Introducing Chris Last, Senior Technician here at Theatre Royal.
How long have you worked in the theatre industry?
My first professional shift was in September 2003, so coming up on 20 years!
How long have you worked at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds?
I started in March 2017, so just over 6 years.
What is your role in the theatre?
What are your main responsibilities?
I work mainly with the rest of the Technical team on the various shows that come through the theatre, building their productions on our stage, sometimes running elements of the shows like sound or lighting for performances, and then breaking the shows down again before they move on to other theatres. I also help in the office with some admin work, like contacting visiting companies to go through their technical requirements, booking our crew etc.
How did you get into this role?
Short version: I started at the Theatre Royal as maternity cover for the previous Senior Technician and when she decided that she didn’t want to come back to her job I took over permanently.
Longer version: I got involved with technical theatre in middle school, but my first job in the field was as a casual crew member at the Regent Theatre in Ipswich. I’d originally planned for this only to be a temporary job while I attempted to start a career as a recording engineer, but the more time I spent there the more I enjoyed the work. In the end I stayed there for ten years, ending my time as one of two heads of the Technical Department. After a brief change of direction working in my family’s electronics manufacturing firm, I returned to the theatre with a short period at the New Wolsey in Ipswich. After this came to an end I spent a year working as a freelance theatre technician being engaged by a number of venues around East Anglia, one of which was the Theatre Royal, which led me to my current position here.
Do you remember what applying for your job felt like?
I was a little nervous, as you always are for job interviews, but by that time I was approaching 15 years in the business, so I was pretty confident in my skills, knowledge and experience.
It also helped that I’d already worked at the theatre as a freelance technician so I knew most of the faces behind the interview desk!
What’s your favourite part about your job?
The people. Working with the team here and the theatre, and seeing familiar faces come around again and again with different shows.
How many people are in your team?
Four full-time: Technical Manager, me, and two Technicians. Plus, lots of casual staff who work anything from a show every now-and-again to being in with us nearly every week.
What is your top tip/s for someone looking to get into your role?
Experience, experience, experience! Qualifications are fantastic and I would never talk down the importance of a good education, but whenever I have been involved in recruitment in the past I have always found that the best candidates are those with a level of practical experience in the field. So, join an amateur group, look for work experience, internships or apprenticeships, volunteer – all these sorts of opportunities are worth a lot more than you might think!
And if you’re eyeing up a top position, don’t be afraid to start at the bottom – people are usually less grumpy about being told what to do by somebody who has actually done it for themselves!
Do you need any qualifications to get into this role? If so, what would you suggest?
As I said above qualifications aren’t 100% necessary, but a lot of colleges, drama schools etc. offer technical theatre qualifications nowadays, and these will definitely provide a good skillset to begin a career in the business.
What has been your favourite production at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds?
Goodnight Mister Tom in 2018 – a brilliant show, and my first professional sound design.
What is your favourite theatre phrase/word? E.g. proscenium, upstage, rig…
“Ok, standby to fade houselights and walk-in music.” Means we’re about to start…
And finally, what is your favourite Theatre Royal photo?