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Facilitators of Mirth

Rankin reveals theatre's backstage magicians

Cult photographer Rankin has brought directors, door keepers and technicians out of the shadows for a special exhibition celebrating the survival of London’s West End.

The backstage heroes of the West End of London have been documented by the photographer in an exhibition of portraits celebrating the resilience and creative range of the theatre industry. Stage managers, technicians, front of house, wardrobe, wigs, sound design, puppeteers and stage door keepers are among those featuring in Performance, alongside stars, directors and producers.

“Everyone working in theatre has a story to tell of their experience over the past 18 months, inspiring tales of hardship, perseverance, patience, innovation, despair and joy,” Rankin said. The project, supported by the Society of London Theatre, aimed to “celebrate the jewel in the crown of our unparalleled culture sector – epitomised by these countless faces and voices who make up the backbone of London’s theatre community and will spearhead its post-Covid recovery”. Proceeds from Performance will go to the Theatre Artists Fund and London youth homelessness charities.

Featured due to his incredible work on show ‘Magic Goes Wrong’ is magic consultant Ben Hart

"I began as a performing magician, but started inventing my own tricks. And in the world of magic, it doesn’t take long before word gets out.

I develop material, design props, organise the building of the props, coach actors who are not magicians, and deal with the technical requirements of integrating the magic into the set and lighting design.

The average member of the public would be shocked if they saw what a complicated machine backstage is, and what extreme precision it takes to run a show. I’m sad the audience can’t see this beautiful ballet unfolding backstage as well as on stage.”
– Ben Hart


Performance is at the Fujifilm House of Photography, London, until 31 January 2022

Rankin reveals theatre's backstage magicians

News story posted on 04-12-2021 00:00

Leicester Comedy Festival 2022

LEICESTER COMEDY FESTIVAL is Europe’s biggest and longest running comedy festival.

In 2022 they are BACK, celebrating British comedy and their 29th anniversary, with a fantastic line up, featuring over 560 shows, over 800 performances, all in 64 venues.

Start planning your festival schedule as soon as you can.

Gag Reflex proudly present at LCF 2022:

Jamie Macdonald – Reasonably Adjusted. 9.30pm, 3rd February 2022 at The Big Difference

Blindingly funny jokes aren’t enough these days – comedians must have a personal struggle now. Jamie wants some of that action! Irritatingly he can’t see anything tragic about his life. Jamie needs to find an emotional struggle if he's to be any type of soul bearing modern clown!

Barbara Nice – Barbara Nice's Comedy Playground. 7.30pm, 3rd February 2022 at Peter Pizzeria

Join Stockport housewife, cleaner to the stars, Take a Break reader and BGT star Barbara for all the best bits of her 25 years of delighting live comedy audiences. A playful, life-affirming show for all the family. Help top up Barbara’s pension by coming along and having a pigging great time.

Jonny Awsum – The Gag Slinging Guitar Hero. 2pm, 5th February 2022 at The Big Difference

WINNER of ‘Best Kids Show’ at LCF 2021. A show for kids of all ages from 5 to 105! Feat ‘This is a Musical’ and ‘The Triangle Song’ as seen on Britain’s Got Talent, plus the very best of Jonny’s live shows.

Aaron Simmonds - Hot Wheels. 6.30pm, 14th Feb 2022 at The Big Difference

Discover the positive side of being disabled, from having a blue badge, to sex in disabled toilets and everything in between. Amused Moose Best Show Finalist (2019) As seen on The Russell Howard Hour (Sky 1), ‘The Stand-Up Sketch Show’ (ITV2), ‘Guessable’ (Comedy Central) and ‘Undeniable’ (Comedy Central)

Steve Royle - The (Steve) Royle Variety Performance. 9.30pm, 16th February 2022 at The Big Difference

Following his successful 2021 UK tour, BGT top three finalist, comedian, juggler & variety star Steve performs a fun-filled show for all the family, combining stand-up comedy, audience participation and juggling.

Leicester Comedy Festival 2022

News story posted on 22-11-2021 12:00

How The Parapod was turned into a film

Ian Boldsworth wrote for the British Comedy Guide about turning podcast The Parapod, with co-host Barry Dodds, into cult hit ‘The Parapod – A Very British Ghost Hunt

'The ParaPod - A Very British Ghost Hunt (nee The ParaPod Movie), really has no right to have been made at all. Everything was stacked against it from the second I made the daft, impulsive decision to do it.

