Black Gang – A view from Backstage
When you come to our pantomime and see all our acting members walking, singing and dancing around the stage, you may not be aware of that there is other pantomime world that exists in the darkness, shadows and mists of backstage.
(Also apologies for any shots a bit blurred….its was s bit dark back there!!!)
Backstage is where magic is put to work to ensure that: mists are generated; flashes flash; wands and buckets are made ready for action; the building or rooms or forests that you see, appear and disappear; light is coloured; costumes are fluffed up and fastened; makeup helps peoples faces become evil or good and all those on stage always get to look their very best.
All this work starts long before you can come and see us. Even before the acting members are busy rehearsing their lines, a few important people start to organise and order the costumes, the sets, the electrical items, programmes and all those others bits and pieces needed to make the whole event come alive in front of your eyes.
Then at the appointed time, usually a cold and damp Friday morning in January, the backstage teams start to arrive to unload the lorries and move the production into the theatre.
They remove the orchestra pit covers and start to lay the floor…..
LX start to hang and focus lights……
and the floor continues to get laid……
The correct bars and tracks get installed from which will hang the cloths, which act as the backdrop to the scenes, and all that before having a break of a welcoming cup of tea or coffee!!
…..and the floor is almost done.
Then it’s back to building sets, threading sash cord through tracks, hanging the cloths,
hanging more lamps, sorting out the piles of costumes and the props.
During this period LX are checking their cues and the lighting of the scenes is being checked and adjusted, sounds are heard for the first time and the radio and fixed mics are being adjusted.
Then we get to the technical rehearsal, where the Black Gang have to identify the bits of scenery and the flats, place them on the stage then move them and move them again, then when the producer is happy, the important process of marking the corners with coloured tape starts. This is important, as we use these tape markers to accurately place the scenes in the right place in all the changes. Then on to the next scene and the next. Perhaps bits won’t fit and they head for the “dead” pile.
A bit later, a full dress rehearsal is held and the whole show is run through and scene changes are tested and we find out how much time we have to do scene changes. Phrases are heard like “we’ll never get that done in that time” and “didn’t know about that” and “which bit do we need now” and “what colour tape are we putting this on” and so it goes on and on……till we get to the end.
A full dress rehearsal and something’s a miss…..
……or the elastic is missing, back to the wardrobe!
Everything gets tested…..its snowing in the theatre
We’ve made it to the end of the dress rehearsal, tomorrow’s the first performance.
On the first performance, the music starts, everyone’s nervous, but it goes well with the audience are laughing at the jokes, and clapping the chorus and dancers and in time with the music. We get to the end with no major problems and having reset the stage, we retire to the Brewhouse bar and a well earned drink by Garry the stage manager. Thanks Garry! Then we do a bit of chatting about how to improve the odd change and the older members discuss how this show stands against shows of years past.
A couple more days and it’s running like clock work. Those tight changes have vanished and we have time to joke and have a bit of fun with the cast and others backstage. Not that the audience will know.
Strange customs and traditions start to take over the run. Our first matinee and doughnuts appear in the “Green Room” for the black gang, good selection this year with different fillings! Every matinee and more doughnuts arrive. Needed to keep the team happy. The Curry night list goes up and names soon appear. On the curry night, after the show those going, are off to the Indian restaurant.
All too soon we reach the end of the run and it’s time to take it all apart, lift the floor, take down the lights, put all the scenery on the back of the lorries. We take it all out in two and half hours, remarkable! Then it’s another choice, off to bed or on to the after show party.
So that’s another year gone. Are you interested in joining us? Not everyone wants to enjoy the lights and the action on stage, some of us like to hide in the shadows and are happy to just hear the audience enjoy the show. You do! Are you over 16? You are, then send us your details and we’ll ensure you can help us with the next show and may get to enjoy one of those doughnuts.