In June 2023, I had a message waiting for me as I drove home from a gig.
When I realised who was calling me, I was just as surprised as FizzWizzPop’s face in this image below!
It was non other than Peter Corry a.k.a. singing legend recently awarded an M.B.E. for his contributions to music and entertainment in Northern Ireland.
After taking a moment to breathe and realise he actually was calling the right person, I returned his call. We arranged to meet that week for a spot of tea at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast.
There we discussed the possibility of me joining an intriguing show he was producing called “The Showman is Coming!”
Essentially what I gathered was that the show combined music, dance and song. A variety show with speciality acts and a story that brings it all together.
Peter seemed keen on bringing some magic to the production in the form of yours truly.
It seemed in the meeting that I was saying all the right things. About what I could bring to the production magically as an artist.
However, there was just one thing he wanted to know. This was for a mysterious person he called Fleur before the meeting ended.
“Can you sing and dance?”
To which I replied the only correct answer I could have said. That is, to Peter Corry in that meeting at that exact moment. I answered,
“Yes, yes I can!”
After the meeting we both went our separate ways. Peter drove off into the sunset and I left a bit speechless. After having met The Peter Corry to discuss the potential of me working on his show!
It wasn’t long before I heard from his administrator Nikki. She emailed through a contract offer and dates for rehearsals and the tour. My family were becoming just as excited as I was at this point!
Feeling a bit anxious
Receiving a contract is always the most nerve wrecking part of agreeing to a project as an artist. Mostly because you must be available for the majority, if not all of the dates.
Thankfully I was able to participate in all bar two dates (when I was competing in the Swedish Magic Championships). Read and watch more about this here.
It was official, Nikola Arkane was going on tour with The Showman. Not only that but the show would be touring Northern Ireland and The Netherlands!
After saying yes I became a bit nervous for the rehearsals.
As Peter and his company were completely new employees I did not know what to expect.
The process was a piece of cake
However after working with the Peter Corry Production team and the cast I can honestly say it was simply a dream come true!
Peter Corry productions are quite simply a “yes” company. No matter what you ask as I performer the answer was never no.
It was always let’s see if we can do that, try that, make that happen for you. And it always did.
The team had the performers interests at heart. And because of that we as performers gave one hundred percent into everything we did in rehearsals and on tour.
I have never worked with a company who strive to make each and every day enjoyable whilst getting so much done!
Every interaction with the company prior to rehearsals went smoothly too. Which led me to believe I would enjoy my time working with them. Read on to find out more…
I immediately was added to a group chat with the cast and began interacting with Fleur a.k.a. Peter’s wife and Artistic Director and Choreographer of the show.
I gathered from our initial conversations that she was not only a genuine person. But we laughed and I got the impression she was a consumate professional.
Some magical ideas in the mix
Both Fleur and Peter had ideas that they wanted realised through magic. Which became fun tasks for me to create at home prior to rehearsals. Including appearing drinks, explosions of light and disappearing cards.
Also, as one of their speciality acts I was given the opportunity to perform a solo magic act.
Thankfully the last few years I have created several stand alone magic acts. Including both my performances on Sweden’s Talang.
If you want to revisit them, here are some links.
Click to watch my audition act and my semi-final act on my youtube channel. There you can see tonnes of other cool magic. (And not for a ruthless plug) Please follow my YouTube channel if you don’t already!
Alongside these acts, I also told them I was currently working on a brand new magic act.
I recorded a video for them to watch, explaining that the act was completely new and in development.
However, it would be ready in time for the tour. I had intended to compete with it in the Swedish Magic Championships in September. Which was one week prior to our opening show in Northern Ireland.
After some deliberation we decided that the best act for this show was my new act. They would work with me and help me in any way they could to get the act ready. So that’s what we did!
Let the games begin!
I just revisited my diary to relive the sheer madness of life in the run up to The Showman rehearsals commencing.
To recap for you all last August 2023 I managed to…
- Attend Tom Stone’s Conjuring Course in Sigtuna Sweden.
- Fly to America for a top secret project.
- Fly back to Sweden for my first FizzWizzPop show in Swedish ever! (Which I’d been learning the script for for the last six months!).
- Fly to Belfast the next morning to prepare and begin rehearsals with Peter Corry the next day.
I think we can all agree I am looking quite alive in this picture. That is, for all the miles and projects I managed to squeeze in, in just fourteen days!
Upon entering this building I was thrust into a new and exciting workspace and world. Warm ups and learning dance choreography. Working with new people, listening and taking everything in.
I realised that I am quite slower than the others to pick up stuff. But I was determined not to let anyone down – myself included.
It helped that everyone in the cast was so encouraging even though we had just met one another. Everyone believed in each other and I knew that this process would be fun. So every rehearsal day I just threw myself into it one hundred percent.
There were some horrors though…
When I was invited upstairs to the “singing room” it was there that the fear of god really came upon me!
Not because I can’t sing – I most definitely can. But for me singing is like baring ones soul. It’s such a personal thing. And as a performer I do sing in my magic show but this is more the recitative talking kind rather than confidently belting ones voice out loud and clear for all to hear!
However, again because there were professional singers in our group they were on standby to help us newbies find our feet and as it turns out the notes too, so that Ashley our singing coach was kept happy knowing that we were safe in their hands.
In the end, I really enjoyed singing and even got to sing a little duet with Peter Corry himself each show which was so much fun. I found my voice in showbiz thanks to this wonderful cast.
There’s no “I” in team!
Speaking of the cast usually as a performer I always work alone. Getting to work with 12 other performers on this show from multidisciplinary backgrounds was such a good experience not only as a performer but for the mind. Mentally it was so nice to be with people instead of working solo.
