• Revellers

Behind the Scenes - Episode 3


actors perform with fire magic trick in bell book and candle
Performing magic at the Bvlgari Hotel!

The first thing I am struck by is the smell. 

Theatres have a particular scent, one I love and would hazard most actors find unfathomably intoxicating. It is impossible to describe, but if one were to try, it might be said to be a mixture of sawdust, old curtains and, sometimes, feet. 

Entrance doors to bulgari bvlgari hotel in knightsbridge london

I know. 

So that is why, when I enter the room we are to perform John Van Druten’s ‘Bell, Book and Candle’ in tonight, at The Bvlgari hotel in Knightsbridge, I am initially struck by the smell. 

Is that - jasmine? Patchouli? Soft leather? Newly hoovered and spruced and the air spliced with the occassional hint of the interior pages of a rather large fashion book? What occurs to me, once my nose has calmed down, once the heady olfactory frenzy sparked by the aroma of a luxury suite has subsided, is how apt the room is for the period of the piece we are to perform. It feels as if, rather than stepping onto the caverns of a stage, we have stepped onto an immaculately designed film set. I start imagining where my character has ignited small fires, conjured rats and toads and practised moving objects with the help of her trusty manual. 

Did I mention it is All Hallow’s Eve, and three out of five of the cast tonight are playing witches (see below)? The alchemy of the whole affair is perfect. It is only when one of the cast is near to fainting and demands water immediately that I remember that theatre is theatre is theatre, no matter the setting. I also remember that I am not in fact a witch in 1950s London living in Mayfair, but that is by the by and something I have to reconcile myself to.

bell book and candle performance by john van druten in bulgari hotel knightsbridge

greer dale-foulkes rehearses with revels in hand laughing in a chair

We rehearse in the usual speedy affair, blocking the play to the quirks of the space, mainly focusing on entrances and exits and the set pieces - in this instance: the magic. The lighting of the room couldn’t offset the spells better, and as we are ushered out amidst the arrival of canapés, waiters and waitresses for the night, I can taste the excitement of the cast in the air. Or is that jasmine?

Backstage, our call comes from Revels co-founder Freddie Hutchins, whose welcome speeches to the audience beforehand have come to resemble the calls that drift over the tannoys at a traditional theatre, “Ladies and gentlemen that is your beginners’ call.” 

Tonight will be an intimate affair. We are performing to a group from London’s PA Club. However, no matter the size of the audience, the butterflies are usually the same. In fact, I would suggest the smaller the audience; the bigger the butterflies. 

Intimate small audience theatre in a suite at the bulgari hotel in london knightsbridge

Once my first entrance has gone without a hitch (it has, thank goodness), I can settle into the rest of the evening, which for the next hour will consist of backstage giggles (who can ever remember the cause?), dancing around the wonderfully jolly waiting staff (who bring some canapés to the cast mid show) and trying to fashion a sleek, mirror-laden-loo into a stage wing (but of course). The on stage affairs also proceed with laughter and merriment; the audience are warm and that is all we can ever feed off, which we do: greedy children with a bag of Halloween candy savouring every last sugared drop.

lucy eaton actress plays gillian in bell book and candle by john van druten

Amongst all this ritual that occurs ‘backstage’, I am reminded of the challenges that these types of performances present. The larks are deceptive - actors connect through them wherever they go, yet the speed, the need for adaptability, for quick responses and genuine team spirit and support seem to be the theatrical equivalent of a twenty mile cross country hike (with the occasional bull or bear lurking in the trees) for the semi-seasoned, slightly asthmatic runner. Rather: once you have done a Revels show, traditional theatre seems, in comparison, an enterprise filled with an eternity of time. A week of previews? Great. Bags of time.

(Naturally, the next show one of us does, I guarantee the following will be uttered over a group thread, “A week of previews!? What are they thinking!? Why do producers ever think this is enough time. We’re so not ready! Ugh.”)

Such is theatrical life. 

cast of a revels in hand go people show in 1950s costume

As a thank you for our performance, the events team at the Bvlgari organised a meal for us in their Rivea restaurant. When they said meal, we had all pictured a light affair, nothing fancy, and then into the night. What they meant was: let us sit you around a table fitting for Arthur and his muscly men with swords and then let our fine-dining chef present you with a four course meal, complete with a culinary ‘guess the ingredients’ game for the whole table to play, and a specialised menu for the lady with dietary requirements that matches the others' in looks and taste to boot. It was an evening I will remember for a long time. Not just for the warmth and generosity of the team, the chef, the wonderfully entertaining waiters who made a bunch of players feel like they were queens and kings for the night, but most of all, most certainly and without question of all, for the chickpea chips. I continue to dream about the chickpea chips. A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a chickpea chip.

Light refreshments for the audience during the show

If you would like to hire Revels in Hand for an intimate gathering, contact us here. We have performed for parties large and small, in venues as fitting as the Bvlgari and as challenging as a country field. Whatever the event, we can bring a totally unique sparkle.

And we don't always expect a fine-dining 4-course meal in exchange!

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