Life in the theatre

Some of you may be wondering what next week’s meeting is all about.  Our theme is Theatre – we hope to inspire you with costumes from the Hampshire Wardrobe and learn all about Southampton’s fantastic Nuffield Theatre too.  As a reminder, our meeting will at the Slug & Lettuce, Above Bar Street at 7.30pm on Tuesday 29th October.

To give you a little taster our speaker, Tracey Cruickshank (Audience Development and Marketing Officer) at the Nuffield Theatre has kindly written us a blog post to tempt you all along next Tuesday.  Enjoy!

“I came to the Nuffield just over four years ago, after running a circus, working in the circus ring, teaching performing arts and working for the NHS – a very varied career, but one that always had people and the arts at the core. Because the Nuffield makes its own work, as well as having visiting companies in, there’s never a shortage of actors, directors, designers, writers, etc. floating about the place requiring some sort of attention or support.

Although my job is about the audiences for the Nuffield – getting more people in, plus enhancing the experience of those who do visit – it ranges further and wider than that, often branching into all sorts of things. It seems to be the nature of working in this industry.

Our last Artistic Director, Patrick Sandford, was very fond of volunteering members of staff to take part in his productions. This would start as a walk-on part (“I promise you’ll be home by 8”), and would gradually be added to, so that by the end of it you were there until the end of the performance most nights, and had lines and/or important prop moving built in. Hence I’ve had the pleasure of being a mourning woman in The House of Bernarda Alba with Ann Mitchell of EastEnders fame (I actually had lines with her!), and an Afghan woman in Bully Boy with Anthony Andrews (The King’s Speech, Brideshead Revisited, etc). Probably one of the more surreal moments of my life was standing in the wings next to Anthony Andrews in a full burka, hoping he would realise that it was my costume that stank and not me! That and Sandi Toksvig wishing me ‘good Afghaning’ in the loo on press night….


The Marketing department have often had to dress up in costume for a photoshoot for the Christmas show posters and flyers, as the actors aren’t usually cast yet. One year some of us had to dress up as characters from The Wind in the Willows in full skins in the June heat, standing in a river at 7 in the morning.

Besides my occasional moment in the limelight, I have also had to take actors and directors to radio interviews. This is great for getting to know them a bit better, which is always a good thing when you’re marketing a show. Matthew Kelly was particularly good fun recently, full of anecdotes and gossip on the way to the studio, tired though he was the morning after press night. I managed to get him to agree to an interview at some god-awful time in the morning on the Wave 105 breakfast show. Think the promise of a bacon sandwich swung it.

But it’s not all about the actors, even though that’s often the most interesting and visible part for people outside the industry. I have to know as much about a production as possible in order to know who is likely to want to see it. So I’m fortunate enough to read newly commissioned scripts, sit in first read-throughs with the actors, directors, designers and production crew for a new production, plus see technical and dress rehearsals of all our productions. I also have the opportunity to meet some of the best touring companies in the business such as Frantic Assembly and ETT.

Probably the best part of my job is meeting our audiences, whether they’ve been coming for years, it’s their first visit or they’re thinking about visiting. Some of my most satisfying moments include watching a group of ‘difficult to reach’ young people totally absorbed in Romeo and Juliet and then giving excited and hugely positive feedback at the end. Standing in Guildhall Square while 7,000 plus people cheered at some mad French aerialists drumming 60 feet above them made me feel pretty good too. It’s always the best feeling to be there at the start of someone’s love affair with the theatre. Most of all, I get to work in an industry I love, a part of our culture which I think is fundamental to who we are as people, and which undoubtedly contributes a large amount to our national wellbeing.”


The Sotonettes are very proud to say that the first book club meeting was a great success – thanks to all those that came along and discussed Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

November brings a new book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  While looking for a suitable cover to feature on our Book Club page, I was astounded by the number of different versions (and beautiful covers) that exist, so I’m sure no-one will have too much trouble getting their hands on a copy.  There are a few copies still available in Southampton’s Libraries, and also a spoken word CD (thanks to BBC Radio 4) available to borrow if you don’t fancy reading!  I’m confident that Southampton’s charity shops will do us proud too – if you’re struggling to find a copy, post on our Facebook page or the Book Club Facebook event and hopefully a fellow Sotonette will be able to help you out.

I am a massive fan and big supporter of the National Theatre and it’s productions… some of you may remember the critical acclaim that the NT attracted when Danny Boyle cast and directed Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch in a new production of Frankenstein back in 2011.  What made this production particularly special was that the two lead actors would alternate playing the roles of Victor Frankenstein and Creature each night.  It was also one of the National’s first performances to be broadcast live to hundreds of UK cinemas as part of the NT Live season.


I was lucky enough to see Cumberbatch play Creature – an absolutely enthralling performance throughout – but never got to see Miller’s interpretation of the character (and vice versa for Cumberbatch’s version of Frankenstein).  For anyone that missed either/both productions, the National Theatre are showing both recorded versions in cinemas up and down the country in October and November as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations – perfect timing for our book club too!

The Harbour Lights Picturehouse will be showing the play on Halloween, Thursday 31st October (Benedict Cumberbatch as Creature) and two weeks later, on Thursday 14th November (Jonny Lee Miller as Creature).  For more information on the cinema showings of this tremendous production, have a look at the NT website. I can’t urge you all enough to go and see one or both of these – not often do we see big names like Miller and Cumberbatch on stage with such an imaginative director, and we don’t even have to go to London! If you want to see a trailer, the Harbour Lights have one on their website.

With all this talk of theatre, I should also remind you about our main monthly meeting – Southampton’s very own Nuffield Theatre will be coming to tell us everything we need to know about getting a production from script to stage, and answer any questions we might have too.

Hope to see you all soon!

Jen x

Does anyone know Rebecca?

If anyone’s missed our updates on Facebook or our events calendar online, you may not realise that tomorrow night is the Sotonettes’ inaugural Book Club meeting!  Our main Book Club page with all the vital information you need can be found here; we also have a Facebook event here.

Set up by one of the committee ladies, Kate, our new monthly meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the chosen book for the month.  Struggling to finish Rebecca?  Worry not, you’re still more than welcome to come along and chit chat about all sorts of things over a cup of hot chocolate at Cafe Creme on Bedford Place.  Only watched the movie?  Come along!  Just about managed the wikipedia entry (here, for those who need it!) but nothing else?  Come along!  Anyone interested in books, reading or just good old storytelling is welcome here.  It’s also not necessary to be a member of the Sotonettes either, so bring along your female friends too.

For those fast last-minute readers, all the copies of Rebecca have been borrowed from Southampton libraries, so you may need to widen your search.

We’ll shortly be announcing the November book too so please keep an eye out on the website or our Facebook page.