Well what a week that has been! Tech weeks in theatre are always long, arduous, energy sapping, mentally draining affairs but nevertheless they are necessities. At Harrogate Theatre this is no different, however there does seem to be such a strong spirit throughout the company that that was a less traumatic week than most! Tech week (for those of you who don’t know) is when the show gets put on the stage for the first time and all the technical aspects are added to it, like lighting, sound effects, pyro’s, costumes and whatnot. For us cast members this means we basically have to stay standing still for ages whilst lights are pointed at us! We have to alter where we stand from time to time as we’ve suddenly found out we have more space than we thought or, conversely, that a piece of set is bigger than we expected and therefore haven’t got room to do what we had rehearsed. The crew all have similar problems.
Monday morning started off with a power cut. Great. We lost the first hour of our tech as we had no lighting or sound. We also had 2 more power cuts later in the day. Really not very helpful from Northern PowerGrid (particularly as they just passed the buck). Anyhow, we all worked like Trojans and managed to make up the lost time. We managed to finish the tech by Thursday afternoon and so set about our first dress rehearsal on Thursday evening. It went very well from my point of view (especially as I was doing dance routines in my rather sizeable costumes for the first time) and we were all pleased to have gotten through it. On Friday afternoon we had our second dress rehearsal which, although technically it was a cleaner show, I personally had a worse performance than the previous night. Let’s not forget, though, this is the reason we have dress rehearsals – it gives us a chance to iron out any creases and get things just right before we open!
Speaking of which, after the dress rehearsal we then had about 2 hours to have some food, calm our nerves and get ready for our first public performance. There was a veritable buzz backstage as we were all dying to get going! Most shows benefit from having an audience but panto really does need it. There is so much interaction in a panto that although our director and DSM made a great job of shouting responses to us in rehearsal, nothing beats having a 500 strong auditorium shouting “It’s behind you” at nearly illegal decibel levels! So as we all ran around giving out opening night cards and saying break a leg to each other we could hear the excited sell out audience filing into the auditorium.
We had started.
Act One was going down a storm! The audience were loving it and cackling away like no one’s business. The jokes were all going down a treat and the songs were getting great ovations. At the interval I was chatting to Tim Stedman (who plays Silly Sidney) in our Dressing Room and we were saying that as opening nights go, this had to be one of the best! Act Two began with a bang, we were able to pick up from where we had left off in terms of intensity and we could sense the audience were with us every step of the way.
Then it happened.
The curse from earlier in the week befell us again. A power cut. Katy Dean (playing Tom) was on stage when the lights went out. The show was stopped and we were all sent to our Dressing Rooms. We waited for 20 minutes (in darkness, I might add, as our lights didn’t work either) in case the supply came back on but unfortunately to no avail. We had to cancel the rest of the show. I’m not sure who was more gutted, us or the audience! They had all been given a complimentary drink at the bar whilst they were waiting (fortunately the Front of House electricity was from a different supply and therefore not affected) but then had the bad news broken to them. They will all either get tickets to a different performance or a refund but, fair play to them, there was not a single complaint, whinge or cross word from any of them. This, incidentally, was one of the reasons I wanted to come back to Harrogate for a second year, the audiences are incredibly supportive of their theatre. They all knew that Northern PowerGrid were the real panto villains.
So it was a bit of an anti-climax really. We had all brought posh clothes in with us to go out for drinks after the show but we all felt rather deflated. Opening night had been deferred to Saturday…
So, on Saturday we got ourselves geared up again. We knew that ¾ of the show worked, we then needed to get through the remaining ¼! Fortunately we had another sell out house that really wanted to be entertained and who were up for a good time. We got all the way through the show and our feedback so far has been superb. Happy days! Northern PowerGrid have assured us that the problem will be solved before the next performance (something to do with faulty underground cabling) so if you have got tickets already booked then fear not – Northern PowerGrid have spoken!
I normally finish these blogs by thanking all the cast, crew, office staff, ushers, bar staff, cleaners etc for their hard work in getting the show up and running. I still want to do that but I also want to thank the exceptional people of Harrogate who supported us on Friday night. It’s YOU GUYS that make theatre what it is.
The cast enjoy a toast backstage after the first (complete!) show.
(L to R) Phil Stewart, Lindsay Scigliano, Katy Dean, Tim Stedman, Chris Clarkson, Steve Huison, Amy Walsh