What’s an average working day like for a theatre technician?
It really depends on what we’re working on at the time. Shows always start with what we call a ‘get-in’, where the technical team bring in the set, lighting and sound equipment and build the show from scratch in the theatre. A get-in usually starts with rigging the lighting above the stage, and then the set and floor design can go in to the theatre. Whilst that’s going on we get the sound equipment ready, then focus the lighting depending on where the actors stand on the stage during different scenes. If we’re doing a get-in for a Hull Truck Theatre production this whole process can take a week, whereas a visiting production usually takes a day or two.
Of course, not every day involves building a show. We can be doing anything from maintaining lighting and sound equipment, to getting 150 candles ready for A Christmas Carol like we are the moment! It’s a really varied job and you have to be willing to get stuck in with everything.
What do you do to prepare for a show?
Before every show we check on the equipment to make sure everything's working, and check microphones or instruments that might be used. Then just before the audience are let into the auditorium we go into what we call ‘pre-show mode’. There might be a special lighting effect on stage and music might be playing as the audience come in.
The Deputy Stage Manager oversees the running of the show. They sit in on every rehearsal making notes on the script, so they know exactly when the director wants certain things to happen. Once the audience are sat down and ready, the Deputy Stage Manager tells the technicians to start the first lighting and sound queues. Everyone in the technical team has to work together to make sure that the show runs smoothly.
What skills do you need to be a theatre technician?
You have to be really well organised, a good problem solver and able to work as part of a team, sometimes with people you’ve only just met. You also have to be willing to work strange hours; sometimes we’re only here in the evenings to run the show, but if we’re doing a get-in we could be here from early in the morning until the early hours of the following day. And a head for heights is always handy!
What’s the best show you’ve ever worked on?
I’ve worked on hundreds and hundreds of shows; I work on almost every show we have here at Hull Truck Theatre. The best show I’ve worked on here was Our Mutual Friend, our Youth Theatre production earlier this year. I also do some freelance lighting design work. I’ve recently designed the lighting for a production of Pride and Prejudice that toured to China which was an amazing experience.
When you watch a show you haven’t worked on, do you spend the time figuring out how they’ve done things?
The curse of working in the theatre is that you can’t go and watch and show without thinking about how it’s all come together. I’ve always got one eye on the lights and one eye on the stage. The sign of a good show is when you don’t notice how any of the technical magic has happened.
Why do you love working in theatre?
Every day really is different, you meet so many lovely people and you get to see loads of fantastic shows.