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Guest blog: Being a Stage Manager and Lighting Technician

Posted on 24 March 2014 by A Younger Theatre

(d) Richard Hubert Smith/LAMDA

(c) Richard Hubert Smith/LAMDA

2012 LAMDA graduate James Lye reveals what life is like the other side of backstage training, now working as a freelance Stage Manager and Lighting Technician

What interested you in working backstage in the first place?
I actually started out acting in youth theatre in Enfield, North London, where I grew up. It was through my involvement with amdram groups that I started getting experience of working backstage and I realised this is what I wanted to do.

It was about five years before I would have gone on to university that I spotted the course at LAMDA. I went to the open day and I felt better about the course than any of the other places I’d looked at, it had such a friendly feel to it and I knew it was where I wanted to be.

What did you enjoy the most about training at LAMDA?
You’re doing exactly what you want to do with other likeminded people. My time at LAMDA flew by and it was so jam-packed, but it was the best two years of my life so far.

LAMDA gave me the skills to get me where I am now. Despite having an interest in stage management and lighting, I did go in with an open mind, aware that I would get to try all the different aspects of stage management and technical theatre. The course is also so practical, which is what this industry is all about.

Was there anything you thought you wouldn’t enjoy but actually did?
I didn’t think I’d like construction! Although I wouldn’t choose to do it, I was surprised to find I did actually enjoy it. It was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. Having the chance to do things on a rotation during the course was really interesting and opened my mind up a bit more.

Talk me through what else you’ve done since leaving LAMDA
Straight after I graduated in July, I went to work at Edinburgh festival. After that I did a small-scale tour, I was the only one on the stage management team. The play was Other Hands, one of Laura Wade’s earlier plays on its first professional revival. We toured for four weeks around Newbury, Exeter, Bath, Bridport, Brighton, Lyme Regis and then finished with a week at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith. I had to do all sorts of things ranging from propping for rehearsals to doing the lighting for the tour.

Between April and May I worked at The Arcola Theatre in Dalston with InSite performance on Larisa and the Merchants. Most recently I’ve worked on the NI Opera’s Macbeth in Belfast, where I was part of a much larger stage management team.

Do you prefer to work in a big or a small team?
I like working in a smaller team and a lot of the things I’ve done have been with quite a small company. But then I went from that to working on the NI production of The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Gerald Barry. It was crazy – it was contemporary opera so the music wasn’t what you’d expect when people mention opera, featuring a lot of sung dialogue and loads of food that got chucked about during the show! I had to do about an hour of food prep for each show – which involved a lot of cucumber sandwiches…

So what would you say are the best things about being a stage manager?
As a freelancer you get to see a lot of places and get to know so many people. I enjoy going to different places and seeing how different people work. Having the opportunity to go to places you never thought would put on a show allows you to use your initiative and think “how am I going to make this show work in this space?”

Over Christmas I worked on a play called Beyond Beauty, which took place in a converted warehouse in Peckham. The space got transformed into an ancient castle. The show was interesting to do – the warehouse had no heating, it wasn’t particularly user-friendly. That was a big learning curve but one that I enjoyed.

The cons of the job are that you don’t know where your next job is coming from, but I have been fortunate enough to have been working consistently since graduating from LAMDA. I’ve been able to do so many different things – plays, comedies, pantomimes and operas. I’d love to work on a proper musical at some point.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue a career in stage management and technical theatre?
Get involved with whatever you can – it may not be paid, but everything really helps. I strongly believe that. Get to know people – it’s about what you know and who you know: networking is a big aspect of the career. I got a job through someone I know and that resulted in another job which kept me busy throughout the summer last year. It’s good to keep those connections.

Obviously I would recommend training if you can. The great thing about the course at LAMDA is you get to do a bit of everything. So if you wanted to be a lighting technician, I don’t think it’s the best idea to just do lighting. It’s good to have the all-round ability – a stage manager’s not going to be able to operate a show if they don’t know the sound or lighting basics. You leave LAMDA with rounded knowledge and experience – that’s one of the best things about the course.

