Category Archive: Picture Us Wasted

A day in the life of a WASTED CSM on tour – on caffeine.

A blog by Harriet Stewart – Company Stage Manager on WASTED

7am. The day starts with a rather invigorating shock that my bedside alarm is actually going off. It feels like 20 minutes since I set it. Stage management are always the first to arrive, last to leave, so the early start is very usual, and yet so is the shock. Whether at home, or in a Travelodge – the day always begins with tea – Caffeine Hit Number 1.

8am. After a shower and quick breakfast, its onward to the venue. Having our fantastic producer, Hanna, with me on tour, is a huge support and I can rely on her for the morning van run, feeling as bleary eyed as me! I can rely on her too for joining me in Caffeine Hit Number 2.

10am. Arrive at venue. Engine off, and it’s a speedy van-unload, helped by any venue techs I have working with me that day. (Hopefully 2. On good days: 3; bad days: 1;  and days we don’t want to talk about: 0)

10.15-10.30am. Recce the venue, talk to the tech manager about how we are going to set the show up, and what the plan for the day shall be.

The challenge, and an interesting part of a small-scale tour such as WASTED, is taking the show to a huge variety of spaces, from 600-seater venues with a traditional proscenium arch, to a shop front, literally, with 4 lights on a stand and a domestic electrical set up which won’t manage all our equipment. Every venue can create a different challenge – sometimes, trying to work out how the set will fit in, I have the Crypton Factor theme tune in my head. Seriously.

It means the show and company have to be adaptable and I have to be able to think on my feet and problem-solve each day, to get the show up and looking at its absolute best.

Coffee anyone? Caffeine Hit Number 3.

10.45am.Then it’s straight on to the dance floor. No, I’m not throwing shapes – that comes later. It’s the first part of the set to be laid. Followed by: the rest of the set, rigging the projector, getting the av working, and running in our own sound desk and equipment, and our extra set-lights. All being well, and problem free, I have time to stop and have a bite to eat for lunch.

             

1pm. Plonk myself down with Hanna who is hard at work at her laptop in the venue cafe, or dressing room if no such thing exists! After munching and distracting her from her work its back into the theatre to start on the lighting – with coffee number 3, Caffeine Hit Number 4 in hand.

2pm. Each venue pre-rigs our lighting plan, so when I get to the venue all I need to do is focus the lights, then do checks. A focus can take anything from an hour (if you’re lucky), to 2 and half hours. And this is where the chocolate comes in… and possibly, dare I say, Coffee 4 Caffeine Hit Number 5.

            

4pm. If everything is on schedule, I’ll have a couple of hours to finish little jobs off – running sound checks, lighting checks, setting props, ironing costume, tidying up, re-painting parts of the set, making props, etc. … the list is long.

6pm. The cast arrive: often a welcome sight. Time to run a cue to cue on stage – giving me a chance to check all the lighting states are working as they should be and everything is lit well enough. The cast walk each scene – stopping when I need them to. As venues and the lights used can be so different, this often involves a lot of tweaking and updating states, adding in light where needed.

6.15pm. I run a microphone check with the cast – and afterwards, we run the first part of the show purely for sound purposes, so I can make sure the levels are all correct – its also a good opportunity for the actors to run lines, get focussed, clear any, hmmm, hang-overs.

6.50pm. If I’m lucky, I may have a snack and sit down before we get to the half – but more often than not there are little bits to be done. By this time I’m off the coffee and moved onto the harder stuff: coke (diet) – if things are bad, it may even be a red bull – Caffeine Hit Numbers 6, 7 and 8.

    

7.10pm. The cast and I vacate the stage area and auditorium around 15 mins before the show for the house to open.


7.20pm. Dressing room. Essential group hug.

7.20pm 45secs.  Yes that was a 45 second hug. And now it’s time to leave the actors at the 5 with the fond farewell, “See you on the other side” and get into position in my control area.

7.30pm. I love this show and never get bored of watching the performance, and cueing it is always fun – I operate the sound and av and the microphones live during the show and I cue the lighting to the lx op.

         

8.30pm. Once the show has finished, its to the bar… but only for one and a quick 15 min sit down! The last small job of the day is still to come… the get out. Luckily, our get outs are all hands on deck, so the team can be 7 or 8 strong with all the company getting involved – we are now a well oiled machine and our record get out time is 50 minutes including the van pack – the giant game of Jenga!

         

         

10pm. Van packed, drinks done, final checks to make sure nothing from WASTED is left behind, and its back in the fun bus and off to the pub… or dance floor… or hotel… or next town… or sometimes, if we’re lucky, home.

