Chief Electrician Morgan Jones on the trials and tribulations of a the Grease Get-in.
We started setting up Grease on the Sunday. The show is self-contained, which means it tours its own lighting, scenery, sound etc. It all came to us in five lorries. The night before (after The Osmonds) myself and a few others stripped out all our equipment leaving space for what Grease would bring in. So at 9am, bleary-eyed on Sunday morning we started, coffee to fuel our morning. Seventeen staff from the Assembly Hall were involved in the set-up, along with several touring staff. Myself and Mikey, our Technical Manager, had met with some of the touring staff the week before and it was clear that we had the usual issues relating to space (and lack of it). Every inch of space backstage is utilised. This show normally goes to much bigger venues and when we met with the touring staff on Sunday morning they seemed perplexed as to how they were going to make it fit… slightly worrying! Our 17 staff (technicians, stage hands and dressers) had been hard to come by, we almost ended up with one of our stage guys washing Laundry and dressing the leading lady, which I secretly hoped would happen for comedy value.
We worked to a tight schedule and by lunch time most of the lighting had been hung and plugged up over the stage, which gave room for the scenery to be hung (something I didn’t touch being on the lighting team, but it looked unreasonably heavy). By dinner time we were ahead of schedule. (This isn’t unusual due to such a great team led by an amazing technical manager.) During our dinner break, we were amused to find our Theatre Director sitting in Weatherspoons watching the football!
Monday morning 9am: All the lighting was now rigged. We started focusing the lighting, a slightly tedious job, even more coffee for me now. Later in the day everything slowed down a bit whilst the cast sound-checked on stage, and we managed to get a bit of tidying done. As we approached show time the planned breaks inevitably went out the window, as we rushed to get the last bits done.
The important staff in the theatre now join us and start to ask annoying questions: ‘You know this can’t stay here?’ and I reply sarcastically, through gritted teeth: ‘Oh really, I thought we kept ladders in the auditorium now.’
The show went up and backstage it was chaos! I understand the show was very good from the front, but backstage our restricted space was more apparent than ever, with the cast having to clamber over things to get off the stage. The interval change went on for 36 minutes, which we were prepared for. After the show we came in early the following day to practice the interval change with a stopwatch running. By the second show the interval change was a well-choreographed military operation, taking under 20 minutes. The show is now running smoothly and we just have to think about getting it all out on Saturday night.