Lucy and her sibling’s tales more than Harry and his mates. I created my own version of Narnia; the woods, the wardrobe, the fur coats, and even the stone table were all my own.
As a child, I sat in the audience at the Playhouse and expected the production before me to deliver the level of detail and specificity that my imagination had created of Narnia. It didn’t. Ruari Murchison’s take of the world was very minimal, clean cut edges and re-occurring two-point perspective templates for many of the scenes. At first, my little brain was disappointed; ‘why is it not really colourful and magical mum?’ After I was quietened down and told to use my imagination, the stage before me truly transformed. Murchison’s design choice was similar to Lewis’ writing, it allowed me as the audience to fill in the gaps. I was able to bring the memories and world I had created when reading the book to life by projecting it onto the stage before me. The scene changes incorporated the Playhouse legendary revolve, making the changes of scene as swift and smooth as the turn of a page.
While Murchison’s design and Brown’s direction are key factors as to why this production is so vivid in my memory, it was Kay Magson’s casting direction that lit the fire in my belly for performance. Growing up, TV was white, books were white, and films were white. Everywhere I looked, all I saw was…white. Sat in the audience of the Playhouse I was elated to see that three of the principle characters were of an ethnic minority origin. While three seems a small figure, I still see or perform in shows where I struggle to see more than one person of colour.
Seeing people who looked a lot like me, gracing the stage and telling stories of gasp-worthy proportion, it was then I realised that story telling and performance, as an art form, was what I wanted to do. Two years later, I was proud to make my professional debut on the very same stage in Rachel Kavanagh’s Wizard of Oz.