Tales from Touring - Southampton
Incidentally, Southampton is a 4½ hour train journey away from York and seemingly has very poor phone signal along the whole route so I had little choice but to get ahead with reading Dracula in preparation for our autumn season and catching up on work emails whenever we pulled into a station and I was able to connect for 2 minutes! By the time I arrived in Southampton it was already 3.30pm and the tech rehearsal was well underway.
A tech rehearsal is when we do a full run through of the performance with the full cast, sinfonia, lighting, sets, etc but without costume. This normally takes place in the afternoon before our first performance to make sure that everything has been installed correctly and is running smoothly and also so that the dancers can get a feel for the stage and the space which is different at every theatre. Sometimes the tech rehearsal is upgraded to a full dress rehearsal if the production is new and the dancers haven't performed with the costumes yet, or if we need to get photos of the production, as I'm sure the audience wouldn't appreciate photographers clambering for the best shot during a real performance!
Luckily for me I ran into a member of our tech team almost as soon as I'd arrived at the stage door and thank goodness I did, the backstage area of the Mayflower is more of a rabbit warren than any of the other theatres I've been to so far! He delivered me to the auditorium where I could watch the end of the rehearsal and take a few snaps. The cast seemed to be in great spirits and all went well apart from one stomach-churning moment when I thought Martha was going to fall on her head after a very enthusiastic overhead lift with Toby where they achieved the position but Martha's momentum just kept her on going! Luckily she was in safe hands with Toby who moved quickly backwards to stop her going over and safely brought her down.
Once the tech rehearsal was over, the cast were released for a break except for Martha and Toby who stayed behind to take the opportunity to rehearse a pas de deux from The Great Gatsby which they would be performing at a private event on Saturday night.
Once the action on stage was over, I headed backstage into the rabbit warren again and this time I did get lost. I'm always a little hesitant when I don't know the way in case I end up walking into someone's dressing room by mistake! I made it though and bumped into our Stage Manager who gladly took responsibility for the obligatory supplies of Haribo Tangfastics and Maom sticks that I'd brought for the cast and crew. I did a quick reccy of the rest of the backstage area and located the Company Office so I wouldn't have to trek the corridors in my press night heels looking for it later.
Of course as I can't bear to tear myself away from the theatre whilst there's activity going on I'd only given myself 45 minutes at the hotel to undo the damage that a 6 hour (door to door) journey had done and then it was straight back to the theatre.
The first performance was on Wednesday night and we had around 10 members of the press attending, none of whom had seen Northern Ballet perform before but everyone was excited and looking forward to the show. And they were not let down (as if there was any doubt!). Loud applause and laughter echoed around the Mayflower's grand auditorium and during the intervals the press were full of compliments and already anticipating our return next year with Wuthering Heights.
The evening ended with a standing ovation from the audience and as the curtain went down, I dashed backstage to change into some sensible shoes for the walk back to the hotel and to say goodbye to the dancers. After a few hugs at the stage door, it was back to the hotel, a cheeky glass of wine and bed before an early train back home to Yorkshire.
By all accounts the rest of the run at the Mayflower was a great success and marked the end of our tour and my last 'Tales from Touring' blog for the season. But never fear, I'll continue to share insider insights as the Company rehearses for our Mixed Programme which opens in Leeds on 18 June.