Behind the scenes of ‘A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light’

Chloe Moloney spoke to Charlotte Stephenson, producer of ‘A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light’ with Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club (CUADC).

Ben Maier’s ‘A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light’ is the story of a burgeoning friendship between two young Londoners, Jude and Leon, told within the frame of a fictional game show about mental illness, ‘This Is Your Mind’. They undergo a series of games and challenges, which become increasingly surreal as the show progresses – and as its hosts, Fizz and Terry, reveal themselves to be far less benevolent than they first appeared. The game show reveals more and more about Jude and Leon; about their families, their friendship, and their experiences with illness. This comic drama is fast-paced, combining physical and musical comedy with poignant, reflective moments that challenge stereotypes and create new ways of understanding the struggles of our social lives and inner minds.

Stephenson informed us of what exactly the role of a producer entails and how it differs from other theatrical positions. A director for example deals directly with the cast, rehearsal sessions and brings the play from script to performance. A producer on the other hand acts as a ‘practical figure’ – including making sure that people are keeping to their assigned budgets, organising rehearsal schedules for the cast at the start of the production process and communicating with the theatre first-hand. The producer tends to be the only person in contact with the venue, dealing with crucial aspects of the production ranging from equipment to insurance. However, Stephenson’s role does not end there. With publicity being a vital element of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, promoting ‘A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light’ is equally important. Whether its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or handing out flyers on the Royal Mile, the unique Fringe experience allows for a perfect amount of coverage for the CUADC production.

Stephenson was inspired to tackle the producing role primarily by an event for new students at the University of Cambridge. Having previously produced a pantomime in sixth form, Stephenson explored her first Cambridge producing role at the ADC theatre. Just around the corner from her college, Stephenson noticed the abundance of students at the venue. Having fallen in love with the buzzing environment, she found herself suiting the producing role nicely. With excellent time management and organisational skills, it seemed that Stephenson fit the role like a glove. Despite claiming that she is not naturally much of an extrovert, she takes pleasure in the trust that both cast and crew have in the producer.

The difference between producing a show in Cambridge and one in Edinburgh is startling. This is Stephenson’s first time at the Fringe, let alone first time producing a production at this acclaimed festival. Nonetheless, the variation and diversity in the productions available at the Fringe is extraordinary. She remarks the larger potential audience of theatre-goers here at the Fringe and, compared to only a week running time in Cambridge, the CUADC’s two-and-a-half-week run is certainly a stretch.

Adapting to the new publicity process has been a pleasant challenge, in realising that there is a special way of marketing a production in Edinburgh. The Royal Mile is a jam-packed, fast-paced road where your pitch is condensed into one quick line to grab someone’s attention. Stephenson gives the spectators two sides of the coin of ‘A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light’, stating how the production ‘explores mental health but in a game show’.

Stephenson happily gives advice to aspiring student producers, heralding that you should simply ‘go for it, [and] don’t be afraid to send in that first application or go for an interview. It’s a wonderful position.’ This Cambridge producer likes to regularly see the crew, conducts weekly meetings as she finds that face-to-face contact with the team facilitates the production process. Stephenson parts the interview with one last gem of advice: ‘There’s no right or wrong way of doing it, [you’ve] got to be organised and hit the right deadlines – make your show the best it can be.’

‘A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light’ is on 2nd-19th August, Gilded Balloon Teviot