Theatre Etiquette – to tolerate or not to tolerate – that is the question!

 

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Theatre etiquette – what does that actually mean – in this instance, it’s about the behaviour and consideration of the audience, we all have some bugbears the usual ones being the rattling of sweetie bags or talking during a production, Mobile phones bleeping and so on.

My tolerance for such behaviour is very small especially as in the past few weeks I have witnessed so many acts of sheer rudeness towards the performers and other audience members.

For example, whilst sitting watching a production recently the couple in front of us insisted on talking the whole way through making it so difficult to concentrate on the play itself as they kept meeting their heads together to discuss their thoughts meaning we were constantly having to move also to see the action and therefore it would have had a domino effect on those sitting behind us too.

At another theatre, a lady insisted on checking her mobile throughout the show and sending texts. Every time she opened the phone or received a text back it lit up causing a distraction – If she didn’t want to be there or she had an urgent issue she could have left the auditorium and dealt with it in the foyer or bar – why spoil others enjoyment.

I still regularly see people taking photos or recording videos with their mobile phone in the theatre and often quite blatantly, but the theatres/groups producing rarely act and I have no idea why?

However, for the first time recently I sat next to a man with a large digital camera and long-range lens who happily was snapping away at children on the stage. Not only was the constant clicking of the aperture and button very annoying, but he obviously had no thought that this was wrong. In his defence if was one of the only times I haven’t heard a pre-show announcement reminding people to switch phones etc off and that no recording equipment can be used prior to a production but personally, I would add to these announcements or signs that anyone found using their phone or any other equipment during the show will have them confiscated and/or be removed from the theatre.

Don’t get me wrong I am hugely in favour of relaxed performances where talking and moving around the auditorium is allowed and of other special performances too. I understand that children can fidget or get scared etc and that is perfectly acceptable as they are children and do sometimes need to get out to go to the toilet.

I have often sat in productions where you get the odd shout out or noise from a member of a charity or group in the audience and that is not a problem to me either. This is about the obvious disregard for someone who is trying to perform on the stage and causing a distraction for those sitting around trying to watch them.

I always switch off my phone during a production and try not to talk other than in scene changes etc. Trying to review a production where I am struggling to see or hear it because of those around me is frustrating as I want to do the best I can for the production and cast plus you often miss out on some great one-liners and excellent portrayals.

So can you live without your phone or watch messaging you and updating you all the time – just switch it off for that one hour window – check it in the interval and then switch it off until the end it’s not difficult it’s just about being polite and considerate to others.

 

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“You must be an Attention Seeking Extrovert!!”

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“You must be an attention seeking extrovert to get up on stage in front of all those people!” …How many times have I heard that comment just because I am involved in the theatre. What a terrible misconception. Throughout my 30+ years involved in Musical Theatre, I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the people I know that might match that description.

Yes, there are a few OTT crazy extroverts out there and yes, when I am Directing, I often put on a larger than life persona in the rehearsal room to get the best out of my cast but that doesn’t mean I am always like the Duracell bunny or that being more confident and loud is the real me.  In fact, most people involved in this hobby that I know are quiet, a little insular and even shy.  That doesn’t mean we can’t put on a performance. It’s the ability to take on another role or to live inside someone else’s skin that allows you to stand in front of an audience as the character you are portraying not as your real self.

Age, however, is a relative factor, the young often are more exuberant and confident and may display more outlandish behaviour but that is about being young not being a ‘show-off’ actor

If we were all crazy extroverts, then why would so many actors struggle with stage fright? Of course, everybody is different, and I agree most people take to the stage because they do like some measure of recognition for a good job done but isn’t that the same of any profession it’s just with actors that it comes as applause.

For those who step up to take on principal roles there is an added responsibility to do a good job for the rest of the cast – and let’s not forget if you make a complete mess of it – the whole audience witnessed it – so however much you might be the life and soul of the party off stage, it’s hard to disguise disaster on it.

In my experience those who make a big show are often those with the least talent, they are fuelled by ego and a need to be noticed. Obviously, there are rare individuals who exhibit both, but these are a very small minority and usually uber talented too. Let’s face it not everyone can live at 100 miles an hour in full performance mode all the time – because it’s just too exhausting.  Most of the most talented performers I know are relatively quiet and just get on with it.

So, don’t make us out to be crazy, self-indulgent, self-obsessed ‘lovies’, we just love the theatre and being involved in its magic and for most of us – that is enough.

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A timely reminder about the Gods of Scene changes…..

As I return to working backstage this week, I thought it appropriate to remind people about the hard work these individuals do. So…..

Have you been to the Dark Side, where the Magic Happens?

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The dark side is the home of backstage magic. The universe of the Stage Manager, who leads the special, invisible people to make scene changes happen and allow the production to run smoothly. If all the world’s a Stage, then he/she is God!

