Sunday, 30 January 2011

Copy that!

In my 20 plus years working in this industry I have mostly worked in theatre. So when I first worked for Phil Mcintyre Entertainment who predominantly play large arenas, I wasn't used to their way of working. They operate very much like rock n roll gigs. Indeed most of the crew are from that world so they are thrown when they suddenly find themselves surrounded by sparkly frocks and lots of female crew (wardrobe and hair & make-up).

In theatre there is usually a tanoy system. people are called over the speakers and you can hear the show over it. In rock n roll you don't have that. Often you can hear the show it is so loud but we do carry radios. 
It occurred to me recently when I heard another rock n roll slang term that maybe I should share some of them with you.

The conversation the other day involved somebody being called on the radio, the reply was that they were in the echo chamber and would be out soon. The echo chamber it turns out is the toilet!

The venue is referred to as The House, the area where we have our quick change booths is Quick change village and the carpenters hang out in Chippy world. 

The video and camera guys are known affectionatly as Videots. The head of each department is The Chief and the artists are The Talent.

If you are seen wearing your laminated AAA pass outside of the venue it is known as laminate crime. 

We travel mostly on a sleeper bus, this has 16 bunks a small lounge upstairs, chairs and tables for 8 downstairs. a small kitchen and a toilet. When we have finished a load out, had a shower in the venue and everyone is on we tell our driver, "we are a bus" and off we go to the next city.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Opening in Nottingham

We have just loaded into our second venue of the tour and I have a quiet moment to tell you all about the last week.
On Monday morning we filled the flight-cases with the equipment and the costumes that we had received so far. The truck driver arrived, we loaded the cases on to the truck then headed off to St Pancras station to catch the train to Nottingham, our first venue.
I love the city of Nottingham, nice vintage shops. The venue however is one of my least favourite. Purely the physical structure of it.  It is an ice rink and not built for our purpose really. The room which is used for wardrobe is a changing room, it has bad lighting, is a very odd shape and has fixed benches along the walls. This makes it difficult to put our flight-cases and rails anywhere. We tend to put the cases in the large adjoining shower room. This can be hazardous because if the cases hit the walls the showers come on!
The room is also far away from the stage, so if there is an emergency on stage and something is needed from wardrobe it is a long way to run. We have a sewing kit and various spares back-stage but you can guarantee the one thing you need is the one thing you haven't anticipated. 
There is also no phone or internet reception at that end of the building, tricky when you are opening a show and need to talk constantly to suppliers etc. So last week was a challenge. One thing Nottingham has in it's favour though is the local staff are lovely and having toured there many times it's always nice to see the their friendly faces. 

So having arrived in nottingham we checked in to the hotel then made our  way to the venue. The truck had been and gone and the local crew had deposited our cases outside of wardrobe. We spent a couple of hours unpacking our kit and arranging the room. Later in the week we would be having some more help in the shape of the designer, the supervisor and three sewing assistants, so we needed to make the most of the space we had. 

At the venue we met up with the rest of the crew, many of which have done all the Strictly tours so there was lots of catching up to do. Quite a few new faces as well so more names to learn. The following day we continued to unpack, restock the habadashary and laundry products and set up the quick change areas.
On Wednesday the designer Vicky and supervisor Nicola arrived with the rest of the costumes.  Vicky is a freelance designer but works very closely with a company called DSI who made most of the costumes for this years tour. Their range of costumes and products is amazing and you can see many of the Strictly dancers modelling on their website

DSI Group

Vicky and Nicola gave a great interview for the Arenas website.

Sorry for the rushed post and lack of pictures, things have been hectic. I plan to be snapping away soon though.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Fittings & happy feet

It is the first week of january and the first proper week of work for the Strictly come dancing 2011 tour. I had a few meetings in December and a couple of days going through what is in storage but it was just the odd day in-between other jobs. 
We had first fittings with all the dancers at the rehearsal rooms. DSI are the company who are making most of the costumes for the tour. They have made costumes for almost everyone before either on the TV show or previous tours and know their body shapes intimately. So thankfully on the whole the fittings went very well.
This was also my first chance to meet this years celebrities. Everyone seemed very nice, excited about the tour and more importantly happy with their costumes. 

Mind you i haven't met Anne Widdecombe yet as she wasn't available for rehearsals!

