Q & A with Rachael Penman, Producer and General Manager of Okareka Dance Company
28 MONTHS AGO
You've worked on London's West End.
Who did you work for and what were you doing?
I worked in theatre in New Zealand
throughout the 80s and 90s before heading off to London where I was
very fortunate to work with one of the top West End producers, Bill
He is renowned for producing the
long-running show Blood Brothers, which was just one of the many
shows that I worked on.
I was fortunate to learn so much from
him about commercial producing - things are done very differently
over there especially with financing shows. If you have seen
the musical or film The Producers - it is a reality! I
remember one show I produced for Bill was meant to be a filler for
the space for 8 weeks as he needed the theatre for another long
running show. Problem was my show was a sell out success and
we had to extend it 6 months past the 8 weeks! So Bill had to find
another venue for his other show -oops someone thought that this
Kiwi girl would not get a hit show!
One of the main things I brought back
from the UK was what could be done to further a shows future.
So often our dance and theatre shows have one season and then we
move onto the next thing.
Is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
anything like the West End?
Taking a show to Edinburgh is a
fantastic experience but a huge challenge.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe is essentially
about offering artists an opportunity to do shows they wouldn't
normally do on the West End.
Often West End performers will take a
month off a professional role to head to Edinburgh and do a
non-paying or co-op show, the idea being they get a chance to
showcase other skills, or stretch their creative legs a bit. For
example, they might always be cast as the leading man on the West
End but at the Festival Fringe they get the opportunity to play a
villain, or perform in a show that's entirely different to what
they normally do. TV and film stars do this quite a
Most of the performers in Edinburgh are
not actually being paid. They go there for the opportunity to
upskill and to show the casting directors and producers the work
that they can do.
How is their artistic work measured in
Edinburgh? By ticket sales, audience numbers, or reviews - how does
The way that a work's merit is valued is
through the casting directors going, "Hey I really like that person
or that show", or remembering them later. Producers will see a
performance such as K' Rd Strip and ponder if - or how - it could
be bigger. i.e. "How do we evolve it from a small stage to the
People talk about it being boom or
bust at the Fringe - what does this mean?
The reality is it's a huge expense to
take a show to Edinburgh Fringe - but it's the biggest buyers'
market in the world.
We are not going to make money. No one
goes to the Fringe to make money. Stand-up comedians maybe?
One-person shows might break even.
More than being a financial thing,
Edinburgh is an experience and an opportunity to network and
perhaps collaborate with others.
It is the place that producers from all
over the world meet at the same place at the same time. For a whole
month we get an opportunity to take our great product to the world
and it is a chance for all these people to see K' Rd Strip as a
full performance instead of a 10-minute showcase, like in other
Okareka are doing loads of fundraising
at the moment. What are you spending the money on?
Cripes, what are we not going to spend
The budget to rework, rehearse and take
K' Rd Strip around New Zealand and to Edinburgh is costing us
$300,000 dollars. That covers all the cast and creative team's
wages, flights, living costs and accommodation in Edinburgh, which
is hugely expensive.
We are fortunate that we found a
six-bedroom house that has kitchen facilities, and we will be one
big family for a whole month! We booked this 12-months ago as
accommodation is scarce.
The venue itself is $14,000 dollars.
Marketing costs - wow - where do I start? The listing in the
Festival program is $3,000 alone. The posters, imagery…there's just
so much cost involved in taking a show over there. That's why we
say that no matter how many people we get, how many bums on seats,
you just do not break even what-so-ever.
Why are you going now?
Okareka Dance Company is taking K' Rd
Strip to Edinburgh to secure its future. It's the biggest buyers'
market in the world. Yes, its is a huge risk for us but if we did
not take this risk the world would not see the show and we would
not have the opportunity to give it a future.