While the actors are performing in front of the tabs, I’ve known Stage Managers and Deputy Stage Managers skilfully move large, noisy, un-wielding pieces of set behind the scenes by gently massaging them into place so as not to disturb the action for the audience.  Now that’s a real skill.

These masters of the dark with their unfailing stage crew put together a whole show at a technical rehearsal and yes it doesn’t always go exactly to plan but until you have crossed to the ‘dark side’ you have no idea of the stress and pressure they are under, because whether you like it or not they the unsung heroes to the audience…. unless it all goes pear-shaped and then it’s still probably not entirely their fault. They take the blame for many of the actors’ foibles and are so well disciplined they know the answer to everything is gaffer tape and a large hammer!

I’ve never heard an audience leaving a play or show, saying it was fantastic and weren’t the scene changes brilliant (those that do understand what is required, may make these comments from time to time) but you do hear people saying as they leave – if it didn’t go to plan – the scene changes were so slow it spoiled it for me etc, etc.

The actual role of a ‘Stage Manager’ seems to vary from society to society. Some call all the cues like a DSM, some run their brigade like a military operation and some have a much more laid back approach. Whichever one you have, they are still the boss when the show opens.

As a Director, I see the Stage Manager as vital in bringing the vision to the stage. I have been fortunate to work with some amazing Stage Managers who understand the weird requests put upon them, usually with late notice at a tech rehearsal and they always pull it out of the bag – what Magicians!

A good Stage Manager and stage crew need love, understanding (and usually feeding on beer or any alcohol after the show!). If you are an actor, next time you don’t get in a show or the part you want – why not sign up to work backstage – I guarantee if you haven’t done it before you will see a new side to the production. Personally, I think every actor should, on a regular basis, step out of the limelight and work backstage on crew, wardrobe or props but this sadly is not done as often as it should.

Next time you do a production, take a moment to appreciate you Stage Manager and his crew, think how you would perform on just one full rehearsal and whether you could pull it off!  Then remember if you don’t stay on the right side of him/her you will be performing in the dark, behind a piece of scenery or trapped in the wings!!

I love the Stage Managers prayer: “Lord Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those actors I had to kill because they pissed me off” …. So remember you have been warned!!

‘Bottoms up’ to all those Backstage on the dark side!

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Our final Interview with the Made in Dagenham Cast

This is our final interview with Springers AOD ‘Made in Dagenham’ cast

Introducing Amy Serin as Rita O Grady

TL:                    Hi Amy, Can you tell us a something about the Character you are playing in Made In Dagenham?

Amy:                Rita is a mother of two works in the factory as one of the machinists.  She goes on a bit of a journey during the show, she is just one of the girls at the start but she finds her political voice and strength in her heart to enable her to fight for something she thinks is right and to try and change the world in some sort of way. It’s not easy for her to find the balance between her family and fighting for what’s right.

TL:                    What attracted you to take part IN Made In Dagenham.

Amy:                I always loved the show so when I heard Springers were doing it, I dared to dream that I might get the chance to play Rita. I grew up in a house of women with no men, so lots of strong women around me and I was always the girl and teenager shouting about women’s rights from a young age getting on my soapbox.  So this a dream part for me as well as it being the anniversary of 50yrs since the Dagenham ladies strike and 100yrs of suffragette movement just a brilliant year to take part in this show and we still have so much to fight for.

TL:                    For those who don’t know the show, is it just about Feminism and history?

Amy,                 Well, Yes, it is to a degree but also about family and Rita’s daughter is a big part of why she decides to take the fight on and why she goes on the journey she does and also about how the men fit into the picture and get their heads around how the women are changing and how their lives will change.

TL:                    Why should People get tickets to see it?

Amy:                It’s a Really funny show with brilliant big choral numbers, the fantastic music leaves you with a real uplifted feeling and it’s nice to leave empowered like that..

TL:                    What do you think is the best bit of the show at the moment

Amy:                Harold Wilsons scene and his aides – it’s just fantastic and will steal the show.

 

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Interview No. 7 with ‘Made in Dagenham’ Cast

This is 7th interview with Springers AOD ‘Made in Dagenham’ Cast

Introducing Catherine Gregory as Connie

TL:                    Hi Catherine, can you tell us something about Connie?

Catherine:        She’s the union representative, the steward for the girls and she instigated the grievance procedure.  She is feisty and married to the job and her cause I think. The song she sings talks about ‘how I married the labour party’.

TL:                    So What attracted you to this show and the part?

Catherine:        I worked in Dagenham as a district nursing sister and I know how underprivileged they are around there. Everyone was raving about it and I listened to it one day while I was baking in the kitchen and then Connie’s song came on and it touched me it was so poignant and I just loved her from that minute

TL:                    Is the show just about feminism and Women’s Rights?

