Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Dark Satanic Mills

It doesn’t feel that long since I last wrote and yet a lot has been crammed into these couple of weeks. Chariots is now in full swing: we had gala night and are now into the fourth week of its run. Getting used to everything new, remembered most people’s names (including those of our large cast!) and settling into a routine again, just about.

The schools are into their last week of term which means it’s been a year since I last stepped foot in a classroom myself. This naturally means this is something of a reflective time for me, but suffice to say I have not looked back once. I do not miss it and regret nothing.

Work has been a bit rocky over this opening period, with all the new staff trying to adjust and with, therefore, more pressure being put on existing staff members such as myself to help out. I have been working harder than ever here, running around to do not just my own role but to help others too. This is fine and completely expected, although there have been times when too much pressure has been put on me, and I have found myself having to do tasks which I shouldn’t have to, for no thanks. However, things are settling down now and starting to improve.

For all the hard work, extra hours, extra training and extra patience required though, there are still far more reminders of how great this job is. Not least the ‘Gala night’, held on 3rd July to launch the show in the West End.

As a press night, we expected to work hard during the shift – and I was a little wary of this remembering all too well just how stressful the equivalent event was for The Ladykillers. However, in the event it all went very well. I was ushering on stage and it was busy but easily manageable. We were all on the look out for celebrities, although I was dubious I’d recognise many as it was mainly sporting stars expected. Indeed there were some athletes, but these were overshadowed completely by the attendance of Stephen Fry! He was an extra in the original film apparently and I not only saw him at the interval as he walked past me, but had a brief conversation as he needed directions back to his seat.

The only extra work involved that night was helping the bar staff pour out glasses of Bollinger- one for every audience member! In total that meant about 800 glasses; although split between three bars in wasn’t too bad. The sight and smell of all that champagne lined up on the bar was quite something to behold and made me want some quite badly! My luck was in as at the end of the shift our manager said there was a glass for each of us, and we drank them in the stalls bar whilst the party invitations were handed out.

The after-party was held at a venue in Soho called Floridita, just up the road from the theatre. I had never noticed it before, as it had a modest, small entranceway sandwiched between larger shop fronts. Once inside, however, there was a large sweeping staircase curving downwards into a huge underground room, which was already full of people when we arrived. A long bar extended across one wall, dishing out gin and tonics, wines and beers as if tap water. Against the back wall a jazz band were playing to a small dance floor. In the far reaches away from the stairs, a seating area full of white booths: curved leather sofas and glass tables adorned with flower arrangements. Beneath the staircase was the press area, where the actors were being photographed and interviewed. http://www.whatsonstage.com/photos/theatre/london/E8831341399193/1st+Night+Photos%3A+Biggins+%26+Bond+brush+shoulders+at+Chariots+of+Fire.html

It was without doubt the most glamorous event I’ve ever attended. Everything was so beautiful and there had been no expense spared. Waiters were constantly circulating with trays of drinks and food and as the night wore on more people took to the dance floor to the sounds of the jazz music. Naturally I drank far too much and my memory of everything past about 1am is patchy and I know I was talking to some of the actors as if they were old friends by the end, which is slightly embarrassing. However, I had a great night and only wish it hadn’t been on the evening before a Wednesday matinee! Here’s a video summarising everything (although one word could really be used and that word is BIGGINS).

The following Tuesday sparkled a little too. It was an ordinary shift in most ways, although concurrently, down the road, the film premiere of the re-release of ‘Chariots of Fire’ was happening in Leicester Square. We learnt in the briefing that some members of the press and some people involved in that film would be coming to the theatre for the curtain call. Being in the foyer in the second act I therefore had to help greet them, give them drinks and take them down to the auditorium at the end of the show. I showed the photographers into the stalls and watched from the front as Nigel Havers, Ben Cross, Nicholas Farrell, Alice Krige and Hugh Hudson came onto stage to an astonished audience! They had pictures taken, Nigel and Ben did a cursory jog around the running track and then they left. I waited for them afterwards and then ushered them all back up to the foyer when they had finished. http://www.whatsonstage.com/news/theatre/london/E8831342025519/+Photos:+Chariots+of+Fire+film+stars+meet+West+End+actors.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

London is on the brink of the Olympics and although I’ve basically had enough of it already there’s no doubt it is an exciting time. I see lots of people around on public transport who are working there and apparently most of the athletes arrived in the city yesterday. The opening ceremony is next Friday. Happily, the theatre is closed that night; we are having a matinee instead but I’m hoping to be out in time to watch the event on a big screen in a park (if it’s dry!)

Seem to have spent a lot of time in work recently: extra shifts in the foyer during the day and late finishes every night. Stage door today until 3, then back again for the evening as usual. Looking forward to a night off on Thursday: decided to go and see Ben Miller give a talk at the Royal Institute; he’s back in the country for a week apparently so it’ll be lovely to see him and hopefully get chance to catch up!

Managed to dash home this weekend to see the family and we miraculously achieved a BBQ, somehow finding the only dry evening in what feels like weeks if not months. England is indeed dark and, I think, satanic with this weather. A chirpy round of Jerusalem finishes every show, however, which is a song which I will always associate with the beginning of the summer holidays, it being the last song we would sing at school’s commemoration service every year. As my work continues into next week, it blurs into what would be my usual summer: apart from part-time work here and there I have never worked over August before!

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