**All times are subject to change and are made at CSM’s discretion.

Picture Us Paines-takingly WASTED.

After last week’s Halfway Red Herring, it’s time to let you in on all the goss of not the last one, but two weeks of this rather splendid WASTED tour.

Week Four of the WASTED Five Tour. The Shop Front Theatre in Coventry, the Hat Factory in Luton, Phoenix Arts Centre in Hampshire and the Firestation in Windsor.

Then week Five and we were storming The Albany in Deptford, Arts Centre Washington and the Astor Theatre in Deal.

Whichever theatre we were at, you could count on some pre-show regularities: Harriet hard at work setting everything up, the cast chilling out and running lines, Hanna hard at it between meetings and working on her laptop, and the occasional bromance.

However, as the tour continues, it seems catching forty winks these past two weeks has also become a familiar pre-show preparation..

Halfway through the tour, it seems poignant to moot on various ‘Number One’ best moments: the ‘Number One’ best sandwich ever. Bread, ham. No mucking about. Thanks Tescos. Thanks Hanna; 2. The ‘Number One’ embarrassing moment: heading up to a group of kids straight after a show while still sat in their seats, and engaging them in conversation, before realising this was not the group of kids we’d been asked to chat to. Thanks Hanna; 3. Number One inspiring moment: chatting to the right group of kids and hearing their really incisive and enthusiastic thoughts on the show; 4. ‘Number One’ post- show tipple: Jagerbomb; 5. ‘Number One’ place to stay on the road: Travelodge; 6. Cary having a ‘number one’ in the bushes.

No, this isn’t a Stef O’Driscoll Best Moments, but when we got to Deptford, Kwake Bass was back to perform live with us, which he did from up on the balcony and it sounded amazing. And as we were also performing the show in the Thrust (3 sides) because we had packed out the place! we needed to tech and rehearse the show during the day; and fortunately Stef, Champion A.D, was able to step in. Bernd was also on hand to help with attending to the new space, and along with Harriet and Stef discussing and solving much, it made for a great show. I caught a snap of the empty seats before they quickly filled. The night was massive. Huge standing ovation. Incredible buzz. We came off stage and just wanted to go straight back out. Instead, we headed to the pub where this play is set and where we rehearsed the first day, and enjoyed some down-time.

Before we sign off for this blog, Harriet has also begun bringing her camera out on tour, and has been taking some beautiful pics. Next week, Harriet shall be posting a blog of her own with some of her photos. Until then, here are a few moments she’s captured in the dressing room during the half.

PS: some thoughts to leave you with till next week: getting size envy when faced with Windsor’s very own Fun Bus. The fact that it did not stop raining the entire time we were in Newcastle. Kate Tempest’s new book is incredible and everyone should buy it. Hanna smiles for the camera, come rain or shine. I should really take more photos whilst on tour for this blog or we may have to resort to drawing our escapades.

I post this as we come to the end of a week’s break. But now we head to Canterbury, and James’ hometown of Folkestone. Look forward to seeing you there!

Picture us even more WASTED

So it’s week three of the WASTED company, tearing it up all over the country. If life was a game of Dominoes and cities were pieces, we knocked down two last week, sixteen more till this brilliant tour ceases. (Now go back one more time, cos that opening needs to be spoken in rhyme.)

Here’s a round up of last week’s adventures on the road…

First up Watford Palace, which we were able to commute from London, so we all hopped on the train. Though not the blue choo-choo that Cary found himself on at the end of last week. Then it was back in Tour Van Number Two, with Harriet up front in the cockpit, flying up to the Milton Rooms in Malton, Yorkshire.

Arriving at 4pm at the Palace, as sure as clockwork, Harriet was hard at work setting up the space; and what a space it was. Really lovely traditional theatre and certainly the largest on the tour so far, and I think the largest overall too. We’d all had a couple days off and were back for Tuesday the 3rd. No time for that Monday morning ease back into work kinda’ vibe though. We had to be on it. It was a busy few hours before the show went up, and huge thanks and respect must go to Harriet for managing it all. It was also our first show of the tour with Kwake performing live with us. It was excellent to see him again. He was straight away working through the cues and the levels, and in no time at all, was banging out some wicked tunes and music for us. The show had a real buzz and energy to it, and we had a brilliant audience who gave us lots of laughs! The night also saw James and the rest of the PP team return to watch it, and just as last week with Kate in the audience, it was very special to be able to show them how the play was moving on with quite a few performances under its belt.

