8th April 2021
We’re continuing on our journey to discover the most unusual jobs around the English Riviera. Today we’re meeting Tom: the Stage Manager at Babbacombe Theatre.
For over 80 years Babbacombe Theatre has been a real asset to the Torbay community, wowing audiences with highly acclaimed musicals, concerts, comedians – and even providing a lecture hall for RAF trainees during WW2.
Covid-19 has hit Babbacombe Theatre particularly hard. With no audiences and unable to receive subsidies, they relied on donations to stay afloat. In April 2021, the theatre was offered a lifeline: the government’s Culture Recovery Fund which will ensure that the theatre can continue to entertain and educate future generations.
I have been the stage manager at the Babbacombe theatre for four years. I started in the industry 17 years ago as an usher in another local theatre and from then on, I studied sound engineering and have worked in various roles including stage crew and lighting operator.
I remember visiting the Babbacombe Theatre while studying performing arts at A level and now being the stage manager feels I have come full circle!
The first thing I do when I come in is to look at my notes and the show report from the previous night to see if anything technical went wrong during the show. If something did go awry with the lights or sound, then this is my time to focus on fixing these issues.
Each evening I’ll check that the lights all turn on and are still focused on their correct positions. Once I’ve checked lights, I will turn on the projector and the computer to make sure everything is operating as it should. Usually it is, but you should never assume! I’ll then test the sound board and play some music to test the speakers.
The crew will come in 30 minutes before the performers to begin sweeping and mopping, presetting the scenery and the props. During this time, my technical crew will check that the cues are working on the lighting desk and start to do mic checks. We’ll have about 30 minutes to solve any problems that may occur before the audience begin to arrive, so we must work fast!
Once everything is done checking all the technical aspects, this is my time to go through any notes with the cast if needed.
The red curtains (or ‘Reds’ as we call them) are then closed, stage clearance is given so we can open the house and the audience can begin to arrive. I will call to the cast saying that house is open 30 minutes prior from the top of show. Then during pre-show, I give the cast a 15-minute, 5-minute and places call.
Once I get the ‘ok’ from box office that the audience are in, I’ll check in with crew to see if everyone is in their places. Then when we hit the start time, I will start the show. House lights go down and the Reds open!
During the show, props are placed, scenery can change and cast need to be in certain places on time and with little time to get into their next costume.
Many problems can occur during a performance but with a hard-working team, the audience may not even know anything has gone wrong.
When the show ends, mics, props and costumes are put back in their places, ready for it all to begin again at the next show.
I’ll finish my working day by shutting down everything and sending out a show report with any notes to the director.
Every day is different because anything can happen during a live performance. Microphones can break, lights can go out, curtains can get stuck, magic goes wrong, and dancers get injured but no matter what, the show must go on.
Babbacombe Theatre is not subsidised in any way and relies on audiences and donations. Like many businesses, Covid-19 has been damaging, however the curtains will open again on Tuesday 18th May with their first show back SUPERSTARS! On every Tuesday and Wednesday tickets are now available to book via the Babbacombe Theatre website here.