Catherine:        No. Other than it’s the 50 year anniversary, I think it’s about getting treated fairly regardless of sex.

TL:                    So what is the best part of it so far

Catherine:        I love the opening number of the show –  “Made in Dagenham” it sounds awesome and we have a lovely cast, all really nice people so rehearsals are fun, just as they should be.

TL:                    So why should people come and see it

Catherine:        Well the Music is good, the acting is good, we put have a lot of work into it and it will give people some good entertainment. It’s a great show with lots of good singing and dancing

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Interview with Springers ‘Made in Dagenham’ cast

This is our 6th Interview with the Springers AOD ‘Made in Dagenham’ Cast and Team

Introducing Eric Smart, The Show’s Director & Jackie Bates, the Assistant Director

 

 

TL:                    So, what is your involvement in the show?

Eric:                  I haven’t directed for Springers for 9 years as I’ve been Directing elsewhere but when Made in Dagenham came up I was really interested. You have to apply to be the director, about 3 applied and I was lucky enough to get it. The show captured my imagination different to anything I’ve done before.

It appealed to me for 3 reasons 1) the drama, 2) telling of a true story and 3) the in it – these three combined this could be a really excellent show and I supposed I was very lucky to get the cast I got. I’ve been lucky with all the head of departments i.e. wardrobe, props, Jackie as my assistant and Marcus as Production Assistant, Ian as Musical Director so everybody sort of came up trumps and not shirked at what they are supposed to do so it’s given me a chance to really concentrate on the directing side. I am really enjoying rehearsals it’s been really good fun and sometimes controlling 40 people on the stage at the same time is not always easy and to have so many men is brilliant. But I am really enjoying doing it.

Jackie:              I wanted to have the experience of being an Assistant Director as I have done a couple of shows but my roles were backstage really, just follow spotting etc. I got involved through Offspringers the youth group but I worked in Dagenham in the 1980’s and knew lots of people who worked in Fords so I when I saw it at Hornchurch I thought what a great show, it’s so funny, So I wanted to be involved. Last summer I applied to be the assistant and I was lucky enough to be selected to work with Eric.  For me every song, every line is just so funny and to do it in the 100thyear of the women getting the vote. I’m just so, so, so excited

Eric:                  She’s been like this since she knew she was the assistant director …. bring out the Valium (both laugh)

Jackie:              as Eric said to have all these men

Eric:                 We didn’t have enough at the start, but they’ve all come in and have all  come up to the mark

TL:                    Is this just a show about Feminism and history?

Eric:                 I guess it is. I would probably describe it like that, the political side of the story is humourous – Harold and Barbara. Barbara is more straight-faced, where Harold is unconscious humour – he really hasn’t got a clue and it might have been like that. In two scenes he has his governmental aides they are a hoot to direct all very strong singing voices and great to direct and up for anything. That’s a joy as well.

 

TL:                    What is the best bit about the show so far?

E:                     The humour of all the elements of the show if people don’t laugh, ok they’ll have to accept some strong language, swearing – it’s not gratuitous it’s simply there as part of the language and how some of them spoke.

J:                      The whole thing virtually every line of dialogue or song is just so funny.

E:                     The humour is what drives me at the moment, I do love the element of drama to it and there are some really poignant moments between Eddie and Rita because their relationship is tested just about as far as it can go. The cast are strong singers anyway and put the numbers over well. But, I would still say the humour for me.

 

TL:                    How does MID compare to other musicals people may have seen?

 

E:                     My opinion of it, well when I saw it in the West End, I hadn’t seen the musical or the film before but I knew the story and it appealed to me on two different levels, one it was truly educational which is not something you often get in a musical and the other element that struck me at the time was I could listen to this music all night.  It’s the sort of music, not even having heard it before, well it has quite a variation in styles as a musical, so it stands alone in that respect, that the music could match something like ‘Carousel’ or ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ it is music that is very enjoyable to listen to, that and the telling of the story is probably where it differentiates itself.

 

TL:                    Why should people come and see MID?

E:                     Well, I suppose if I had to put a strapline on it, it would be Come and see this show because you will have a great night out, you will laugh and you will cry. We haven’t got to the end yet and the final number is quite rousing

J:                      It’s very emotional when she wins them over

E:                     Hugely emotional, I would love to get the audience to stand up in the Civic at the end. I do think it could be really, really moving.

 

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Interview No.5 with Springers ‘Made in Dagenham’ Cast

This is the fifth interview with Springers AOD “Made in Dagenham” Cast

Introducing Bethan Anderson as Sandra

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TL:                    Bethan, tell us a bit about your character Sandra?

