The Story of Lotus – Live at the BBC!
As a dramatic and engaging opening to the world premiere of the Lotus Eletre – broadcast live across the world – it’s hard to think of anything better. ‘The Story of Lotus’ was brought to life by a cast of talented actors and dancers in a six-minute production, filmed in one (very well-rehearsed) shot.
The show took place outdoors, under the watchful eye of the iconic Helios statue in the circular central courtyard at BBC Studios, London. It was just down the corridor from where the seated audience of more than 200 VIPs were watching on screen.
The film starts in black and white, focused on a glitterball at a 1940s tea dance where a young Colin Chapman first met Hazel Williams, his future wife. It moves through the development of his first vehicle, the foundation of the Lotus business and its early motorsport success. Next up were the legendary Formula 1 wins, plus the new road cars of the 1970s and 1980s, the Elite and Excel, showcasing Lotus’ desire to develop more practical four-seater cars aimed at families.
For the 1990s, Elisa Artioli – both young and older – had a role in the story as the inspiration for the name of the Type 111, the Lotus Elise. Moving through the millennium, the film shows how Lotus built the Tesla Roadster at Hethel and how it’s now the only car in space. The production ended with Matt Windle, Managing Director of Lotus Cars, presenting the Lotus Evija, the world’s most powerful production car.
The show got a great reaction from the live studio audience and thousands watching online, but how was it all pulled together?
- The show had a cast of 22 people, 12 dancers from the Laine Theatre Arts School in Surrey, plus another 10 actors playing key characters from Lotus’ past.
- Originally the plan was to re-create a series of scenes, but once the BBC Studios were confirmed as the venue, the idea of a one-take film was proposed.
- The creative team sat with Clive Chapman, the son of Colin and Hazel Chapman, to get his input on the script. Several elements including the hat-throw, using Hazel as inspiration for the logo and the meeting of Colin and Hazel at a dance came from that session.
- Clive lent the production the Austin Seven, the Lotus Type 72, the Lotus Eleven and several other props.
- Rehearsals started 15 days before the show in a very unglamorous west London warehouse. The rehearsal space was much smaller than the Helios, so the production was split into seven sections which were then linked once the team was on site.
- The camera operator, Damian Watson, joined the cast from day one for rehearsals – a very unusual step – and played a central role in the choreography of the sequence.
- Rehearsals were filmed each day and then edited together for key staff to review and make notes.
- During rehearsals, pop band Little Mix were in the studio next door. They could be heard through the wall whenever the Lotus team paused their music.
- Custom elements of the set, including the trophy cabinet and the inside of Colin and Hazel’s house, were designed and built to be pulled apart to allow the camera operator to get through the gaps. Period props were hired from three different suppliers.
- Wardrobe designer Hannah Wing created custom costumes which allowed the actors to be layered up for several scenes. Each layer was secured with magnets, allowing the cast to rip off the top layer as they completed one scene and moved to the next.
- On the first rehearsal day, the planned lunch didn’t arrive for the crew. The production team led 15 of the cast down to a nearby McDonalds to order catering for 40 people and created a massive traffic jam outside the drive-through!