[notice]This post original appeared on the 2nd September 2005 on my very first blog Spnak.com (that site now has another purpose) The article is now hosted on my “Other” blog From The Keyboard Of Paul[/notice]
During my sixth form at school we had to undertake 3 weeks of work experience each year. Normally you would go to a factory and be a slave or you could go to an office and make coffee and be the butt of the water cooler jokes for three weeks. If you were interested in theatre there was only one place you could really go in our small dinky town and that was The Palace Theatre. Going there as a work experience person was a curse. You got sat in the box office and told to stuff envelopes for hours on end and the closest you got to doing anything theatrical was watching the old ladies who came into the theatre coffee shop at lunch time regaling us of their past stage stories.
I was not willing to do that and waste the time, I would rather have stayed in school and studied privately (also known as signing out of school and going over to the park and getting drunk on cheap beer and smoking menthol cigarettes…ahh the life).
I had made my feelings known to my home tutor and to my head of year and to the teacher who had been organizing the work experience and they were most annoyed at my refusal to play the game, but they had an idea. We got in touch with the Nottingham Theatre Royal about the possibility of me spending at least 1 week there to get me out of their hair… (they loved me really). The theatre agreed and not only agreed but took me for the full three weeks. Was I excited… Not really.. it meant I had to get up at 6 am every day for three weeks including Saturdays too make sure I could get my paper round done and get to Nottingham before 9am. It was an hour bus ride to Nottingham each day and I would be at the theatre during regular theatre hours which were (looking back) crazy stupid hours. My day would start at between 9-10 am for the tech notes for either the weeks show or the notes from the night before and then we would have to act on the info given.
If it was a Monday we would have to Get In the show that was running for the week. I was lucky in the three weeks there we only had three shows. If I had been a month later in doing my work experience I would have been there during Opera North Month.
ONM is where a BIG ASS opera company come to a theatre and wreck the lives all involved. The show Three full operas in rotation… no show the same two nights running. Which means EVERYTHING has to be changed EVERY night. Sets had to be taken down and put up every day and night. It was by all accounts a marriage breaking experience. They had three shifts of techies working 24/7. I loved the theatre but I hated and still hate opera. I find it a really bad awful way to waste an evening. Anyone who claims to enjoy and love opera also enjoys having their private parts tied to an electric fence and then having cold water thrown over them. It’s the artistic equivalent of being tied to a dead cow and being forced to eat a McDonald’s Happy Meal. I guess you could say that I ain’t too big on opera.
Anyway back to a normal week of work experience. My first week there the musical Grease was making it’s Nottingham stop. I was excited as hell to be able to work on this show. When the trucks arrived at the theatre it was all hands to the loading bays and unpack the three trucks with everything Grease. Up to this point the biggest thing I had unloaded was a little three tonne van with some stage decking in it. This was insane. What surprised me was, the sets didn’t look all that great when they were this close up. It looked beaten up and tacky. They looked like the original sets from the 70’s. But hey I was a school kid what did I know.
Surprisingly the Three trucks were unloaded in about an hour. And then things started happening so fast I couldn’t keep up. Things flew from the ceiling, giant hair driers appeared from out of nowhere and then the cast started arriving and MY GOD, I had never seen so many agile dancers in my life and they were all great looking too. I guess that is what is called getting stars in your eyes. Needless to say the rest of the In House crew had seen it all before and it didn’t phase them as it did me. They took the opportunity to look at pretty women I fell in love with every single one of them. That love affair lasted roughly 35 minutes. Every single dancer was dating another dancer (I was gutted… now I wish I could watch the after show party tapes 🙂 )
Everything kind of went into blur mode after that. I hung curtains, I painted sets, I caught footballs (of the American style) and had a laugh with some very strange people indeed. This was my first real exposure to professional actors and they were all (in hindsight) quite up themselves for no particular reason (the show wasn’t that good.. this was before the revamp).
For the rest of the week I would show up at 9 in the morning and leave at 11pm in time for the night bus home, and then do it all over again the next day. I look back now and realize it was no way to live but I was having fun and I couldn’t let the school down, after all they had gone to all this trouble. During the day I would do various household duties backstage, like making coffee and stuffing the odd envelope and take flack as I was the joke of the techies green room water cooler….
Coming next time.. our hero falls head over heals in love with a Canadian Actress
Until Next Time…