Interested in a career backstage? Visit www.lamda.org.uk for more information about its Foundation Degree in Stage Management & Technical Theatre. The application deadline is 1 April to join LAMDA in autumn 2014.

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Review: Don Gil of the Green Breeches, Arcola Theatre

Posted on 18 January 2014 by Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Don Gil of the Green Breeches is one of three plays that makes up the Arcola Theatre’s Spanish Golden Age season. The piece is rife with characters donning multiple disguises, repeated cases of mistaken identity and a tangled web of lies, all of which form a complex yet comical plot. The theme of honour was prevalent in seventeenth century drama, and this Tirso de Molina play, written in 1615, is no exception. Donna Juana is angered that Don Martin (the man she loves and intends to marry) has abandoned her to pursue the wealthy Donna Ines, in a match clearly motivated by money rather than love. Following hot on Don Martin’s heels, Donna Juana decides to disguise herself as a rival male suitor, hoping that by doing so she will be able to prevent the marriage by seducing Donna Ines herself. To make this premise even more convoluted, both Don Martin and Donna Juana decide to operate under the same pseudonym, ‘Don Gil’, differentiated only by a pair of green breeches.

Don Gil of the Green Breeches could easily be referred to as a Spanish version of Twelfth Night. Not only are there similarities between Donna Juana’s and Viola’s cross-dressing guises, but in both works much of the comedy derives from the dramatic irony of the audience being the only constant figure who knows the true identity of all the characters. As Donna Juana, Hedydd Dylan is extremely skilled at accentuating the duplicitous nature of the text, particularly when addressing the audience directly during her humourous asides. Many belly laughs are also produced during the scenes in which Donna Ines (Katie Lightfoot) keeps remarking on the physical similarities between Donna Juana and Don Gil, statements that are made all the more comical by the fact that she is oblivious that she is referring to one and the same person.

The common pitfall with translating works of literature is that they can end up sounding quite stilted, lacking the nuances and overall essence of the original text. I am pleased to report that translator Sean O’Brien didn’t fall victim to this, and you don’t feel like anything got lost in translation. Brien’s version of Molina’s play not only captures the finesse of the original, but where possible also maintains the rhyme in the prose. Brien includes musical interludes in the piece, which as well providing divertissement also uphold a dramatic device that many writers of the Golden Age used at the time. Furthermore, in this production the musical numbers are accompanied by the sounds of a strumming Spanish guitar and fast-paced castanets, which reinforce the work’s cultural heritage.

Although Don Gil of the Green Breeches is firmly rooted in Spain, many of the play’s themes such as unrequited love, deception and jealousy make for a timeless and universal work. The calibre of this cast is extremely high, and personally I don’t think that there is a single weak performance among them. As well as this gem of a production, the company are also performing two Lope de Vega plays in rep (Punishment Without Revenge and A Lady of Little Sense). As a language graduate myself, I know that all too often brilliant plays such as these are left sitting on bookshelves gathering dust. It is a real joy to see a Golden Age play brought to life and executed so well on stage. Although the plot of Don Gil of the Green Breeches may seem mind-boggling at first, once I’d pieced it all together this comedic and chaotic farce is a true delight to watch.

Don Gil of the Green Breeches is being performed at the Arcola Theatre until 15 March. For tickets and more information please visit the Arcola Theatre website.

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby isla Cera Marle recently graduated from Royal Holloway University of London where she studied Spanish and European Literature and Cultural Studies. Currently Ruby is working as Press and Marketing Assistant at Rambert Dance Company..

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Ticket Offer: £12 tickets for Home at Arcola Theatre

Posted on 09 November 2013 by A Younger Theatre

We love the Arcola Theatre, and we love ticket offers. Get £12 tickets to Home at Arcola Theatre when using our special offer code. Scroll down to find it.

