I was lucky enough to be invited to the Theatre Royal Plymouth for the day along with 4 other bloggers to have a tour of the theatre and to learn more about what goes on there. This could lead to future blogs in partnership with the Theatre Royal, so look out for those soon!
I arrived at Stage Door to be greeted by Becca (PR Officer), and then myself and the other bloggers were taken on a backstage tour by a very helpful and informative man named Mark. He took us into the wings and onto the stage, and let me press a button to raise the safety curtain, which was rather exciting! We then walked up several flights of stairs to the part of the wings where all of the ropes which control the scenery are kept, and had a bird’s eye view of the stage. Mark explained how the set changes happen (by heavy ropes being pulled!), and educated us about the different challenges involved with settling each touring production into the theatre.
A particularly interesting piece of information was that there is still a hole in the roof caused by the chandelier from the first time that The Phantom of the Opera played there! We climbed even more stairs and reached the very top of the building, from which there was another terrifying bird’s eye view of the stage and auditorium.
We came downstairs after that and went into the band pit, which I was hugely excited about!
We walked through a maze of endless corridors in which the walls were adorned with production photos from every show that has ever been performed at the Theatre Royal. Next we went into the Drum Theatre and in the control room, and saw some visual programming going on. We briefly saw some children from the Young Company rehearsing a piece to be performed next week, which was a great insight into how the Theatre Royal interacts with people of all ages in the local community.
Shrek the Musical is currently playing at the Theatre Royal, so we got to go backstage and see the cast doing rehearsals for the understudies. First of all we watched the run of the show from the wings, and chatted to a few cast members (who were all lovely!). Most of the second covers were playing the lead roles, but we all agreed that they were just as good at portraying the characters as the actors who normally perform. It was fascinating to watch the stage crew and stage managers rushing around trying to get props on and off stage, while the cast always had to be ready for their next entrance. I was also blown away by the talent and memories of the swings, who were all performing in random ensemble roles due to the usual actors playing the leads.
We soon moved into the auditorium to get a better view (and probably to get out of the way of the backstage crew!). The show ran very smoothly, and it was accompanied by the assistant musical director on a keyboard rather than with the whole band. Half way through the run of act 1, the song I Know It’s Today began, but there was no Young Fiona… so the company managers started singing her part and I joined in. They then stopped singing, and I continued, meaning that I was shakily singing the first verse on my own in Theatre Royal Plymouth in front of the cast of Shrek the Musical. How did that happen?! Once the run of act 1 finished we went backstage and chatted to a few of the cast members, and then we were allowed to look at the many costumes in ‘wardrobe village’. Seeing all of the props and costumes really made me realise how many different elements come together to create a large scale production such as Shrek.
The bloggers’ day was absolutely amazing – I got to experience so many new things within the theatre, and learned a lot about how productions are put on at regional theatres. The cover rehearsal felt like a private show for us, especially due to the high standard to which the understudies and swings performed. I’d like to thank Becca and the team at Theatre Royal Plymouth for hosting this amazingly insightful day!