Saturday, July 13, 2013

Working In Theatre- Part 5

I'm moving ahead somewhat in time to late 1970. I got a job as A.S.M. at Greenwich Theatre. I had kept the impetus going with work, even when one job came to an end and I was out of work. I wrote a lot of letters to various companies across the United Kingdom and I got the Greenwich job because a cousin on my father's side of the family had come to stay and mentioned Greenwich Theatre to me as she lived in that part of London, Eltham if my memory serves. I think Greenwich Theatre had only recently opened, but I'm not sure.  I wrote a letter to the theatre and lo and behold I got asked for an interview as they had a vacancy for an A.S.M. I went for an interview and was offered the job. I lived with my cousin Helen at her flat in Eltham, which was fortunate.
The show that was running, if I remember, when I went for my interview, was a play called "The Servants and The Snow" by Iris Murdoch (not related, as far as I know, but I suppose if you have the same surname as someone you are bound to have a common ancestor, the same way that Rupert Murdoch must be related to me somewhere along the line.) It might have been in rehearsal, as I think I saw them rehearsing on the stage when I went for my interview. Some of this is all a bit vague as my memory isn't too clear. Well, it was over forty years ago.
I started there working on a show called "Down The Arches" which was a sort of musical documentary about the building and opening of the London to Greenwich railway. It had Derek Griffiths in it, who is perhaps best know as one of the presenters on "Play School," the children's show that ran for years and was probably one of the first programmes on air when BBC2 opened in 1964. I remember he did an extremely good mime during this show. I was involved with the lighting, sitting in the control box at the rear of the auditorium and helping to set up the lighting cues on a very complex lighting board. Nowadays I expect this would be all computerised, you no doubt just press a few keys and the lighting changes are done automatically, fades and all, but in those days there were no such luxurys and it took about three of us to set these lighting cues up quickly enough before the next cue came from the prompt corner.
Then the next show in was "A Voyage Round My Father" by John Mortimer. This had started life as a BBC production, one of the Plays of Today single dramas on BBC 1. It may or may not have been done on radio, but I'm not sure of that. It had the same director as the original television production, Claude Watham, and the designer had worked on this, but I can't remember his name. It had David Wood, Mark Dignam and Trevor Bannister in it. He went on to play Mr Lucas in the BBC sitcom "Are You Being Served?"
The set for this show was rather complex. To allow for quick scene changes, part of the set was a revolve at one side of the stage. The remainder of the set consisted of several large multi-sided 'forms', for want of a better word, which were supposed to be winched up and down stage to make more 'scenes' and then projectors where used to project photographs onto the sides of these 'forms' so you could have a scene in a park or garden with projected flowers, trees etc or an interior of, say, a courtroom with wood panelling as you'd get in a courtroom or buildings for streets for an exterior. This might have seemed a really good way to stage the play ON PAPER, but once it had been constructed it wasn't going to work as expected. A false floor had been built over the actual stage floor, to allow special track to be laid, so the 'forms' could run along the false floor and cabling that pulled the shapes up and down stage with the added complication of motors inside these shapes so they could revolve at the same time as moving up or down stage. I hope all this makes sense. It might sound complex, but it is quite difficult to explain.
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