• Revellers

Behind the Scenes - Episode 1


Elegant old-fashioned British drawing room with actors rehearsing in it
Our stage for the night: an elegant living room became a theatre for 20

As far as Revels in Hand are concerned, there is no typical event. Every client is different, just as no two special occasions are the same. We’ve performed in skyscrapers, living rooms and marquees – for lawyers, dentists, dinner party guests and newlyweds. It’s our pleasure and our privilege to provide bespoke entertainment for some of the most joyful occasions imaginable, and we’re constantly surprised by where our next booking might take us.

All that being said, the process by which we work with a client to select, plan and deliver a piece of theatre for their event isn’t meant to be a big secret – in fact, it’s both straightforward and great fun! We wanted to share with you some of what goes in to making one of our performances happen. So here is Episode 1 of the Behind the Scenes collection: taking you step by step through a day in the life of a Revels booking!

🌟 The Commission

Our latest clients had a specific event in mind - something really special for a parent’s birthday. The birthday girl in question is a lifelong theatre-lover, as well as a born social butterfly, with a wide circle of friends. It certainly sounded like a piece of private theatre would be right up her street! On a phone call with her son-in-law, we discussed various play options – from Molière to Shakespeare, before settling on a pair of one act Noël Coward plays, to be performed between courses at a surprise birthday dinner party, held at their Wimbledon home.

These particular clients came to us via a referral from a mutual friend. We do constantly find word of mouth and personal recommendations to be our most powerful forms of marketing – perhaps unsurprising, given the unique nature of what we do. We’re working hard to change this though, as we really do believe there to be a global market for private theatre, if only we can let the world know about it!

An elegant drawing room with sofas laid out like a theatre auditorium

🌟 The Site Visit

If possible, we aim to visit a new space before the event itself, both to get a sense of its layout and to anticipate any logistical challenges the location might throw up. We always say – and truly believe – that any space is perfect for a piece of private theatre. We’ve not been wrong yet, but it’s often good to know in advance where the doors into a room are, for instance, or if there are particular pieces of furniture we’ll need to use / move / act around – or on! On visiting our location for this booking, we were delighted to find that hanging on the walls behind our performance space were a collection of stunning paintings of West End theatres. A glowing depiction of the Haymarket and a mesmerising Old Vic in oils had us all a-flutter!

Visiting ahead of the event is also a great way to meet new clients face to face, and discuss details through with them more fully. It’s often the point at which the idea of private theatre really starts to come to life – you can see the idea begin to crystallise in a host’s imagination, and the excitement begin to build as they start to look at their home in an entirely new light: the perfect location for a play.

🌟 Performance Day

On the day itself, we’ll always aim to arrive a few hours early in order to set up the space and run through the piece with our actors. We use lots of different professional actors across our projects, sourcing them from all sorts of places. Very often, they’ll come to us in-between theatre or film jobs, relishing the opportunity to perform one-off plays in such intimate settings.

people sit in an elegant and grandiose English drawing room

For our Wimbledon clients, we arrived a few hours early in order to move a couple of sofas around, and make friends with the family golden retriever (more of her later.) The event was to be a total surprise, so whilst we shuffled furniture and installed ourselves in a downstairs games room (our ‘green room’ for the evening,) there was plenty of activity above decks, as dining tables were laid and balloons blown up. We’re usually pretty self-sufficient during our set-up – in this case we just needed to importune our hosts for a couple of things: namely, a breakfast tray prop for use in one of the pieces, and a quick lesson in how to use their computerised living room light switch!

🌟 Show Time

Once everyone had assembled and hidden themselves away, it was time to surprise the birthday girl, and get on with the show! This was a particularly cheerful and lively crowd, with lots of champagne-pouring and chair-shifting occurring before everyone was settled. Brilliantly, they all had popcorn too – courtesy of family members who work with Proper Corn!

Propercorn popcorn bags sat on sofas waiting to be eaten

There was a real sense of occasion as the piece began, and from the very first laugh, we knew this was going to be a particularly special and joyful evening. The family doggie evidently agreed, making her way on set (to much acclaim) and settling herself alongside our leading actress as she chattered away in the opening scene. Thus, Lady Maureen Gilpin became a dog-owner for the evening’s performance! We love it when such things happen – they’re what make private performances so special – and keep us on our toes!

Actors perform Noel Coward in a drawing room with elegant gold mirror and a dog watches on

🌟 Aftershow

Part of the fun for us as actor-performers is to stick around afterwards and see what everybody thought – particularly if there’s champagne involved! It was quite clear that this was a party due to carry on into the small hours, and it was lovely for us to join it for a bit and receive such hearty praise and congratulations. Audiences at our events are invariably surprised by just how much they enjoy themselves – the idea of private theatre never having occurred to them before. It’s often the case that our clients never know quite what to expect – and their delight in discovering the joy of private theatre is what keeps our job being so rewarding.

Actors from Revels in Hand act in a living room Noel Coward while a dog walks across the stage

Keep an eye out for other Behind the Scenes blog posts. In the months to come, we'll be getting some guest-writing from a few of our fantastic actors! And if you're interested in booking us for a surprise birthday party like these clients, read a little more about us here.

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