Tales from Touring - Hull
Officially my main role on tour is to meet and greet members of the press who are attending the performance and to act as their host during the interval. Unofficially, press night is also an opportunity for me to do various other things which last night included running errands in Hull for another member of the Comms team, posting updates on social media (unfortunately I was thwarted in this respect by bad phone 3G signal!) and geeking out backstage as I go about my business.
The first hurdle when arriving at the stage door of any theatre is to negotiate the rabbit warren that is the backstage area. At Hull New Theatre, the dressing rooms are actually downstairs underneath the stage arranged along a very long and quite narrow corridor. If you take the stairs up then at each landing there is a door for the dressing room/office for other members of the Northern Ballet team including the ballet staff, Artistic Director or Sinfonia staff. Right at the very top is the Company Office, which is where I climbed to (wearing heels I might add!) to collect the programmes and cast sheets set aside for the press. With this small but important errand checked off my list I dropped some chocolates off for the dancers in their corridor (because I'm nice like that!) and headed front of house to set up the media desk, which at Hull New Theatre means actually walking down the side of the stage to get to the door that leads to the auditorium.
Now have you ever wondered what happens on stage when the curtain is shut?
The answer is that when the Technical Team are not doing resets, etc, the dancers are using it to warm-up and stretch, and this takes place right up until mere moments before the curtain comes up.
While on tour, the dancers take class and rehearse on stage. They have a daily schedule on the stage door noticeboard which tells them what time class will take place that day and what rehearsals will be happening. They always spend some time rehearsing the show that they are there to perform and may also rehearse some other rep depending on what shows we have coming up. For example, this week at the theatre the Company have been rehearsing Cinderella and also pieces from our Mixed Programme which we will perform in London at the beginning of May. As a busy touring Company there's no resting on our laurels just because we're away from base!
After rehearsal has finished the dancers usually get a couple of hours before the show to relax and prepare, which they do in various ways. Some will listen to music or get some shut-eye in their dressing room, others spend time with the physio, some eat a light dinner in their dressing rooms, others like to go out for a bite, lots of the girls use the time to prepare their new pointe shoes, a never-ending task which involves sewing, bending, hammering and glueing them! The dancers all like to warm-up at different times too and in different ways. In Hull I saw a couple of our female dancers who had opted to spend some time on the exercise bike kept on the other side of the stage - this seems barmy to me given that they're about to dance for 2+ hours but then they are much fitter than I am! Generally though they will all visit the stage at some point to stretch with their hair and make-up done and wearing their warm-up clothes which include booties or socks for keeping their feet warm - very important to prevent injury and cramp!
After the performance the dancers head back to their dressing rooms pretty sharpish to change before heading off to their hotel. In fact, they are so quick that a lot of them have left before the audience has even managed to shuffle their way out of the auditorium! The Technical and Wardobe staff still have a lot to do though after the curtain goes down. The set needs checking, and resetting and wardrobe have to collect all of the costumes so that they can be washed and ready for the next day's show. The backstage area also needs tidying with props needing to be put back in their place and costumes collected from the quick change areas. Martha Leebolt performed the role of Cinderella in last night's show and I saw a pair of her shoes hanging out in the tech room after the show. Cinderella alone wears four different pairs of pointe shoes in just one show (2x sparkly, 2x plain) so it's important that everything gets rounded up and put back in place.
After a quick chat with David Nixon in the wings after the performance, it's back to the hotel to sleep before heading straight back to the theatre in the morning to start the process all over again. I too returned to the theatre, this time to meet up with Pippa Moore and take her to BBC Radio Humberside where she was interviewed by Peter Levy for his show (keep an eye on our Twitter and we'll let you know when you can hear that interview). Then it was back to the theatre for Pippa to take class and off to the train station for me so I could come back to Quarry Hill and write this blog for your enjoyment.
It's all in a day's work :-)
Click here to book tickets for Cinderella at Hull New Theatre or call the box office on 01482 300 300.