Monday proved to be a positively hectic start to the week. Arriving in my office, after a challenging train journey due to the aftermath of a British storm, I had plenty of emails to read through. Pearl Chesterman, Director for Learning, had sent through some brilliant pictures from the Activity/Family Fun Day. Paul Grist and myself were definitely competing for roles in The Nutcracker this year! Pearl had also sent through some extremely useful documents for my Organisational Analysis assignment following our chat in Sunderland last week. Paul Grace, Technical Director, had forwarded me some exciting emails regarding next year’s production of The Prince of the Pagodas.
I completed any outstanding tasks before checking I had all the relevant documents for the week ahead in Plymouth. Upon departure from Birmingham I landed on my feet as I bagged the luxury 6-seater Mercedez-Benz with Marion Tait, Assistant Director and Lorcan McGee, Physiotherapist. Our journey was quicker and I can imagine more comfortable as we zoomed past the 53-seater coach on the M5. Marion and myself discussed the theatre’s we had/were visiting, she informed me her visit to The Sunderland Empire was her 45th!
Standard procedure took place as Paul and myself unloaded in the company office, placed notices on the company notice board and handed sign in sheets for the week ahead to Stage Door. I signed out my own pass to get me between FOH and backstage, if not for anything important but so I had constant access to the cakes available in the café! Meeting Duty Managers, General Managers and House Managers had become routine at visiting theatres. I was particularly looking forward to meeting those in Plymouth, Paul had told me plenty of hilarious stories, particularly about Jackie who apparently demanded biscuits every time, she seemed like my type of person! I would have to wait till tomorrow for Jackie although I still met Jack, Theatre Manager and Jill, one of the House Managers.
During the evening Paul showed me around the Hoe, the Barbican and the direction of the ‘City’. I had a good feeling about Plymouth!
The Travelodge I was staying in this week was directly behind the theatre, providing me with more time in the morning’s to get organised/laze around in bed! Upon arrival at the theatre on Tuesday, sticky note reminders were prepared, notices were placed on the board and emails were read/followed up. As I began to read articles on the Arts Professional/Dance UK website I decided today could be a day for me to tidy up some of my ongoing research for my Management Research Paper and Organisational Analysis modules.
Before it was decided that enough work had been done/it was long enough since breakfast to acceptably have a cake, Paul and myself had an extremely interesting tour around the recently refurbished Front of House. Jack, Theatre Manager, explained about feedback and how much more versatile the theatre now was.
Later in the afternoon, I had a lengthy discussion with Paul Grace regarding the performance measurement systems within the Technical Department. The moment later arrived for me to meet Jackie, House Manager, she was every bit as charismatic as I imagined.
Opening night came around, curtain went up, and curtain came down. During the performance questions were asked about the Activity Day; that was set to be extremely popular here at Plymouth on Saturday. The workshop with BRB had a signing up procedure, up to 1 hour before and was for 8+ years. Drinks with TRAC (Theatre Royal Applause Club) commenced after the show.
Wednesday began with exciting news, Anne-Marie, PR for Theatre Royal, made a trip to the office to tell us of the BBC News at 10 who were filming for Thursday night’s programme covering the redevelopment of the theatre. They were hoping to film within the auditorium, liaison began between the two Press departments and lots of suggestions began flying about.
As today was the last two performances of the Triple Bill it was decided yesterday that I would watch the matinee and Paul Grist would watch the evening. Speaking to Eliska, Deputy Stage Manager, at the post performance TRAC drinks it was arranged that rather than watching from the front I would pull up a seat behind prompt corner and watch her call all the manic transitions, flys and LX stand by’s. The time arrived, I grabbed a spare radio, borrowed a headset and tuned into the stage channel. By the end of the show I’d had the most fun! I was overwhelmed with the skill involved, particularly with a live orchestra/conductor and I learnt an incredible amount. A real satisfaction was gained and I now had a much better understanding on the ins and outs.
During the evening’s performance I swapped my spare radio for the Company Manager radio and donned the suit. Andy Wilson, Deputy Head of Lighting, introduced me to the faders, making me the 4th person in the company aware of this role – this seemed a pretty big deal to me, the faders took the sound from the microphones in the orchestra pit to the huge speakers on stage that then projected the sound out into the auditorium.
Wednesday saw the end of 2013’s Autumn’s Triple Bill however Thursday saw the return of Sleeping Beauty and therefore actors. I prepared to meet them at 11.00am, some of who would be familiar from previous venues. That evening’s cast sheet was double-checked and organisation for the Royal Ballet students continued. After another well-earned cake and hot chocolate break (Theatre Royal Plymouth’s cake selection was top notch!), I made developments with my LIPA work. A discussion I had had last week in Sunderland with Pearl, Director for Learning continued to transcribe. I also drew up a schedule for my lecturer’s (Jeremy Grice) upcoming visit; you can catch him in The Stage this week!
Usual procedure commenced as the performance did only this week I would have a short stint in the wardrobe department assisting them with the quick changes between Acts I and II. I also used my experience with the Nutcracker children shoe sizes to create a similar spreadsheet for the Nutcracker student shoe sizes.
With a late start on Friday morning I went for a satisfying aimless wander around Plymouth, taking in fresh sea air. Arriving in the office feeling extremely content I shared with my course a link to an extremely interesting ballet mime story the BBC had done with Marion Tait and Delia Mathews (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-24508450). Before familiarising myself with the Dressing Rooms at Theatre Royal Plymouth as I delivered printed cast sheets for next week.
Later, I had another extremely insightful chat with Pearl Chesterman, Director for Learning, before going for dinner with Eliska Robenn, Deputy Stage Manager (enough carbs were consumed to last us till at least the end of the week)!
Saturday was an early start as I checked out of my hotel and made my way to the theatre to prepare for the partnership of BRB’s Activity Family Fun day and Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Open Day. The costume rail and box, role play boards, and design materials were all set out in the preparation for the arrival of an estimated 1,000 people. Between 10am and 2pm I answered audience questions to the best of my ability, once again surprising myself at how much I knew and remembered. Marion Tait, Assistant Director and Laura Day, Artist, later did a make up demonstration in The Drum where I picked up more tips.
During the matinee I gave next week a thought when we would be back in Birmingham, making notes in my diary for things to remember. As the curtain went up on the last performance of Sleeping Beauty for this autumn tour a mix of emotions could be felt in the air. Fond farewells were said before embarking the coach! The half way point of my placement with Birmingham Royal Ballet, 6 weeks spent at 5 different theatres in 5 different cities and I had enjoyed absolutely every moment. Ready to tackle the next 6 weeks and welcome The Nutcracker!