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Guest Blog: Gina Beck and Neil McDermott On THE ELF WHO WAS SCARED OF CHRISTMAS at Charing Cross Theatre

The pair discuss the fun and challenges of creating their first show together

Guest Blog: Gina Beck and Neil McDermott On THE ELF WHO WAS SCARED OF CHRISTMAS at Charing Cross Theatre
Gina Beck and Neil McDermott

West End stars, Gina Beck and Neil McDermott, are some of the 3 million freelancers and self-employed excluded from any Government support. They dreamt of creating a show to put on in our village hall which is now a full-blown pro production in London!

Neil and Gina met over 20 years ago performing with the National Youth Music Theatre. Unbelievably, their career paths haven't crossed since! They now live in the same village with their families.

The pair decided to come together during these unprecedented times to create an original theatre show for young people that could be performed under the current restrictions. With two children each, they really wanted to make something for small people and their families to ensure that Christmas this year is as magical as ever.

We are delighted to bring our show The Elf who was Scared of Christmas to Charing Cross Theatre. It's the story of an elf called Cupcake who is afraid of the arrival of Christmas Eve. This is because she knows she has to deliver presents to all the children.

Another Elf, Figgy, uses his Christmassy ways to help her overcome her fears. It all culminates in a Christmas concert, of course! It is a show for children of all ages that will get families into the Christmas spirit during these tough times.

By sheer coincidence, we ended up living in the same Berkshire village 4 years ago. We became friends again after having performed together in the National Youth Music Theatre over 20 years ago. Following the closure of the theatres in March, it became obvious that we weren't going back to work any time soon.

Guest Blog: Gina Beck and Neil McDermott On THE ELF WHO WAS SCARED OF CHRISTMAS at Charing Cross Theatre
Gina Beck in The Elf Who Was
Scared of Christmas

So, we started brainstorming ideas about how to remain creative and to feel like we had a purpose again. We initially thought we might do a Christmas concert in our local village hall, which got expanded to a Christmas show for children. Amazingly it has ended up being a professional production at The Charing Cross Theatre.

The inspiration our show came from a conversation with a student of The Mishmak Youth Theatre - run by Neil and his wife. She was telling a story about how she was scared of Christmas.

We were really interested in the contradiction of this story, so we decided to adapt the idea to a couple of elves, one of which is scared of Christmas. There is a running theme in the show about anxiety, how to cope with it and overcome your fears.

We feel this is a really important issue, especially in these times, for children. Hopefully, our show will not only be enjoyable for families but may also give some insight into ways of coping with anxiety.

It's been eye-opening devising a show from scratch and taking on all the other jobs we take for granted: sourcing props, finding the right sound effects and underscore, buying costumes, agonising about every single technical aspect, and trying our hand at songwriting for the first time!

The fact that we know each other well has made the process really enjoyable. As we both have young children, we have managed to tailor the experience to one that we know our kids, and hopefully, all kids will enjoy.

We've missed performing and being creative. Being able to do it together has been a joy. Writing our original song came out of the blue. We didn't think it was possible, but with lyrics and a basic tune, the amazing Steven Luke Walker helped us flesh it out to become something we are all really proud of. We hope we will be able to share it with you all soon.

Being excluded from help has been incredibly tough. As actors, we're not afraid of changes in our working situation or periods of unemployment. This has been a whole other challenge.

It became obvious that we couldn't just sit around hoping it was all going to be over soon or that the chancellor would change his mind. We've both being doing 101 random jobs to make ends meet but so grateful and immensely proud that we have been able to take an idea to stage this Christmas.

Guest Blog: Gina Beck and Neil McDermott On THE ELF WHO WAS SCARED OF CHRISTMAS at Charing Cross Theatre
Neil McDermott in The Elf Who Was
Scared of Christmas

We have created not only an opportunity for ourselves but also work for other freelancers in our industry. From those who will be working on the show in the theatre to those who have been involved in making our EPK and our show poster, it's been a team effort.

We want to give a big shout out to everyone at Charing Cross Theatre, to Al Bourne Productions, Alex Jackson Creative, Steven Luke Walker and Michelle Edwards who have done and are doing an amazing job on the show, and not forgetting, of course, our brave and fantastic producer Danielle Tarento.

We look forward to welcoming audiences old and young to The Charing Cross Theatre in the next couple of weeks. Not only do we promise to get you in the Christmas spirit but you'll be supporting theatre and its freelancers during these difficult times for our industry.

Producers are taking big gambles to put on shows in this socially distanced environment. We all need you, the audience, to come along again. We need to get the word out there that theatres are safe, that protocols are in place and that Christmas 2020 isn't ruined!

We have worked extremely hard to make our show as entertaining as possible, to give everyone a taste of Christmas magic before this troubling year finally comes to an end!

The Elf Who Was Scared of Christmas runs at Charing Cross Theatre from 8 December

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