I’m a STAGE MANAGER

I’ve found myself relighting on tour more than once. And I can tell you it’s not something that I am built for. In my – admittedly limited – experience, it’s extremely stressful, and it’s also pretty damn boring. Not to be rude – it’s just not my bag – if I was into lighting I’d probably love it – but I’m not. I’m a stage manager.

The second time I did it I knew what I was in for and I was ready. The first time was a surprise. I had been interviewed for the role of CSM on a small tour. Note ‘C’ – not ‘T’. As is often the way I knew I’d be driving the van (which turned out to be considerably older than I was), doing the fit up with the help of the actors, washing and ironing the costumes, possibly operating sound and/or LX, and then getting everything out and packed up, and depositing everybody at whatever hotel we were staying in that night – and then doing it all again the next day and the next day and the next day…for a fairly hellish sounding fortnight before a much sweeter five weeks in the West End. I knew it was going to be tough. But I was new – and if not you’re lucky, it can be fucking tough when you’re new.

Nobody had mentioned it, or thought to ask whether it might be something I knew how to do, but it started to dawn on me during the second week of rehearsal that I was actually the only person going on tour with the three actors…and that alarmingly I was going to be the only person who was going to have the faintest clue about how the show should be lit. Oh yes. Sorry. They’d omitted to mention that.

SHIT.

I got a lot of love for the lighting designer, but I got no love for his handover technique. This mainly consisted of him looking upwards, occasionally scratching his beard, and even more occasionally saying “hmm” – with me looking on in what I can only describe as absolute blind panic, whilst attempting to appear calm for everybody’s sake. I hadn’t the first idea about what I needed to know and spent the day rummaging around inside his head for answers to questions that I didn’t know needed asking. It wasn’t great.

That tour was one hell of a baptism of fire I can tell you. I’ve blocked most of it out I think. Like childbirth. Probably the clearest memory of that first day out on the road is of sitting in a Premier Inn, eating the crap salad I’d bought for lunch fifteen hours previously from a garage somewhere on the M4, at half past two in the morning, with a hotel room teaspoon.

It was a good show, and a lovely lovely team, and despite it being one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done I wouldn’t undo it. And I got the hang of it all…another string to my bow and all that bollocks. And it’s all good stuff to know – the Ion and I are now pretty good friends, and knowing how to rig and focus and programme has definitely come in handy since. But it’s not a string I plan on plucking often.

Because I’m a STAGE MANAGER.

And I don’t think I’ll ever ever forget that really very low moment, one night somewhere in the darkest depths of god knows where, when poor Oscar Wilde was forced to deliver a particularly moving speech in almost complete darkness. And I don’t suppose he will either.

 

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