What sparked your love of the arts and working in production?
I enjoyed going to the theatre as a child, it was a real treat. Theatres seem so grand when you’re young and were always so exciting. From walking into the theatre, to the show itself, and then leaving again. There was this excitement, the smell… everything about it, I really loved.
When I got into the RSAMD, I really enjoyed being part of the buzz, but the backstage side of it. The excitement and enjoyment were the same, but there was a shift in perspective. I enjoy being one of those little ninjas in the background that nobody really sees but makes the magic happen.
What made you decide to study at RSAMD?
The building was iconic. I remember when I was younger, we used to drive past it and I would see the students outside on the steps and I was like, “They look like such a cool bunch!”.
When I was at school, I wanted to be a set designer and that’s why I applied to the RSAMD. Mostly because at the time they had the carousel system, where you learn all the disciplines. It was close to home, which was nice, I didn’t want to go too far. It had a really good name for itself, ultimately, it had a really good reputation.
Although the course was called Stage Management Studies at the time I applied, it switched to Technical and Production Arts* while I was there, and I knew I would be getting a varied experience.
How did your time at RSAMD prepare you for the world of work?
I’ve always said that the three years I spent at RSAMD really built a solid foundation. It didn’t give me a house to live in, but it gave me the foundations to be able to build whatever I wanted upon. So, the work ethic and the skills that we were given were a great starting point.
From there, I went off into the world and got as much experience as I could. But with that base knowledge, that’s the best way that I can describe it, it was a really strong foundation from there that I built the house that I would live in.
Describe a typical day
At Cabaret, we come in and do a rig check where we move all our automated equipment to ensure everything is operational, nothing is acting up, making a strange noise or anything like that. We do this three hours before the show to allow ourselves time to fix anything. Then we pre-set for the show, grab a quick bite to eat then we’re ready for show time.
We also do most of our offset at the end of the show rather than waiting to do it the next day. Maintenance day is every other Friday unless, of course, there’s any emergency maintenance that needs to be done in between those times. Obviously, things change quite dramatically when we get into new cast integration. Days are much longer and there is more work to be done during these times, which for a team of two, can be quite difficult to navigate.
Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to make sure the show integrity is maintained. Obviously, my primary concern is the safety of the cast and crew, from all the moving elements that we have. And basically, I make sure the show goes ahead, everyone is safe, everybody is aware of everything at all times. Off the back of that, the day-to-day stuff – scheduled maintenance, emergency maintenance, running maintenance. Making sure all our equipment is up to par. There’s that safety aspect as well. Maintaining the equipment and making sure the show runs smoothly, essentially.
At the Royal Albert Hall, there’s not really a “typical day” but for the most part there are day duty shifts, where we start at 7am or night duty where we start at 5pm. When we have bigger shows coming in for longer sit-downs, then the shifts get a bit longer and there’s sometimes a full overnight shift. During these times we can be setting up or striking for an orchestra on-stage, an awards show set, driving the motor board for all the chain hoists in the roof, or anything in between. There is much more variety in this role, and it continues to keep me challenged.
What have been some of your career highlights?
I did two creations for Italian Theatre director Franco Dragone. Those were resident shows. I did the House of Dancing Water at Macau in China. And I did La Pearle in Dubai.
I worked on a couple of cruise lines at the start of my career when I was young and could do that sort of thing. I was Head of Automation for Cirque du Soleil until June 2020; it was a real achievement and I’m very proud of that time.
I’m kind of glad that I don’t have to tour all the time, as it takes it out of you. Especially big top tours, there’s a lot going on and it’s a lot of work. I do miss elements of it, but I’m happy to be settled down, doing a ‘normal’ job now. Those are some of the highlights, I’d say – being able to travel the world and do a job you love.
Any final points or words of wisdom?
Don’t put too much emphasis on what you think you want to do. Go out, find work, and get experience. See the world. The right thing and the right job will come to you at the right time.
I’ve changed career choice. I wanted to be a set designer, and then I was an electrician, a special effects technician, and automation. At some point, I’ll move away from that probably. Just get out there and do stuff. You’ll find what you want to do eventually.
It’s hard work. But if you want to be the makers of the magic, the team that brings it to life, then go for it. Just do it.
*Technical and Production Arts is now split between RCS programmes BA Production Arts & Design and BA Production Technology & Management