One of the biggest headaches with Strictly is the shoes. For those fresh off the TV show we know what sizes and styles work best but for those who haven't danced for a while it can be a problem. The shoes are made in several styles, have several heel heights, widths, fabrics and colours. They will stretch with wear and most dancers will get through a couple of pairs a tour. So getting the right combination can be difficult, not to mention expensive. 

With the first fittings done the costumes are whisked back to DSI and worked on further. Then whatever is finished by Monday morning is sent over to me to pack in the flight cases for delivery to our first venue.  The rest will arrive with our designer on Tuesday. Then the fun really begins ...

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Goodbye to home once again

A rather self indulgent post here but as I packed my case today and get nearer the point of hitting the road again, I get to feeling all homely and nesty (is that a word?) 
So among the obvious things that I will miss like my fella, my own bed and having my whole wardrobe at my disposal not just one suitcase of clothing. Is the extraordinary flower bed near my home.

I nicknamed her Nessie, unimaginative but fitting I'm sure you will agree. She appeared last spring and has brought me such pleasure, I smile at every daily sighting. 
She started off as the above picture. Once the rest of her bedding plants were planted they grew in waves of blue and white.

She looked so majestic and caught every ones attention.
Sadly she was vandalized one night but the Southwark gardening team brought her back not just to her former glory but she had grown.

Nessie took the December snowfall in her stride, or should that be stroke? Whichever it is she continued to make me smile.

Sadly she had taken a knock again on Friday but I know the marvelous Southwark team will resurrect her and as i get home exhausted at the end of this years Strictly come dancing tour, she will greet me and make me so glad to be home.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Another brief sojourn at The Old Vic

Being freelance can be quite hairy at times, you can't totally enjoy any time you have off because you are constantly worried about the next few months work. Often though just as you think it's time to jack it all in and get a proper job something falls in your lap. this is what happened to me this Autumn. I had turned two dressing jobs down as it would mean working over Christmas and as this was my first Christmas with the Fella I really wanted the time off. The pay for dressing is really quite poor too, a lot of dressers have a second income. How lovely it would be to have the strong union and respect that America has. Wardrobe are generally the lowest paid department on any production but that subject is for another day.

So it was Late Autumn and although I had work lined up for January I had nothing else in the meantime. Then as per usual it was feast or famine. I was offered the work with English national Ballet that I blogged about  previously, then a call checking my availability for two weeks work on Lord of the dance but it was at the same time as the Ballet. Then a call asking if I could assist the costume supervisor on a new production at The Old Vic. 

It was just 3 days work on an hourly rate but it fitted in perfectly and I got to see my old friends in the wardrobe department there. Not to mention 2 tickets to a preview.

Usually during technical rehearsals I am backstage or in the wardrobe running around like a mad thing with a million jobs in my head to do and a deadline to have them done by. For once I was able to sit in the stalls for a while and watch other people doing crazy chicken impressions. 

My job did still involve a fair amount of running though, as that is what I was really. Once the technical rehearsals had started the Supervisor had to be in the auditorium with the designer taking notes and addressing problems as they arose. I was despatched back and forth to the West end for needed items. 
I visited several haberdashery shops for specific types of braids and fastenings. A button hook was needed ASAP for fastening the tiny buttons on ladies period boots. I improvised and got a cheap dentist kit until proper hooks would arrive in the post. 

Picture from
One of the oddest requests was for mens pants with a padded bottom! For these i went to Old Compton Street in Soho. I got a strange look in the first shop but the second shop was a success. 

The pants were needed for an actor who is repeatedly kicked in the rear during the play (didn't I mention it's a French farce?) Unfortunately the garment was rejected and another solution found but here are the pants with one of the pads poking out.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a runner, the snow had hit and the shops and streets were pretty empty. My only panic was racing from Oxford Street to the Aldwych in ten minutes as I thought the shoe repairers closed at 5pm but in fact they closed at 7pm. I think I had more exercise in those 3 days than I had in the last 3 months. It was such a change for me to be out and about instead of entering a building in the dark then leaving it 12 hours later in the same darkness having barely passed a window. I wouldn't normally moan as much as this but I have just heard that one of the reasons striking tube drivers believe they deserve more pay is due to spending so much time in the dark. Silly me though theatre people are in it for the love of their art though aren't they? Still a regular quote used amongst rock and roll crews is
 " you pick your gig"

So to finish on a lighter note, a picture of a hat hired but sadly rejected from the production supplied by the fabulous Cosprop costume hire.