Stage One

Year 2010

Butlin’s Billy’s Magic Show

Open Other End

Working for Phil McCandlish of production consultancy, Open Other End, we produced a series of three identical sets for ‘Billy’s Magic Abracadabra’ show: one for each of the Butlins Resorts at Bognor Regis, Minehead and Skegness. Each set was to be used on the central performance stage of the Skyline Pavilion, with Billy’s Magic Show forming part of the entertainment package for the coming year.

The brief from set designer and Butlins’ Creative Director, Phil Peacock, was for a lightweight yet durable set of the highest possible quality, with each set required to be installed and dismantled repeatedly in accordance with Butlins’ busy entertainment schedule.

Access was also an important consideration as each stage is located on the first floor and all of the set elements would be brought in and out via double doors.

Our approach combined our traditional interpretation and theatre set building skills with the built-in longevity and durability required for our work on visitor centres. The extensive experience we’ve gained over the decades in these overlapping fields enabled us to be pro-active, suggesting appropriate and cost-effective methods of manufacture.

The set, themed around traditional toys, consisted of a 3m high, 7m wide ‘alphabet block’ proscenium arch, spelling out ‘BILLYS MAGIC’, flanked by a giant die on one side and an oversized packet of crayons on the other. Two crayons were removable and finished with UV paint, actors using the attached handles to create the illusion of the crayons magically writing by themselves during a specially lit segment of the show. The whole proscenium arch was constructed in sections, working within the access restrictions and allowing for easy assembly and dismantling on site.

Much of the set consisted of a series of trucking elements, all playing key roles at various points during the magic show. These included a 2m high 1950’s inspired Robot Box, which required us to work in conjunction with costume maker Mike Coltman; a Chalk Board; a red and yellow circus[1]style lion cage and a pink and yellow striped ‘Cow’s World’ truck complete with sparkly pink curtain. A large Toy Box was given a ‘Victorian pine’ paint finish and routed lettering, whilst a ‘Surprise Box’ was finished to resemble cardboard. We also provided a scenic picture frame for another illusion along with various masking frames with black wool serge curtains, silver glitter hand mirrors and an LED staircase.

All scenery and set elements were constructed using wood and steel, our high-tech in-house CNC facilities being drawn upon as well as the wealth of traditional painting skills of our interpretation team. Every element was hand painted, with a variety of finishes being used to achieve an exceptional high quality. The whole project was manufactured and painted on our premises in just two weeks.


Phil Peacock

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