“Tech week is my favourite part of putting on a play”, says Emily Barber as we enter Bush Hall for the first time, “it’s so exciting seeing it all come together!”. The venue is a turn of the century music hall that has had stints as a bingo hall and a snooker venue before returning to housing some now-famous acts at the beginning of their careers. (Check the signed Alanis Morissette poster in the toilet, the line-up for 2009 introducing La Roux, and many more – the walls are lined with posters.)
We’re told that in it’s history we’re only the second theatre piece put on there, and with this comes a set of restrictions and opportunities. There’s no feed from the stage to the dressing room so the actors need to be within hearing distance (or near stage management) to know their cues. Also, Lee Curran (lighting designer) explains how the white walls makes lighting some scenes tricky, because the background will always be brighter than the actor’s faces. But these are small nuisances when compared with how much the original design of the space encases the show, complementing and highlighting the cabaret style.
The first thing to be done is a health and safety induction to the venue, allowing the actors to explore all their entrances and exits as well as get a feel for the set. Simon Evans, production manager, gives this tour along with our excellent and impressively level-headed stage management team (Alicia White, Jade Hunter, Amy Slater and Seana Green). The backstage crew make up the roots that the audience never see, but without whom the tree would topple.
Whilst we had a mock-up set in rehearsals, our rehearsal room didn’t allow for the full height and multiple levels, and now we see it in all its pink, green and gold glory! As I mentioned in the week 1 diary, crudely put, this show is about whether you sit down or stand up to pee. Jo Scotcher has used this as a base point for her set – the toilets provide the scum to the colour schemes glamour and the whole seamlessly supports the production.
One of the first tech sessions is spent checking the sound levels on each actor’s mic. To do this they individually sing their acapella version of Rosemary and Betty Clooney’s ‘Sisters’ whilst Jamie McIntyre (mic op) and Emma Laxton (Sound Designer) work out if they’ve got the levels right. As each actress takes to the stage they start spoofing their own characters and joking about until we’re all left in tears and Simon has to call us to order.
These moments of light relief have, as I’m sure you’ve realised, been constant throughout the process. They’re needed to help us navigate the darker veins in Boys Will Be Boys, and build the camaraderie both on and offstage. Sometimes you’re asked to sympathise with the uncouth and crude characters other times to question them. This may not be your life exactly but the piece holds a mirror up to what too many women will nod knowingly at.
Coincidentally Girl Power is celebrated this month with the 20-year anniversary of the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’. Much has happened in those two decades but the fight isn’t over yet. It feels judicious that the question of girls and power is raised again.
I’m sure some may find this play brash and crass, it’s easy to laugh along with the excess, but don’t be hoodwinked. It’s the very portrayal of these sometimes cliché characters that leads to an inevitably that happens the world over.