Interview with Mister Maker
Mister Maker is currently touring the UK with the Shapes and you can get tickets here.
How is the mammoth tour you have just embarked on going?
Actually we had a two month stint last year, which actually launched in September and went through until November. Weekends, half-terms that sort of thing and that ran until the end of November, then I went into a pantomime the next day. Then straight of the pantomime into the Mister Maker tour. It has been pretty full and lots of fun.
We were in Lowestoft yesterday and got back just after midnight so just catching-up today on interviews and phone calls today.
What can people expect in the show? I know the Shapes will be joining you onstage.
I think expect the unexpected is the answer I have given on this before. What we’ve done with the theatre shows is take what the CBeebies audience expect, both the children and adults, the creativity and the heart of it, then transferred it quite literally onto a bigger stage. We have turned it into a live event, it is a but like a party, a bit like a pantomime and it is much bigger in its production value than the TV show can be because of course a lot of the TV show is filmed in close-up and carefully directed. We show in close-ups so the kids at home can watch and learn.
We make everything bigger, so we have a huge set and big wooden shapes that are pushed and spin around onstage. We have a massive screen at the back of the stage, which looks like a big picture frame. In the middle of that something is always happening, be it shape puzzle or a live camera feed. We have a camera operator onstage who beams everything that is happening onstage onto the big screen.
It is hard to turn a TV show into a stage production as it is a totally different environment?
Definitely, you are absolutely right. I think that was the biggest challenge, a couple of years actually when I sat down and thought about putting this into a live show, how do you make it enjoyable and watchable for a small child who may be sitting in the very back row of the theatre. Normally they it at home watching on TV or a tablet.
We use the big screen and the camera, plus we make things bigger on the stage for the Big Makes. We want the kids to feel encouraged to be part of the show, no matter what seat they are in. We ask for volunteers to come up on stage, the kids and also the grown-ups which is fun as well. Every single person who comes and sees the show will make something on the stage I won’t give too much away about how we do this. It is quite a simple idea in essence but quite complicated sometimes when you have a 1,000 people in the audience. It is a tricky thing to carry off, but great fun.
You are playing fair sized venues like the Blackpool Grand and the Victoria Hall in my home town of Stoke-on-Trent.
We were in Blackpool last weekend and a real honour to be there. To walk out on that stage, a beautiful theatre. We are playing a lot of beautiful Frank Matcham theatres. Went to Belfast a few weeks ago and that was absolutely beautiful as well. Back in my home town, I am from Kent. I don’t live there at the moment but I consider Canterbury as home town and I went to university there as well. I am playing the Marlow theatre there and have played pano there for the past few years. It is a fairly new 1,200 seater and we are doing five shows there which are nearly all sold out. Its amazing what we are doing and so proud what we are doing.
I was surprised at how popular you are in Australia. Obviously we import over some of their TV shows but you have played the Sydney Opera House?
To be perfectly honest nor did we until we went. It is sold to the ABC there and it on every day after school. When did the live shows last year we did two trips and I am fortunate to be going back this June and New Zealand for the first time. This time we are playing the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House. That is just beyond my wildest dreams. It is a real honour to travel to all of these places, like Australia and New Zealand, plus the UK. It is nice to visit the towns and cities where previously only been there for a football match, where all you do is go to the ground or the services on the way.
Blackpool was great the other weekend. As a cast we stayed up an extra night and had a great time at the theatre. The next day we walked up to the Pleasure Beach and the tower.
My son has a question for you – what has been the most enjoyable project you did or thing you made?
You might not like this answer being a dad! It is very difficult to choose as I have made over a 1,000 things now on Mister Maker. But the most enjoyable one was a splat picture where I dipped a tennis ball into a gloppy, paint mixture and then bouncing it a blank canvas. It was great fun and one of those days when I had to stop and think I am so lucky to be doing this as my job.
Who comes up with all these makes?
We have a fantastic production team on the TV show of Mister Maker. It is only a small tea, there are four in the art team and I write the scripts for the show. There is the producer of the show as well. The art team come up with so many ideas and when I come on board I am really lucky as I get to pick from all these great ideas. It is about a couple months before we start filming and I work with the art team and we work out the best way to put these ideas onto the TV. I then work through the stages and write the scripts for them, then work out the best way to present them. A lot of stuff I have to make upside down or from the side, as I have to make it the best way the cameras can see it.
Even the Minute Make ones I have to practice not only to do in a minute, but also have to make them in a certain way, like gluing from the side and I can’t see what I am gluing! It is to show it easily for the children at home.
For the live show it is just me and the show’s producer who come up with the makes which will work on the stage.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
Because I am so busy with Mister Maker I don’t have free time as such. Mister Maker has taken over my life and I am so happy about that, so proud. Last year we were filming the new series of ‘Mister Maker’s Arty Party’, as well as doing the tour, so I was literally working seven days a week for six months. Monday to Friday in the TV studio, then Friday evening through to Sunday evening doing live shows. My mum gets very worried about me not taking much time off.
I also remember as I started of twenty years ago in kids TV at the bottom of the ladder as a work experience boy. Then a runner’s job for a year doing everything from getting peoples’ lunch to making and painting props. It is one of those things where I gradually worked my way up the industry and now twenty years later to be fortunate enough to put on a live tour and do something I love doing.
The perfect thing for me is to make a nice cup of tea at home just the way you like it. I will put my feet up and watch an episode of ‘Friends’ or ‘Frasier’. They are the shows I chill out and catch up with my family. I love to see my mum and dad and catch up with them.
Message for your fans…
All the mini-Makers in the UK I am very pleased you watch the shows on CBeebies. Come and see the live show, it is lots of fun. My main message is to make some noise. That is the theme of the show and the opening number in the show. Because we are all about arts, crafts and making things, but the live show is about making noise and have some fun. Not just the children but the grown-ups to and have some fun, plus dance with the Shapes of course.
A really nice person and a pleasure to interview. Do go & see one of the shows, be you young or old!