I often get asked what made me want to work in theatre and for me, it is the magic of the stage. From the audience perspective normally you will have seen some form of marketing surrounding the show and decided to book tickets. You arrive at the theatre and take your seat and are whisked away for a few hours to a place where your own troubles don’t exist. There is nothing better than that.
What I particularly love about the theatre though is what it takes to make that experience. Going all the way back to the concept and then all the work that goes into writing, directing, producing the show. The hours and hours of rehearsals not only for the cast but the technical staff. Then you have the theatre and all the staff it has taken to market, sell tickets, manage the front of house experience. All of those elements and so many more go into making that perfect night for the audience.
Working for a theatre can make you take it for granted. I remember going to see the original production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium with Michael Ball. I was completely captivated by how they made the car fly across the theatre. Years later when the show came on tour I had my chance to sit in the car and fly. I remembered back to how I wanted to know how the car worked and yet when I saw the brilliance of the most expensive piece of set ever created I discovered I would have prefered never to have found out as it took away the magic for me.
I remember seeing one production 17 times whilst working as part of the front of house team and I know many staff in London theatres will have seen shows hundreds if not thousands of times. From an actors perspective it can be very very repetitive if you don’t continue to push yourself, care about your own performance and what you are delivering to an audience. Some of our greatest performers get very, very angry at seeing other actors ‘calling in a performance’ which means just turning up and going through the motions on auto-pilot. There is nothing worse than turning up to a show and the performance being completely flat and uninspired. I have seen shows back to back nights and had a completely different experience. Tiredness and audience response makes a massive difference but I think everyone sadly will have been to a show and understand the experience I am writing about.
I have stood by the side of the stage and seen casts who have been doing a show for over sixth months embrace each other every single night and wish each other well. Every single night each actor took the time to focus on giving their best performance. Sadly I have also seen casts who literally moan about having to go and do the performance seconds before curtain up. Of course being a performer is a job like any other and on a day to day level most people complain about their job no matter what they do. However; in this industry there are thousands of people who would die to get the chance of just performing once in a production. Keeping our standards high and ensuring we never lose track of why we started in the first place is all important.
From personal experience of performing or writing I am inspired at every concert by those incredible people who have bought tickets to allow us to perform and do what we truly love. To quote someone who inspired me the great tenor Mario Lanza ‘You should sing every song like it was your last on earth’