The next day, the WASTED Five (Harriet, Hanna, Cary, Lizzy and myself) all hopped on board the Funbus up to Yorkshire. Mixing business and pleasure, we both worked on the blog and played what has become a staple diet and necessity of the tour: ‘Bop It’. If you haven’t played it, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s a 5yrs-and-up game, that we bought from a kid’s toy shop. If you have played it, then yes, you will know that it is a 5yrs-and-up game, that can be bought from any good kid’s toy shop, but it’s also so much more. It’s a test of nerve, precision and rhythm. And a great way to wile away the road hours.

We arrived in Malton pretty late, and we were all pretty knackered; be it from driving (Harriet) or bopping (the others), but when we turned into the driveway and witnessed before us where we would be staying for the night, we couldn’t believe it. The place was a castle. Beautiful and imposing. Any thoughts of knocking it on the head early and calling it a night vanished. Bags down in our luxurious rooms, we headed to the bar of The Old Lodge. Welcoming staff, a warm cosy pub atmosphere, lots of red wine and guinness was sipped. Last week, you might remember that Hanna threw down the glove and challenged us to some boardgame action. Well, it just so happened this place was stacked high with them. First we played a game called ‘Smart Ass’. Next we played ‘Chairs’, a version of Jenga, except with…chairs. Miniature plastic chairs. It was pretty nail biting stuff. And sure enough, who won? Yep…not Hanna, unfortunately. In fact, I thought I would chart, photographically, the progress Hanna’s piece made in Smart Ass. You see that photo below on the ‘start’? That was it.

The next day we walked the 5 minute journey to the Milton Rooms, where we were met by one of its Artistic Directors, Nick. What a lovely reception he gave us, truly welcoming. It set the tone for the entire day. It was a great show, so many people of all different ages came out to see it, and everyone had such great things to say afterwards. The Milton Rooms team helped us strike the set afterwards, but not before making sure we were set up with cheese and wine and beers and fruit in our dressing room! Brilliant. It was then all back to The Old Lodge to share in a couple of rounds before hitting the hay. We were in fact meant to have been driving back that night but this hotel was so good, we could not pass on the opportunity to enjoy another night there. The next morning we woke bright and early, filled up on cooked breakfasts, and collected ourselves in the lobby before the lengthy journey back.

In next week’s blog, find out what we got up to in Coventry, Luton, Bordon and Windsor, after a sleep and chocolate fuelled Easter break, and a weekend of finding ourselves at a loss of what to do at 7.30pm.

(Note from Hanna: I’d just like to point out that yes, it is true I never left the start in ‘Smart Ass’, and was indeed overlapped twice by Cary and once by Lizzy, however I particularly excelled in both ‘Chairs’ AND ‘Bop It’, and once I get round to entering the pool league, I’m pretty sure I’ll be awesome at that too.)

Picture us more WASTED

Week Two of this fantastic tour, and it just keeps on getting better and better. Firstly though, I would just like to make a slight editor’s correction to last week’s suggestion that it was WE that cracked the Wagamama Puzzle Sudoku. It was in fact Lizzy, and deserved props should go to her for that.

Now onto Frome in Somerset, leading the charge before Exeter and Bristol .

Quite a change from Cardiff, we pondered the reception Wasted would get in Frome. To help with our pondering, we found some beautiful pubs to sit and chill. The weather beautiful, the sun shining, we went inside and struck up the Pool League. With James away, it led the way for another to top the table. As it stands, it goes Ash, Cary, Lizzy, then Harriet. More on that next week. (Hanna: “Pool isn’t my thing but get me on a boardgame, and I will whip all y’all.” Challenging words Hanna. Let’s see if we can get a boardgame going next week. Rock n Roll…)

We need not have pondered. From Birmingham to Cardiff, from Cardiff to Frome in Somerset, those who watch the show seem to be so generous in their enthusiasm! It really is such a great piece to be a part of, and I know all three of us onstage feel very proud and lucky to be out here showing it to people who perhaps often don’t make it out to the theatre too often. We met a lady who had never been to the theatre in her life before WASTED. That makes us feel very privileged.

Smashing and dashing Frome, Exeter was next in our sights. The Bike Shed Theatre was a wicked space, with a great front bar with a ukulele playing barmaid, and a dedicated audience. Two nights to a packed out crowd, with the overhead lights inches from our faces, the atmosphere was incredible. Walking about the town in the day too, it seemed even the shops were spitting Tempest sentiment. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know how significant the words “This is it!” are. And if you haven’t seen the show yet, well why not? Lol.

