Mr. Wonka and WNO…

Ben Wooldridge (@benwooldridge) writes…

As your train glides into Cardiff Central Station you may be forgiven for not noticing the unremarkable grey sheds on the side of the railway line. However, these sheds are the home to a team of artists – from painters and welders to carpenters and prop makers who can make the world of make-believe a reality in Welsh National Opera’s workshop, Cardiff Theatrical Services (CTS). Birmingham Hippodrome has a strong relationship with Welsh National Opera (WNO), the only venue outside Cardiff to present their entire season and considered to be their english home.

Over the past few months CTS has been building part of the sets for the eagerly awaited new musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which officially opened in London’s West End this week.

Since the beginning of March 2013 a number of key pieces of the show have been built from scratch including the famous chocolate portal and suction pipe, a giant tangle of enormous factory pipes, a huge town bridge, a macerator and conveyor belts for the squirrel’s nut room and a pair of dancing inventing room pods.  All of these pieces were created in Wales before being transported to the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane where CTS staff helped with their installation.

CTS General Manager Darren Joyce says the initial conversation started last October: “Originally we were approached to look at building the Ooompa Loompa pipe gantry, which is one of the more challenging pieces of the design as it’s both complex and enormous. We then met with the designer Mark Thompson so we could see the set model and put together an accurate quote for this and other items.  In the end we were very successful and were commissioned to build several pieces, including the chocolate portal and suction pipe which play a big role in eliminating one of the ticket winners.”  

As well as building sets for WNO, CTS has created scenery for The Royal Opera, English National Opera, Glyndebourne Opera and The Met in New York.  For Cameron Mackintosh CTS has worked on Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera and Oliver!  Other work includes One Man Two Guvnors (UK tour) for the National Theatre, a TARDIS interior for Doctor Who, a pyramid structure for the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games and a Christmas tree for London’s St Pancras Station.

Established in 1984, CTS provides employment for a core staff of 18 and a number of freelance artists.  Depending on the build, skills used can range from carpentry and welding to fine art painting and sculpture.

For more info on WNO’s upcoming performances CLICK HERE.

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