Bethan:            Sandra is a ‘tart with a heart’. She likes a good time to have a laugh and a drink but she has got a heart of gold and she loves the girls she works with.

TL:                    What attracted you to Sandra and the show?

Bethan:            I like a revolution in a show & with it being 50yrs and 100yrs and equality this was never something I could miss, ever.

TL:                    So how does it compare to other shows you have seen or done?

Bethan:            Well it’s a modern musical and really nice to have so many lead female roles. It’s not often there are more roles for women than there are for men at the moment so it gives the women a chance to show off.

TL:                    Whats the best bit of the show so far?

Bethan:            All of it. I love it, I literally enjoy rehearsals every week.

TL:                    So Why should people buy tickets to see it?

Bethan:            Because it’s fabulous. It’s a prominent year for women’s equality and the gender pay gap is all so prominent in the news, and it’s brilliant but when do we ever get to do a show in Essex about Essex.

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Interview with Springers ‘Made in Dagenham’ Cast

 

This is interview number 3 in our series of Cast interviews from Springers AOD ‘Made in Dagenham’

Introducing  Gareth Locke as Mr Tooley

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TL:                    Gareth, can you tell us something about your part in Made in Dagenham?

Gareth:            Mr Tooley is Ford Management. He is an American who is brought in to crack the strike. He’s very tough, very sexist, quite misogynistic and a big larger than life character.

TL:                    So what attracted you to such a Character?

Gareth:             I just love playing baddies. They have better songs, they have more fun and better clothes.

TL:                    So why why should people see it?

Gareth:             It’s absolutely a brilliant show, so funny, We have a cracking cast with some powerful singers.  Particularly Amy who is playing Rita.  She’s stunning and if you like working class humour– then it’s your kind of comedy and you will love it.

TL:                    How does it compare to other popular musicals?

Gareth:             It’s a modern musical with a fabulous score, it has really good songs and the script is great with spot on comedic timing. It all very heart warming and part of our history too, not just British history but women’s history. I Love it!

TL:                    What in your opinion, is the ‘Best Bit’ so far?

Gareth:             That’s really difficult. I must admit the singing in general is good with such a strong cast of singers even the chorus are really strong for this show.

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Interview with Springers ‘Made in Dagenham’ Cast

This is our second interview is with the Springers AOD  “Made in Dagenham” cast

Introducing  Olivia Pearson – Lisa Hopkins

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TL:                    Hi Olivia, Can you tell us a little bit about the Character you are playing in   Made In Dagenham?

Olivia:               My Character is not keen on her husband and the way he treats the Dagenham workers and allies herself with the solidarity of the girls.   She gives Rita the confidence to stand up for her beliefs. This is a very different character from the usual parts I play and its very strange not to have a singing part.

TL:                    What attracted you to the story and to want to get involved in this Production?

Olivia:               This is such a topical subject right now – it’s a true story based locally in Dagenham about how ordinary people fight for their rights against a large company.

TL:                    Why should people come and see Made In Dagenham

Olivia:               It has great music and its very funny. But its right on the mark with the topical news stories of today about equal pay and the gender gap.

TL:                    What are you enjoying most about the show at the moment?

Olivia:               The political side is very tongue in cheek taking the mickey out of the USA so there are lots of comedy moments in it and for me, the best part of the show I have seen so far is the Musical number with Harold Wilson in the cabinet

 

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Interviews with Springers ‘Made in Dagenham’s’ cast

Here is the first of our interviews with the Springers AOD “Made in Dagenham” Cast:

Introducing  Deborah Anderson – Beryl

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TL:                         Hi Deborah, Can you tell me a bit about Beryl?

Deborah:             She quite down to earth shall we say, a bit rough but very protective of Rita but she is the one who is up for a fight and she swears a lot. I’ve had to learn a whole new set of vocabulary which I’ve never used before in my life!

TL:                          How do you think it Compares to other musicals

Deborah:             I like a lot of the women’s harmonies,  it’s a bit like ‘Bad Girls – the Musical’ which I’ve been in before because it’s got a similar feel musically. It’s not your traditional Oklahoma by any means, it’s an ensemble piece which is really nice with so many characters and lots of big chorus numbers.

TL:                          So, what attracted you to being in the show?

Deborah:             I went to see it and loved it and then when I knew we were doing it, I really wanted to play Beryl. Basically, because I played the Vicars wife in the last show we did and this is completely different. I just thought what a great show with a chance to move about a bit but not too much and I like the character.

TL:                          What’s the best part of the show so far?

Deborah:             I love the music rehearsals because I love learning the harmonies and I’ve never seen so many men in a springers show in a line – and that’s great!


 

The show runs from 13th – 16th June at the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford.  http://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/ theatres

 

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