Working at Bubble

Company member’s accounts of working with Bubble.

‘…getting theatre to places where otherwise they would have funfairs…’ (Chris Hauke, interview, April 15th 2013)
Chris was attracted to Bubble as an actor-musician in 1977 because it offered ‘a wide range of work’. He was able to compose, record, play and act. He worked with ‘highly professional musicians that [he] wouldn’t otherwise come across’. Ian Milne was one of the musicians he admired and with whom he later toured Europe with a show about Elvis Presley. There was lots of’ inventing, singing and playing and collaborative work. Chris remembers the company devising The Silver Jubilee Show with Glen Walford giving clear direction and ‘good notes’. Glen was very ‘energetic’ and at his audition she kept asking him to be ‘these people – be Superman, be this, be that…’

Chris enjoyed the ‘Bubble style’ – ‘…the Glen Walford  immersive style…’where the cast ‘was immersed with the audience’. There was a long warm up whereby the cast in character greeted the audience before the show. The atmosphere was ‘casual and they performed on an apron stage with the audience around’.  ‘…Everything was visible…’  This was the style  with which Chris was familiar  – an extension of drama school…post Peter Brook. Chris’ recent experience had been with Freeform and with the Curtain Theatre (TIE) – ‘…it was all we had known… people were into that in the Seventies…it was what we expected…’ Chris thought that it was very ‘alternative’ but well-funded. ‘It felt substantial, [we] never worried about it all ending…’
The relationship with the audience was generally good but Chris now feels that Bubble was ‘a bit naive’. Security was down to the stage managers who slept in the container lorry, there some thefts such as Chris’ amplifier, and loutish behaviour during the performances.
Reflecting on the politics Chris said the shows were fun and jokey. ‘Any critique wasn’t sophisticated’.

‘It was a blissful six months at Bubble Theatre’ (Brenda Blethyn, Mixed Fancies, 2006)
Bubble was Brenda’s first professional engagement. Introduced to the company by John Judd in 1974, she appeared in The London Pub Show  where she ‘had to perfect balancing a full pint of beer on [her] head while completely lowering [herself] to the floor, sliding along it, and retrieving a silk scarf with [her] teeth.’ Brenda also records playing in a daytime children’s show in which she was ‘a lady with a bucket on her foot who accidentally disturbed a nest of bees’. She got stung.

‘It was a marvellous training ground’ (Wendy Morgan, Manchester Evening News, 1983)
Wendy Morgan who later worked in film recalled her time at Bubble in the late Seventies:
‘we always seemed to be up to our knees in mud and we often played to audiences smaller than the cast. But it was great fun’ (TV Times Magazine, February 1983)

‘Bubble actors are a unique combination of actor, performer, musician…’ (Bob Carlton, Plays and Players, December, 1982)
Bob Carlton, Artistic Director, described Bubble as a ‘popular touring troupe rather than a community theatre. Bubble used the skills of the cast to ‘do shows that are good, but you don’t patronize the audience’ which is as diverse as, ‘the communities of Cheam’ and the, ‘unemployed of Millwall Park’. The taking of Taming of the Shrew to Millwall Park was ‘a stupid thing to do, but [the kids] are into you because you play rock and roll and you’re good musicians…Our first night at Mill Park was like Bedlam, but by the time we got to Shrew they just sat and watched‘ Bob hoped to get enough funding to be able to develop work in the community – ‘…to be able to do workshops with local kids and with adults… in a fixed winter base.’

There’s something exciting about an audience in that tent, watching a show at their tables with their drinks…those audiences have a real hunger for those shows…’ (Steven Wyatt, Players and Players, July,1983)
Steven Wyatt, writer, received and Arts Council award which enabled him to be the resident playwright at Bubble during 1982/3. His musical/cabaret version of the life of the Kray brothers, Glitterballs, was a ‘major hit’ for the Bubble in 1982. He also wrote The Rogues Progress and Pick Yourself Up in 1983, and, under the terms of the award, Steven became ‘involved [with Bubble] at all levels’ and was hoping to get an extension of this time with the company.

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