What a Scorcher………….!
South Manchester Helen O'Grady
I’ll say it again……… what an absolute scorcher in more ways than one! On what was probably the hottest day of the century here in South Manchester we battled through the heatwave and put on a great show. The comment of the week backstage was that we could have scrambled eggs on the lighting packs side of stage and it was true. The weather outside was in the 30’s which meant that the heat inside must have been close to the 40’s. Even so, the excellent performances of everyone concerned failed to disappoint and everyone seemed to go away proud of their efforts and achievements.
The weekend started on Thursday with the loading of the van. The sun shone very brightly and the effort required was affected by the heat. I have to admit that we ordered a long wheelbased transit but were actually given a humungous luton box van which looked so cavernous I thought we would struggle to fill it. With assistance of others, we actually managed to fill it to capacity and took a quick photograph when we had loaded about half of the equipment we had designated for going to the theatre. A quick meeting was held and it was decided that we would plan the packing better for the reverse trip after the show.
The show was held at Wellacre College in Flixton. The stage is a big stage with the opportunity to have rostra out front to increase the size. The hall is also large to accommodate a good audience but it is up a flight of stairs. Not quite as bad as the Bolton Albert Halls which is up about 3 flights of stairs if any of you have been there but upstairs nevertheless. It was obvious it was going to be very warm but we found two industrial air fans and blew some air to circulate around the auditorium. In the end, it was quite pleasant.
The scenery was erected and stored. The lighting courtesy of Eric Lane was erected and focused and the new sound equipment was installed and tested. All appeared to be working successfully. Then, as often happens in these school environments, it was all put away again as the school was open on the Friday. The costumes, courtesy of our own stock and some newly made by Barbara Haslam were also a triumph. They were simple yet effective and looked very colourful in the show lighting.
A relaxing Thursday evening then made way for three full days of effort. We managed to get into Wellacre at 3pm on the Friday so everything was already set up before the first students came to their technical rehearsal. Then the crowds of parents, grand-parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles descended into the hall. The pressure rose, as did the temperature. Gallons of water was dispensed to the performers who were fantastic in the heat. The hall was hot but backstage was even hotter. In the end we resorted to turning the big industrial fans on for a few minutes at the end of each session just to provide a little bit of relief. We also sourced 7 table fans which we blew through the lighting packs to keep them cool. The performance shots were captured by our good friend Doug Stenhouse from Funkyfoto. Click the link to visit his website.
In spite of the heat, the shows were a triumph for the performers, the teachers and the Academy. Throughout the weekend I was impressed by some of the excellent acting and drama of the children. Their effort at their acting classes and drama classes obviously had paid dividends. One stand out performance was in a Cleanest Town in Texas showpiece. As I was on the sound, I was following the script in order to play the sound effects at the appropriate point. I became aware of one class who lost their way slightly as they had departed somewhat from the written script. I looked up and saw the slightly lost look that every actor recognises when no-one knows the next line. Up stepped this young man playing one of the roles. It was obvious that he decided to ad lib enough to get the rest of the cast back on script. It was so good that when I congratulated him after the show, his mum and dad didn’t even realise that anything had gone wrong and certainly didn’t realise that their son was the one who put the wheel back on. Well done matey!
Also during the weekend the new show, Rent-A-Crowd, was a great success. I think it was my favourite because it was a “bit off the wall” comedy performance by those involved. They understood the jokes and performed them with great relish. The costumes were so simple yet extremely colourful. It was another triumph foreverybody involved. Congratulations.
The Friday evening show whizzed by an early start for the Saturday matinee immediately into the Saturday evening followed by another early start for the Sunday matinee. There then followed the warmest ever get out of a show in living memory followed by a quick bite to eat and drink in the Roebuck Pub for all the staff and helpers.
So the performance week end has finished. It was so good to see Gill and Ron Hollis return to help out with the organisation at the show and long may they continue to do so. Thank you to everyone who put so much effort into the show. There are so many to mention. You all have so much to be very proud of.