It has, once again, been an age since I blogged and so, once again, I will do my thing of blogging about why I haven’t blogged…
For the last 6 weeks, as all here know, I have been Production Electrician for a RADA student production of Crimes in Hot Countries, by Howard Barker – a play that is either utterly, utterly brilliant or a total disaster (writing wise) with very little middle ground in between, and I must admit, the jury is still out for me.
What this has meant in practical terms is four weeks of maintenance and two weeks of rigging. Now… let’s not beat about the bush here… LX maintenance is dull dull dull. Occassionally, if you’re lucky, you might find a profile missing a shutter or a fresnel with a broken earth wire, but that’s pretty much the highlight of maintenance and, for my sins, I wasn’t even doing anything that interesting. I did cable maintenance. Oh boy yes. Four weeks of checking the continuity on 15 Amp cable and sorting out Lee colour from our colour stocks. At the end of these four weeks, I even acquired a crew, who achieved in three days what had taken me the best part of fifteen to do, and to whom I will always be grateful for their speedy use of multimetres. The work has to be done, as the only thing worse than four weeks of maintenance is two weeks of equipment not working, as the stress acquired in those two weeks will be beyond anything your cardiac system has ever endured. But let’s not beat about the bush, this is one of those theatre jobs that falls into the category of Very Boring and Extremely Important, and so it goes.
Towards the end of this adventure, my lighting designer delivered a plan for the show, and it was my job to work out how to get it to work. The theatre in which the show was running, the GBS theatre, is essentially a very reliable workhorse, with only one or two quirks which leave you spitting. The chief job of the Production Electrician is to work out how every single lamp is going to get power from a dimmer, and, if we don’t have enough dimmers for the amount of kit (which we never do) where we’re going to get that extra power from. It sounds like it should be harder than it is; and sometimes it can be! I remember two less than blissful days as assistant electrician in a converted warehouse that had not one in-built dimmer for its kit and over fifty by thirty yards of ceiling space over which hundreds of cables had to be run. If there is one thing that can frustrate your humble-hearted Prod LX, it’s huge sod-off cable runs. However, my task was relatively easy, and with a very lovely and hard working crew of 8 people, only half of whom were mildly hung over, we managed to get the entire theatre rigged in about five and a half hours on a cool Saturday morning.
The lighting designer, who was and is an absolute pleasure to work for, then returned to focus each individual lamp, while I pottered around getting the theatre ready with all the other things a Prod LX must care about; cue lights, working lamps in the backstage area, hazers etc.. This done, I waited.
And kept on waiting.
The trouble, it turns out, with having a fully functional venue that does what it says on the cover, is that your poor Prod LX, once you actually get to a technical rehearsal, has nothing to do but sit around and wait for something to break. How I longed for a moving light with a sticky engine, or for someone to drop something, or even maybe a little flood somewhere exciting… well, maybe not a flood… but alas, no. Those weeks of maintenance had paid off, and all things considered, everything went as well as it should and better than it could, and the show, when it finally went up, had excellent lighting courtesy of the extremely talented designer and a crew armed with quad spanners.
It’s not much of a reason to have not blogged, but the thing with RADA is that the work is, if not time-consuming, then relentless in other ways. My new show role is sound designer, and you quickly find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with the sound of ambient sheep, spot cue slamming doors and script-specified music tracks going off in the back of your brain. When I worked in construction I would wake myself up with my right hand jerking in an attempt to pull nails from the floor; when I was a programmer I would dream of the sound of my designer’s voice in my ear giving ambient lighting levels; when an ASM I would start awake in the night like a guilty thing with a cry of ‘oh god where did I put the dagger?’ and only the neurotic writing of lists would calm me down. So the work, it turns out, gobbles you up, whether you meant it to or not. Not that this is an excuse for my non-blogging lately… although it is… but it is a simple truth and honest fact about the new year of working at RADA…