I also noticed that every performer at one point or another was hard on themselves for failing. I.e. Missing notes, dance steps or not being at their best at moments in their performance. This was something I thought I alone experienced as a performer but thankfully this is a universal thing we all put ourselves through.
Seeing this for the first time as an outsider made me realise the little mistakes that we get angry at are just that… little!
In terms of an entire performance what matters is you keep on going. No performance is perfect that’s what live theatre is. It will feel completely different every time you perform something so I learnt a way to stop searching for perfection and just enjoy the ride.
The lights are on!
After rehearing and building the show for two weeks it was time for us to become the characters we were bringing to life. Make up artists and costume designers came in for a full day of fun!
The make up ladies showed us a design sketch of what our make up should look like on paper, then they painted half the face and we had to then paint the other half ourselves. It was a fantastic way to learn how to apply the make up for our characters as we would be doing this ourselves on tour.
Dressing to Impress
Costume wise I probably didn’t give the designers an easy task. The magic act that I wanted to perform was not only brand new. But I had to design an outfit that was fit for purpose. I.e. I would be able to hide then produce a tonne of props.
This task however was easier said than done. My first attempt was pretty much a disaster. After cutting holes in a dress to let the props through I couldn’t manage to get the dress to stay put as the props moved in and out. And that’s when I asked the Peter Corry Team to hop on board and help.
Through Zoom meetings and videos I sent we were able to work together across the rehearsal period to alter the costume for my character in a way that the items could be produced from.
There was a lot of trial and error.
The design team could get it to a certain point, then I would take it away and work on it a bit more myself. A back and forth collaboration got the costume to where it needed to be for the tour however, I knew that although better than my first attempt, the costume was still pretty fragile as a concept. And I would probably need to work out a lot of the kinks in the live performances itself.
And we’re off!
Dress rehearsals done it was time to bring in the first two audiences to see what we had created together. The response at The Theatre at the Mill was absolutely wonderful. We got two standing ovations – I thought this was because it was a “home audience” later I was to discover that was not the case (in a good way).
Did the show go smoothly? For me not at all. Some things worked, some things didn’t but I learned a lot. The team also knew that this was a work in progress and even though not all went to plan, Fleur remarked that that was the best she’d seen me performing the piece. My heart soared!
There was still a lot to work out but I did it, I actually survived bringing a brand new act to fruition and performed it twice in front of an audience that was not there to watch magic!
Show days I discovered went like clockwork. There were times planned for eveything. I liked having a schedule. Knowing when to arrive, to eat, to be on stage, to warm up, to put make up and get dressed and be on standby for each performance.
We also got to meet our tech team from the Netherlands at our initial performances in Northern Ireland who were Leo, Richard and Rob. It was beginning to feel a bit real and exciting this up and coming tour.
The Show goes Dutch!
Soon we were all off to a brand new country to live for the month of October. Excited and nervous at the same time we were in good hands and had a good team on the ground already which we met in Belfast.
We ended up staying in shared accomodation in a place called Nunspeet. In Dutch Bungalows to be precise and we toured the country in a little minibus altogether. Every day we travelled together and performed together and through warms ups, dressing rooms and shows we became this weird family for one another – almost like The von Trapps.
It was a joy because I myself am so used to working alone that to have other people around me every day and night it felt warm and cosy on and off stage. There were lots of laughs, some tears, a few days of us all having the lurgy but we got through it together.
We even came up with crazy games on the bus to pass the time including a favourite “My Horses” which only works in The Netherlands as they are literally everywhere! We all became rather competitive. I still don’t know who won it but it didn’t really matter as it made us smile every time someone shouted it out on our long drives.
It wasn’t always a piece of cake…
Being on tour for a lengthy period as I was puts it strains on everyone. You miss home, family and your tired a lot. But I think the cast all managed to remain professional and try to make the most of being with one another and working on the show.
Also for me as this was a brand new act I found lots of things didn’t go to plan in some performances. That was difficult because I felt I was letting everyone down. Including myself.
In one particular performance, my sound cue was started at completely the wrong time which meant I had to get on stage and just go with it and try to catch up. This, I’m sure lot’s of magicians (particularly manipulators will understand) know cannot work as certain props are meant to appear at a certain musical beat so that another production happens. You get the idea, it felt like hell on earth!
I did my best to cover up things, however in the rush and sheer madness of it all my final prop just wouldn’t open. And as I stood there atop my stool knowing I did not want to expose the effect to the audience – it was too late at that stage anyway – at that moment, I heard an audible sigh from the audience. It was huge!
That broke me. I never felt more disappointed in myself as a performer ever!
But it is part of being a performer and I was very lucky I was on a show with so many other amazing performers whom were there for me backstage after it had happened. And you know what, I went on. I continued with the show because thats what we do.
Live shows means live and things will go not according to plan. To me, to you, to anyone who puts themselves out there to be watched and sadly we cannot predict the audiences reaction and also how we react to the audiences reaction.
Over the course of the tour I witnessed similar things happen to the other performers. They weren’t happy with their voice or their performance but you know what, they still kept on going. We are not perfect, but we do what we can and do it as best we can and that’s all that anyone can ask of us.
All’s well that ends well!
In October 2023 we toured 19 venues across the Netherlands. And thankfully we all lived to tell the tale. Even though fate several times threw stuff in our way including getting stuck in the mud (literally) one evening where we thought none of us would make it home. The day our dance captain hurt her back and two other performers stepped up and filled in. Nothing stopped us putting on this show. We stuck together and got through it all because we all had one big thing in common…
Performing, singing, dancing, circus, magic it didn’t matter what we specialied in because in the end, we all just wanted to put on a show. The Greatest Show and after getting standing ovations every single performance on tour – I think we did just that!
Thank you to
and all the cast of the Showman is Coming That’s
You are the most talented people I know and I am so glad to have met you on this journey!