Next week sees White Cobra at The Deco with classic comedy Hi-De-Hi. We’ve been having a chat with Director Ian Spiby…
You’ve been involved with theatre for a long time – what first inspired you to start performing?
I think my first performance was at the age of 3 or 4 at the St Giles Young Wives Social Club in Derby when I gave them a rendition, on stage, of “I’m a Little Teapot, Short and Stout” – to great acclaim. It’s still in my repertoire! And I’ve been involved in theatre ever since.
What drew you to Hi-De-Hi? Were you a fan of the original TV series?
I actually worked at Maddieson’s Holiday Camp in Kent in the 1960s, which was just like Mapplin’s in Hi-De-Hi. I had a very humble role, of course, serving teas in the café attached to the ballroom, but all the characters from Hi-De-Hi were there. I loved the TV series so it was great when White Cobra asked me to direct it. And because they only use the very best actors, it’s been very easy to do. I’ll say things like, “Do a dance as you bring on that furniture to change the scene”, and they just do it – brilliantly and hilariously. It’s a director’s dream working with a cast like that.
How have you been preparing your actors for performing on the stage at The Deco?
The Deco is a huge space but it’s got a very good acoustic so there’s no problem about being heard. But there could be a problem with voices sounding muffled so we’ve worked on articulation very much. Also, because Hi-De-Hi is basically farce, we’ve had to work on delivering the comic gags to the audience.
Can you tell us how rehearsals have been going?
As I said above, like a dream. The cast work at a professional standard and everyone feels free to chip in with ideas. If we come across a problem, and I don’t know the answer, someone will suggest a solution and it’s solved in two minutes.
The cast bios on Facebook have been hilarious – have you got a cast full of comic talent?
Do you know, I think I have. I told them that I wanted spoof biographies and asked everyone to take a photo of themselves in an embarrassing situation, the sort of photo you normally would never allow anyone to see. And back came the bios and photos, just like that. And in the play, 90% of the comedy comes from the invention of the cast themselves. I tweak things technically, things like, “I think it would be funnier if you put a pause in front of that word” but basically the comedy has come from them.
What’s been the most challenging thing about bringing this script to life?
It’s basically a television script and in television, you can have close-ups for things like comic reactions. The camera does a lot of the work. Theatre works in a different way – you have to point the audience in the direction you want them to look. And of course, in television, you can change scenes instantaneously which you can’t in theatre so easily. But over the rehearsal period we’ve solved those difficulties.
What projects have you got lined up next?
I’m directing a play for White Cobra called Glorious, which is going to tour nationally in the Spring. It’s about the American singer who couldn’t sing, Florence Foster Jenkins. There was a film eighteen months ago about her, starring Meryl Streep. The play is much funnier than the film so I’m really looking forward to it. We have our first production meeting two days after the end of Hi-De-Hi. Kate and Richard, who run White Cobra don’t believe in letting the grass grow under their feet!
Hi-De-Hi runs from the 1st to the 4th November at 7.30pm at The Deco Theatre – tickets available here
Tickets £19, £17.50 concessions