We had done two successful series of The ParaPod podcast and were filming a speculative TV pilot at the reportedly haunted East Drive in West Yorkshire. After an evening of mischievously convincing my co-host, Barry Dodds, that there were ghosts chucking marbles and it definitely wasn't me, we went outside for a breather. I had the awful realisation that this wasn't an idea that would work for a television series, because what would we do in the next episode? I felt it wasn't about making a comedy Most Haunted series.

I decided we were making a film. A road trip to be exact. It was about Barry trying to convince me of the existence of ghosts by taking me to all these places that claim they have spooks in residence.

We raised initial funds by selling credits on the movie to fans (where folk would have their name on the end roller), and subsequently secured a chunk of money from a film producer, Bil Bungay, who was into what we do. He also owns 30 East Drive, so that was one location we didn't have to fork out for.

The movie is a documentary (it's not a mockumentary despite some outlets refusing to believe this), so the actual shooting was challenging. It's hard to direct something you are actually in. I did discover though, that being in scenes is an opportunity to direct in a clandestine way, as I could guide it by behaviour to give it the best shot of a narrative. Stealth directing really.

Throughout this process, I've really learnt that disasters invariably lead to glory moments. For example, one day of shooting was abandoned because of heavy snowfall. We had spent thousands on a location day, and it was all for nought. I trekked out in the heavy snow that day, despondent and desperately trying to find somewhere we would be able to get our kit to...

I found a gorgeous church and permission to film there was granted. I had a location we could get to now, and just needed a reason for us to be there, so set about trying to work out how to integrate this into the film. Quite by chance, a drone operator was doing a different job nearby, so they were duly bribed to get some aerial footage. The scene is the closest to the original podcast that the film gets and remains my favourite part of the movie. I obviously don't believe in fate but... yep.

Helming this project has been the most overwhelming, and hugest, project I've ever been a part of. By some considerable distance too.

It has not been made traditionally, there's no studio and barely any staff. Outside of the people on the screen (mostly myself and Barry), it has been a case of allocating hundreds of jobs to two people; myself and the editor Simon Gibbs, over several working years.

It's a very challenging predicament to be in, to have the temptation to quit but not do. One of the most rewarding aspects of completing the project was the achievement of being "still standing". Those of us who saw it through feel like champions.

I'm enormously proud of the end result. Armed with the knowledge of quite how much it took to get it on the screen, and quite how tiny a budget this was all done with, I think I'm justified in my pride.

The responses have been fantastic, we've topped charts and sold-out screenings, standing shoulder to shoulder with enormous studio pictures who must be wondering what on earth is going on. We have distribution in North America, and the film is launched there in November, so it continues its bizarre journey far and wide. All from one impulsive decision by a very tired boy outside a haunted house.'

Read the full article here

'The ParaPod - A Very British Ghost Hunt' is available as a digital download on the following platforms;

Google Play

Amazon Prime




Listen to the original Parapod podcast here

How The Parapod was turned into a film How The Parapod was turned into a film

News story posted on 11-10-2021 22:00

'The best comeback ever' Aaron Simmonds on The Russell Howard Hour

The Russell Howard Hour returned to our screens this month, to put the world to rights in its fifth series. The hit comedy news show, tackles all the big stories with Russell’s trademark irreverence

In episode one, guests included Iain Stirling, Katie Piper and our very own Aaron Simmonds. Aaron’s stand up set, part of ‘The Spotlight’ a brand new segment showcasing new talent, discussed the ‘Secret Benefits Of Cerebral Palsy’.

Simmonds’s comedic style is story-based, with clever one-liners interspersed throughout. He offers sharply-observed comedy which is grounded in his disability, but is by no means limited by it.  Amiable, likeable and with a commanding presence on stage, Aaron is an exciting talent and is destined for great things.

A clip from the show, which is broadcast on Sky, then went wildly viral on Reddit, where it was posted by 'druule10' who claimed it contained: ‘The best comeback ever.’

Comedian Aaron’s exchange with a member of the audience took a beautifully unexpected turn, watch the full show here.