Home

Home by David Storey

23rd October – 23rd November, Arcola Theatre

Following last year’s critically acclaimed run of Brimstone and Treacle, SEArED return to the Arcola with the first major London revival in nearly 20 years of David Storey’s quiet masterpiece Home.

This timeless play is a beautiful, compassionate, tragic and darkly funny study of the human mind and a once-great nation coming to terms with its new place in the world. Starring Paul Copley, Jack Shepherd, Linda Broughton, Tessa Peake-Jones and Joseph Arkley.

★★★★ The Metro ★★★★ The Sunday Times ★★★★ The Upcoming

Claim the Ticket Offer:

A Younger Theatre readers can get £12 tickets on 9, 16 and 21 November, by quoting HOMEAYT when phoning the box office on 0207 503 1646 or online at www.arcolatheatre.com  

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Review: Titus Andronicus

Posted on 13 October 2013 by Daniel Harrison

Titus Adronicus

The last time I went to the Arcola was for one of those uber-cool east London club nights. Zoe Ford’s production of Titus Andronicus was more similar to my last visit that one may first think; both were gloriously anarchic, alternative and thoroughly exhausting.

The Arcola is an excellent performance space, perhaps one of the most exciting in London. The exposed brickwork and wrought iron beams lend the piece a deliberately deconstructed, rough-around-the-edges feel, a throbbing pulse which pushes the production along with an almost unbearable intensity. Couple this with the Arcola’s intimate and modest seating, and this is Shakespeare in HD.

Ford has set her Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare’s most gory plays, during 80s Thug Britannia, as Skinheads and Goths clear their throats almost as often as they slit others. The classic Frankie Goes to Hollywood lyric from the period “when two tribes go to war” seems to have been the source of much of her inspiration. Think This is England, rife with National Front insignia and Doc Martins.

Contemporary productions of Shakespeare are at their best when the somewhat archaic language (think of all those thous and dosts) go unnoticed, leaving audiences entranced simply by action and characterisation. This is most certainly the case here, and so perhaps the occasional off-text “fucking bloodclarts” etc that pepper the script are unnecessary, albeit fun. Likewise, the chalked-on graffiti “Saturninus sucks cock” is witty, but I’m sure the bard would have originally found a more flowery way of expressing this sentiment.

The performances themselves from the twelve-strong cast are often remarkable also. Maya Thomas is harrowing as Lavinia, who, unable to communicate, with no tongue to speak and no hands to write, is reduced to a wreck, and manages to be both tender and venomous, whilst Ryan Cloud radiates a menacing charisma and thoroughly owns the space during his scenes as Bassianus. Recent news stories surrounding the English Defence League spring to mind when studying the rest of the ensemble; all create thoroughly unsympathetic and revolting characters that strut and prowl like creatures from a subculture. It is often disturbing to witness.

Brevity is the soul of wit, according to Shakespeare, and Ford seems to have set her production to this belief a little too literally – I could have done with another half an hour of performance (and there’s very few Shakespeare plays about which that could be said) as the second half seemed to cut itself short a little too eagerly; I’m sure underlying themes, such as Titus Andronicus’s decent into madness could have been explored a little more deeply if given just a bit more time. That said, in the heart of London’s trendy zone, sandwiched between the two Dalston stations, the Arcola is home to a highly on-trend, on-point and stylish production. Go see.

Titus Andronicus is at the Arcola Theatre until 26 October. For more information and tickets see the Arcola Theatre website. Photo by Adam Twigg.

Daniel Harrison

Daniel Harrison

A graduate of Theatre Studies, Daniel has worked in a number of different areas within theatre, most recently cutting his teeth with the Communications team at BAC. He is currently Project Assistant for the Young Vic's upcoming Schools Theatre Festival, and is a champion of the power of theatre as a force for good within society.

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