Post length: 1,151 words, just over 5 minutes.

So I’m heading back from another Grim North production, ‘Anaesthesia’.  This year’s production was earlier than normal, sparking suspicion that there might be another before the end of the year.  I’ll wait and see.

The production came together really well this year for me, with the biggest bonus being the time we were able to get into the theatre.  It’s the third time we have used the Hebden Bridge Little Theatre and clearly they are starting to trust us more than previous years.  In the past we have had to arrange with them to be there to let us in each time we needed to be in the theatre, and to stay until we had finished so that they could lock up again afterwards.  This proved a real restriction on the time we had to do our get in.

For me this is of course a real problem – it takes time to rig and focus the lights, as well to work out a dimmer patch and do any programming I wanted to do.  In fact, in previous years, I haven’t had time to do much programming at all – I’d just run the show of some hastily put together scenes on submasters and busked through each night.  This year I was able to do much more and the difference was noticeable.

We got into the theatre on Tuesday night. We were met at the door by a member of the theatre who left us with the keys and code for the alarm.  I took responsibility for them, knowing I would be wanting to get into the theatre at slightly more unpredictable times than everyone else.  The director had arranged for some of the cast to turn up to run through some scenes on the stage a little later in the evening.  This turned out to be a bit of a pain for me as it meant they wanted both light and stage space – we couldn’t rig on stage and we couldn’t whip though the focussing as quickly as I wanted to.

I had planned out my design from what I knew of the theatre previously, and things looked like they would work out when when I saw where the fixtures were in the theatre, but it wasn’t quite as straight forward as it first appeared.  The fixtures on the FOH bar nearest to the stage were just not far enough away to be able to get a good clean coverage of the whole width. There were four lamps along the front bar which I suspect had been used previously as just a straw wash, but as I needed both a straw and steel wash I was going to have to make do with just three fixtures to cover the whole width of the stage. Sadly this meant moving the front line of profiles back onto the second FOH bar. I ummed and ahhed about this for a while – those profiles are heavy and access to the bars is bad at the best of times – but was convinced by people that if we needed to do it, we needed to do it. So we moved them. It was the right choice. Unfortunately by the time the cast had cleared off stage and we got the front of house bars rigged and focussed all the people who had come to help with the lighting had started to lose interest. It was heading towards midnight, so with only the stage lamps to do we called it a day. I could finish those and do the colour call myself the next day.

So I arrived back at the theatre on Wednesday at 11.30 and set about rigging the lamps on stage. I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I wanted to do here.  I knew the key lights which we needed but from there it was a matter of seeing what stock was available and doing whatever I could with it. I dropped all the best lanterns the theatre had into the rig for the most important effects until I had only two very old PC lanterns and a pair of Strand Patt 123s. These I coloured orange and green and used to throw lighting across the set from either side. I was very happy with this. By the time I had finished the rig and cleared my mess away it was 3pm and the director turned up. He had offered to come earlier to help me but I didn’t think there was much which he could have done – I was happy working by myself without having to worry that someone else was spending the day getting bored. I quickly explained to him what I had done and left him to play through the sound while I went through to the bar to work out a patch.

With the patch done and everything plugged in we had an hour and a half before the cast turned up. I spent this hour programming the desk (a Strand GSX) with scenes. I’d never done that before at this theatre because of the lack of time we have had in the past. It made running the show so much easier than ever before and allowed me to be much more creative. I didn’t program in any fade times or blackouts – as I hadn’t seen the play before the dress rehearsal that night I didn’t know quite how things would work out, and I didn’t want to risk that being the reason things went wrong. I ran the whole show on the A-B faders.

The three nights of the play went very well. It’s the first time this company had done a three night run, and I’m not sure they will want to do one again – while there was no problem for the cast,  and it allowed it to be much more polished the third night, there were only about 25 people in the audience on the Thursday night. Talking to the director after the Thursday production we decided we would class that as a preview production, with the full run being Friday and Saturday. We also included an interval on the first night but it was decided this should be dropped in order to keep the pace of the play up despite the first night audience saying they liked having it.  They were wrong.

I think everyone was pleased with the way the production had gone when it came down on Saturday. I escaped pretty quickly, having said goodbye to everyone. It’s a shame there was no curtain party, but I probably wouldn’t have stayed long if there had been. The rest of the company are going out for a celebration meal on Wednesday. Sadly I have to head back and work for people who actually pay me money…

Posted on Sunday 30th January, 2011 at 3:23 pm in Theatre.
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