Friday, 28 March 2014

Hobson's Choice - Get In

Transporting a set to a theatre isn't exactly an easy job.  It takes lots of hands, lots of patience and lots of head scratching to try and work out how all of this...
Is going to fit into the back of one of these.
without breaking anything.  Cue Tetris music and an hour of stacking, sliding, shifting, shoving and shouting. 
When the weather is dry and not too cold it's not actually that bad a job.  This day however was absolutely freezing (and the Warehouse doesn't exactly have central heating and double glazing) and the February rains meant that the ground around the Warehouse was utterly saturated.  It would have been ideal for a mudbath; not so great for trying to get large painted items of set into the van.  One slip and the set would have been repainted with a lovely mural of a dirt landscape.

It's not just the large pieces you need to remember.  All sets need small, seemingly insignificant pieces of wood and fabric (blocks, sticks to stir paint, sticks to fill in gaps etc), multiple buckets of paint, trays of screws and nails, drills and their chargers and every workman's tool you can think of.  You don't really want to forget one as it's a 40 minute drive back to the Warehouse to get it later in the week!
Now I'm not normally one for gender defined roles but in this situation, I'm not really much use.  I can get the smaller and lighter pieces out to the van but the big ones I'm just going end up breaking (them and most likely me) as I drop them.  So what on earth was the point of me being there, other than to get in the way and annoy everyone by taking photo's?

Well, Sally and I had some rummaging to do in the Warehouse.  I was looking for some costume pieces for another production, and Sally was looking for last minute items of furniture.  The Warehouse is an Aladdin's Cave of treasures and it takes a lot of foraging and digging down the narrow pathways, carefully squeezing your way between precarious towers of furniture to find what you are looking for.  You do have to be very delicate, I once moved the wrong tray and caused a sofa avalanche. 

Oh - does the turret by Sally's feet look familiar?  It's from the set of Wyrd Sisters!
However, eventually, and seemingly against most of the laws of physics, everything is in the van and we can head to the theatre.

Where we promptly need to empty the carefully packed van and get everything into the Theatre through the loading door.

The loading door that is 10 foot off street level on a road with no pavement.
Yeah.  You just have to lean out and grab the stuff that is handed to you without falling. 
Once everything is in then the real work starts as the set starts to be pieced together like a giant jigsaw puzzle with no picture to follow.
There was originally a picture, but Derek thinks he left it behind at the Warehouse. 
That strangely shaped structure studded with wheels is actually the basis of our rotating stage.  The first day in the Theatre was mostly about getting it together, in the right order, installing the pivot on the floor and then getting the stage to rest on the top of the pivot point which was no bigger than a can of Pringles.  Ever watch the Crystal Maze?  It was a bit like a version of one of those games as the stage was rolled around with someone with a torch peering through the tiny hole in the top, looking for the pivot in the stage and shouting directions to get it to align.
Eventually though align it did and the bare bones of the set could start to go up whilst we had a lot of hands on deck to help out. 
Over the next 3 days, the set slowly pieced together.  As builds go, this one was particularly painful and complicated as it involved a revolving set showing three different scenes, a staircase that didn't fit properly necessitating emergency creative thinking, and a working trap that had to be altered drastically.  The counter was too high for myself and Sinead to sit behind (we really aren't that tall!) and had to be lowered and it all got a bit chaotic and stressful and arduous.  I'm not afraid to say that at midday on the Wednesday, 18 hours before we were due to go on stage for the first night, I didn't think we were going to get there.
However, somehow, miraculously, it all came together.  The set revolved, the furniture fitted through the doors and everything that needed a lick of paint had been well and truly licked.  I'm having words with some of the cast members about that as I think they will now need a tox screen.

We were ready to go and we knew we had to be on fire as the house numbers were looking, well, full.

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