News: Setting the stage for Bartabas and company

Thursday 25 February 2016

Bartabas 'Golgota' - with Andrés Marín. Photo: Nabil Boutros

The acclaimed equestrian theatre artist Bartabas returns to Sadler’s Wells in March for the UK premiere of Golgota, with contemporary flamenco dancer Andrés Marín, plus four of his horses and a donkey. Paris based Bartabas first appeared at Sadler’s Wells in 2011, so Emma Wilson, Director of Technical and Production at the Theatre has some practice in preparing the stage for equine performers. We asked her to tell us more…

What special requirements do the horses have during their stay?
We create stables for them, and hire grooms in addition to the grooms they travel with. They travel with their food so we don’t need to provide that but we do provide bedding and any other stables requirements they request. We have them checked when they arrive by a vet from the Royal Veterinary College’s Equine Practice, who are then on call 24 hours a day in case the horses need any veterinary care while they’re here.

How much rehearsal time do the horses have on stage?
It is up to the company how much time the horses have on stage, but they do have plenty of time built into the schedule to get used to their surroundings and get used to the stage here. They rehearse as and when Bartabas feels they need to, and spend lots of time familiarising themselves with the theatre and the stage. It’s a very measured and disciplined schedule led by the needs of the horses and Bartabas.

What surface is used on the stage for the show?
We put down a hard floor to protect our sprung dance floor, and on top of that there is a black artificial turf floor, and then that is covered in a thick layer of rubber crumb – tiny bits of rubber that have the effect of looking like black sand in performance.

And this time Bartabas and horses are working with Andrés Marín – how will the surface work for flamenco – and horses?
Andrés Marín uses the same surface as the horses, so it is primarily designed for their needs, and they work alongside each other. The flamenco he performs in the show doesn’t have the traditional footwork we associate with flamenco, there is more of an emphasis on the rhythm of the body rather than rhythm of the sound of his feet.

Do the horses stand in the wings when they are not on stage during the performance, or do they go outside (to their dressing rooms?!)
They do stand in the wings, yes. They are all highly trained dressage horses, they each have a groom in attendance at all times, and they stand in the wings with their individual grooms when they are not onstage. The stage and the backstage areas are shut down for the duration of the production, so we limit access to the small team who absolutely need to be there. This means we can maintain a calm, quiet, and controlled atmosphere for the benefit of the horses.

What is the most challenging technical element of this production?
In terms of staging this is not the most technically challenging production, there’s no complex stage machinery for example, but there are all the stables and other facilities the horses need that present more of a challenge logistically than many dance shows.

And the most rewarding thing about it?
Golgota is part of a very wide range of shows here at Sadler’s Wells, there’s always plenty of variety and no two weeks are the same, and that’s what makes it very rewarding to work here.

Bartabas & Andrés Marín
14 – 21 March, Sadler’s Wells

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