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….

Nuffield

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.”

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