You find yourself standing in the Theatre Royal’s Upper Circle watching as the theatre’s Technical Manager Dave Thwaites carefully rearranges the lighting in preparation for a show which is arriving in the next few days. This week we’re discovering what it takes to run a theatre from a technician’s point of view. With some big shows arriving in the theatre over the next few months it seemed the perfect time to track down Dave to find out.
Taking a well-earned break Dave settles down to answer a few of my questions. The first thing I want to know is what is the day to day life of a technician like? ‘It’s very varied’ says Dave ‘No 2 days are the same, sometimes we are preparing the theatre for an incoming show and this could involve hanging lights or moving the curtains, other times we are working a lighting or sound desk for a show, building sets for the companies or working on maintenance for the building’ How long have you been working as a technician? ‘I’ve been a professional for 16 years’ And how did you get into technical theatre? ‘I started when I was at school, just playing around with the stuff they had there and then got more into it during 6th form, I carried this on when I studied at University by joining the theatre society and working with them. This was all just extra-curricular and I learned from the professional technicians I worked with. Once I left University I was offered freelance and temporary work and this then turned into full time work and now I work here! I’ve done courses like working at height and first aid but my technical knowledge and ability came from learning through working’
What are the necessary skills you would say are needed to be a technician? ‘You need to remain calm under pressure and have good people skills. We get to meet loads of people from other theatre companies when they come to the theatre and so being able to quickly work well with strangers is very useful. Oh, and probably, not being scared of heights too!’
What are the main challenges of receiving some of the big touring shows we have this season, like Rehearsal for Murder, this August? ‘These companies often have huge sets with a large travelling technical team – It’s about contacting them early enough to find out how big their sets are and what their lighting plan is. We can then make sure the lights are rigged correctly, that we can fit the set through our get in doors and get it onto stage and that we have the manpower to build the set’.
Dave then tells me he has to go and create some wooden trees for our upcoming Youth Theatre production of The Jungle Book so I decide to leave him to it.
This article was originally published in The Bury Mercury Newspaper