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.
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.