Thursday, 24 January 2008

When I Say Run....Run!!!!!!!!!!! 24/1/08

I had a surreal experience a few days ago. There I was watching Saturday night television and what should I see? Raptors. As in dinosaurs. The weird thing was that they were in Kingston’s Bentall’s centre. Now living relatively close to Kingston for almost twenty years I have often been to the Bentall’s centre and I have seen some strange things there believe me. But Kingston has a surprisingly low dino-count I have never seen so much as a Pterodaktyl .

I was of course watching ITV’s “Primeval” where Dinosaurs enter contemporary Britain through “anomalies” and wreak havoc in all kinds of places i.e. it was pretend. It’s kind of odd though when you see locations you know well being used in a TV show or film. What was particularly dis-orientating was that the action took place in the Bentall’s centre along with a department store and bowling alley that were supposed to be part of the same complex. Now if you know Kingston you will know that Bentall’s the department store is within the Bentall’s centre. Makes sense right? Well in “Primeval” the department store was quite clearly John Lewis which is outside and across the road. So, given that there was no obvious damage to all the doors, I can only assume that the Dinosaurs had planned ahead and had keys cut as they clearly snook out of the Bentalls Centre locked the door behind them and crept across the road, incidentally, crossing the path of the 111 bus which I take to Kingston. What’s more impressive is that the nearest bowling alley is the other end of the high street and then some so they will have had to tiptoe down past Marks and Spencer, The Gap, and Pizza Hut to get there. All without the residents of Kingston noticing them! These dinosaurs are clever folk!

Ok, Ok so I known it’s not real but it can be quite difficult to suspend belief sometimes. Way back in the sixties they had Cybermen on the steps of St Paul’s and Daleks on Waterloo Bridge so it’s nothing new, and can certainly increase the excitement and heighten the fear-factor an octane or two. A recent example would have to be the Matt Damon movie “The Bourne Ultimatum”. I travel through Waterloo station everyday so to see it used to such a great effect in this movie was almost mind-blowing. How they achieved such results in one of the worlds biggest railway stations is beyond me.

Of course, working in theatre, the shoe is often on the other foot as our work locations can often feature in other media. Anyone who has seen the movie “Closer” will be sure to recognize some scenes filmed at Drury Lane for instance. However, my first experience of the camera’s invading one of our theatres was back in the eighties. There I was, sitting in the box office at the Apollo Theatre when a perplexed Amanda Cousins (who was working at the Lyric) came in. Amanda had turned up to work as usual and gone to the back to enter via the stage door only to find it had disappeared. Well, transformed would be a better word really for that morning she found a Soho Sex Shop where the stage door should have been. She was mortified!

Here at the Palladium we have recently seen camera’s invade, but as the TV show in question has not yet aired I will not comment on that! I suspect that the Palladium is possibly the most filmed theatre in London, if not the world. This is of course down to a certain TV show that was launched back in the very early days of ITV. I speak, of course, of “Sunday Night At The London Palladium” which, in it’s fifties and sixties heyday,attracted the worlds biggest stars. Over the years the format has been revived many times and I was here the last time that it happened, when Bruce Forsyth filmed a run of “Live At The Palladium”, between “Saturday Night Fever” and “The King And I”. On this occasion the production really did invade our space though not , ironically, because of the actual filming. Basically the caterers moved in! The training suite within the Palladium box office became the canteen. The actual training room was transformed into a cafeteria and the break room became a fully operating kitchen. Tea urns sizzled, deep fat fryers frizzled and we sat and wizzled. Yes, Ok I know that’s not really a word but at least it rhymes. Why were we wizzling though? Partly because of the delicious smells wafting through. We did have the perk of free meals though – and they were delicious! The other thing that wizzled us was the sight of the likes of Sting, Jimmy Nail and the cast of “Les Miserables” wandering by to go and grab their pie and chips. Not an experience we have every day. So two weeks went by and after the exodus of the TV crews etc we were left with a curious legacy. Fat. Everything seemed to be covered with a thin layer of congealed chip fat. Lovely!

So there you go, Location filming can disorientate the viewer , not to mention disturb those of us who try to live or work in the location. The results can be well worth it though, be it the village of “Cranford” in the BBC’s recent drama, or Shakespearian London in last years “Doctor Who” the imagination of a great film or television production invariably transports us, magically, to a different place or time. But, next time you see a herd of Wizzlesauras stampeding through the foyer of the Palace with John Barrowman (for he gets everywhere!) on their tail spare a thought for the displaced staff members! After all not everyone is lucky enough to get free dinners into the bargain!

Wizzlingly yours


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