Bristol, we were gunning for you. The first night was immense. Kate, after a week away, was in the audience and it was really special to be able to show her how the play took its shape in another space. Afterwards, we did a QnA and much of the audience stayed. The feedback we got and the questions that came up were really interesting and it was excellent to be able to hear Kate’s thoughts and the way she had approached the writing of Wasted. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the rock n roll lifestyle was leading to us all going a bit bananas. Kwake came up to see the show the following night, and had a gig of his own in a nearby club afterwards where we all went to support him and have a little dance and meet the locals. They say sometimes it takes something like travelling to search one’s soul: Cary certainly found himself on this tour.

Three cities down, it was time to head back home to London for the first time since the tour began for a nice Sunday off. You can’t get more manly than a beer and a Black ‘n’ Decker, so while we struck the set, that’s exactly what the men of this tour did (under the strict supervision of Harriet, of course.) We’ve also got the dimensions of this Tour Van down to a tee, so packing up and loading is swift…

…Course, what none of us saw coming was a necessary change of Tour Van. The Tour Van (which shall herein be remembered as Tour Van Number One RIP)  broke. It was only a lucky stop in a Service Station that saw two mechanics overhear a very loud rattle of our gearbox suggesting an imminent explosion of metal beneath our feet. We pulled over, and with Hanna still in the deathtrap of a van, one of the guys took Tour Van Number One RIP on a heady round trip of the car park. Yep, it was the gearbox: something that Cary had already diagnosed. Aware of the seriousness of such an ailment, he took precautions to find his own way home.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment, to see what boardgame Hanna will throw down, and whether Cary’s choice of Blue choo’choo train does finally get him to the Watford Palace.

Picture us WASTED

So it’s week one of the WASTED tour. And what an amazing tour it has been so far. On Tuesday 28th, we took the tour bus up to Birmingham: laughter, digital pool and a brief dip into To The Actor before arriving at the unmistakable Travelodge. It was a great opportunity to meet up with Kate and James, to share in the delights of the city that, the next day, would see the landing of WASTED .

Up bright and early on Weds, we ventured into town to find the rehearsal space and student union for Birmingham City. With James safely at the helm, we got lost quite a few times but the collective array of WASTED posters, some rather intelligently graffitied, assured us we were heading in the right direction. The buzz about the show was massive, and as soon as we had mic-checked, we were asked if we could do an interview with Kate and ourselves with a bit from the play for the local radio station, Scratch. Course we would! That night and the following night at the Matthew Boulton Campus, we showed WASTED for the first time to two amazing audiences. Standing ovations, whoops and cheers of excitement and agreement… We were so excited and thrilled to see that our hard work and the play that we all have so much belief in was being met with such an unprecedented kind of response. As one audience member said, “This is what theatre should always be like!” Afterwards. it was really special to meet up with more of the Paines Plough crew for celebrations…and back to the unmistakeable Travelodge!

Opening night at the MAC couldn’t have gone better. During the day, while the PP crew worked tirelessly as ever, to set the space up, Lizzy, Cary and I chilled out in the sun, ran our lines, sorted out some last minute accommodation! and made sure we were all set for the tour ahead. The show went up without a hitch and once again, we were honoured to receive another standing ovation! We were being spoilt now!

You can’t spend every night in the Travelodge, or at least all night, so in some of our down time, we headed on over to Wagamama. It’s amazing to see great minds working together so keenly, as you can witness here. Some might scoff, but the Wagamama puzzle place mats are darn tricky. But with James and the team on it, we cracked it. The next day.

With Birmingham firmly under our belts, exceptionally early on the Saturday morning, we jumped in the tour bus and headed to the Sherman theatre in Cardiff. The show was an interesting one, our first one without the full team, but again, the audience was brilliant and it seems the words of Kate Tempest strike chords with people from any town or city. We came off, tired but massively inspired. The next day, George was in town directing for the Royal Welsh so we had a beautiful day in Bute Park, overlooking the castle, and a sumptuous Sunday lunch.

That evening, we were straight back on the road again,from Cardiff to head to Frome in Somerset, to spit some lyrics to a different town, a different country even. Exhausted from a fully loaded week but hyped and energised by the awesome audiences we were meeting, we snuggled into the back of the tour bus. The next week will bring three more cities, and we can only hope that this tour, and all its moments, will keep on going from strength to strength. Whatever happens, we are sure we won’t allow a moment to be WASTED.

Next Thursday, check out what will have happened in Frome, Exeter, and Bristol.