As Bristol’s amateur theatre scene goes from strength to strength, BLOC Productions celebrates its 85th birthday by presenting the fantasmagorical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at The Bristol Hippodrome
Bristol boasts a tremendous non-professional theatre scene, with numerous companies in the city, a loyal following, bucketloads of local support and even its own glittering awards ceremony. And at the forefront of that landscape is BLOC Productions.
The highly-acclaimed, award-winning BLOC enjoys a well-deserved reputation of staging spectacular musicals, with outstanding local principal actors, a large and dynamic choral ensemble, and a full-sized live professional orchestra.
Founded in 1933, BLOC has staged annual performances at The Bristol Hippodrome since 1956. Now the company returns to the theatre to celebrate its 85th anniversary, with the much-loved musical, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
A high-flying, fun-filled adventure
Following its successful productions of Sister Act, Sunset Boulevard, Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady, BLOC invite you to join them on a fantastic musical adventure at The Bristol Hippodrome from September 18 to 22.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is based on the much-loved 1968 MGM motion picture, written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman and starring Dick Van Dyke. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, this is the first year that non-professional companies have been given the rights to perform this heart-warming, adventure-filled show.
Eccentric inventor, Caractacus Potts sets about restoring an old race car with the help of his children. They discover the car has magical properties, but trouble occurs when the evil Baron desires the magic car for himself.
Filled with amazing stage spectacle, an out-of-this-world car and, of course, all the favourite songs including Truly Scrumptious, Toot Sweets, Me ‘Ol Bam Boo, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a high-flying, fun-filled adventure.
Bristol backs Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
This show promises to be a biggie. As ever, cast and crew have been working day and night to ensure this show will impress. And it’s not just BLOC that’s pulling out of the stops – the company has gained support from the wider community in Bristol.
BLOC’s chairperson Susanne Donovan has been involved with the company since responding to an advert looking for people to play nuns in their production of the Sound Of Music back in the 1970s. She says: “The non-professional theatre scene is very good in Bristol. We receive a lot of support from the community, and this year we have needed it!
“For the first time in many years, we have the enormous task of designing and constructing the entire set and the car ourselves here in Bristol. Our car is in a secret location in the city, where the final touches are currently being added. We’ve been very lucky that a local business has loaned us their warehouse for free since June.
“So all our crew, under the direction of James Hartland, have been working extraordinarily hard, giving up months of weekends and evenings to get this done. And you have to remember it’s not just the car. We have Grandpa’s house, Truly Scrumptious’ musical Box, the Child Catcher’s Cage, a giant birthday cake for the Baron… there are a lot of big, essential props for this show.
“I should also mention that a local garage – Jaguar Land Rover Bristol – has donated £1,000 towards the show, which is really generous, and we are hugely grateful for. Everything else has to come from ticket revenue, so we’re hoping to shift lots of tickets!”
Tickets are flying!
Tickets are already flying – and it’s easy to see why.
“There are many reasons why people come to see a BLOC show,” explains Susanne. “BLOC has an excellent reputation in Bristol, and often people who come to our shows and don’t realise that we are non-professional!
“We have a loyal following, and some people come to see us year after year, whatever the show. Other people come because they like the particular show we are putting on that year, and some simply want a great night out at the theatre without having to pay the earth.
“Obviously there are differences between professional and non-professional shows. But we have a massively talented cast who are going to be putting on a fabulous show, and we even have a wonderful 16-piece orchestra under the direction of Lauren Davies.”
A thrill for all
Companies like BLOC play an invaluable role in encouraging people to take part in amateur dramatics, whether it’s on stage or behind the scenes.
“Of course, unlike professional shows, our cast don’t get paid, but they all get enormous pleasure out of it,” enthuses Susanne. “We have a cast of around 75, including 28 children, for Chitty. And we have just as many people working backstage. It’s a tremendous thrill for us all.
“It’s wonderful to watch the children in particular – and what an opportunity for them! Where else can kids, whose parents don’t necessarily have the money to send them to expensive drama, dance or singing lessons, get the opportunity to tread the boards of The Bristol Hippodrome?
“This is often where that seed in planted and lots of them have gone on to have careers on the stage. We have former members who have appeared in Les Mis. Mama Mia, and Wicked on the West End stage. But just watching those kids’ faces when they go on that Hippodrome stage for the first time is priceless.”
The Oscars of the South West
Throughout its history, BLOC shows have consistently won acclaim, and its last show, My Fair Lady, has just been nominated for three Rose Bowl awards. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is likely to be up for numerous accolades at the prestigious local ceremony this time next year.
The Rose Bowl Awards aim to encourage excellence in the amateur theatre within the South West of England. The Awards, presented annually since 1963 and described as the ‘Oscars of the South West’ for the amateur stage, are open to any amateur dramatic or operatic club in Bristol and surrounding area.
The evening combines the celebration of excellence, good food and entertainment with an opportunity to meet, exchange experiences and congratulate the winners in each category.
“The scene is wonderful in Bristol,” says Susanne. “Bristol has a lot of non-professional theatre companies. And, as you say, we even have our own Academy Awards in The Rose Bowl Awards, which is always a great affair and acknowledges everyone’s hard work, talent and dedication.”
And it is hard work, talent and dedication that will make Chitty Chitty Bang Bang one of BLOC’s most memorable shows to date.
Susanne says: “This is going to be an amazing show with a terrific cast, wonderful sets, costumes and make-up, amazing songs and live music… the list goes on.
“It’s a must see – and an affordable one at that!”
BLOC Productions present Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at The Bristol Hippodrome from September 18 to 22. To book, call 0844 871 3012 or visit www.atgtickets.com/bristol