Read extracts from the Production & Marketing Assistant’s Diary; a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes on just how much work goes into staging a performance.
Samantha Gillingham was awarded a coveted place as Activate’s Projects and Promotions Assistant through the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursary Scheme
Burn The Curtain
The Company of Wolves
The week of the show
snippets from Sammy Gillingham, Projects and Promotions Assistant
With the performances now imminent, it’s all in the detail. Today involves contacting our generous volunteers to make sure they’re happy ahead of their arrival on site, planning signage, receiving and sending ticket sales reports and, amongst many other tasks, a final social media call to sell our last remaining tickets. The concept of the show is certainly an original one; inviting the audience to walk – or run – different routes and experiences the performance along the way. It’s hard to picture as it has been tough to sell, especially the running tickets, but now we are almost there with sales, I can relax a little and now can’t wait to see how the audience reacts to this enchanting experience.
Today is Dress Rehearsal day and I’m excited to see how this unique show takes shape and how the company will use Durlston Country Park to its best advantage. Before we get there, more ticket sale reports need to be collected, social media analysis done, contact sheets to be created and last minute schedule information to confirm plus a delve into Activate’s storage locker for event equipment; we really are queens of the gazebo! (plus an unrelated meeting to attend on Dorset Tourism into the bargain).
Then, finally, it’s time to don walking boots, grab torches (see my last comment under ‘Things I learned’) and get the rehearsal underway.
It’s a great feeling to see everyone’s work coming together so well and really magical watching the tale suddenly come together under the darkening sky. All went without a hitch too, phew!
Tonight’s the night; the first of the performances is finally upon us. After getting through the day’s regular workload with a feeling of quiet anticipation, I head off to Swanage along with a volunteer Running Nun (yes, you read that right!). After a briefing with the cast, crew and volunteers, it’s Thunderbirds Are Go!
The audience are fantastic, playing along and engaging with enthusiasm and it’s lovely to hear low chuckles of mirth and gasps of surprise as we move through the trees and fields. As the sun sets and a full moon rises, there’s something very special about seeing the bobbing lights of torches and feeling safe amongst a group of fellow humans in the darkness. All technical aspects worked well and I’m going home happy.
I woke to rain. Rain. Rain. Rain.
Did I mention the rain? However, we British are hardy folk so would we let a bit of precipitation stop us? No! As the weather calms, the fantastic Rangers at Durlston Country Park, and the Director of Burn The Curtain, walk the routes involved in the show and deem it safe to go ahead with that evening’s performance (celebratory dance for me!) I breathe a sigh of relief as it becomes clear that tonight’s audience are undeterred by the dismal weather forecast.
One of my favourite moments of the evening turned out to be the interval,I know that sounds strange, but allow me to explain. Those of us who walk, The Gatherers, arrive first, shortly followed by the courageous runners, or
Hunters; despite most of the audience having never met each other before, each group greets each other with warmth and cheers before starting to discuss what they’ve seen and where they’ve travelled. The air fills with laughter and chatter, and soft curling steam from cups of hot cocoa cupped in gloved hands. This felt like a very special moment, a rare one too, and one that was not dampened by yet more rain…pun intended.
They say time flies when you’re having fun, and it certainly does. We’ve reached our last performance and it’s almost time to say goodbye to The Company of Wolves before it heads off to
its next stop on tour. But before we bid the cast and crew farewell, we enter the world of Ruby and
co one last time. Yet another super evening, the cheerful audience are guided along by the Nuns (our sensational volunteers) under a clear sky, glittering with stars.
Being outdoors lends itself to completely unpredictable and sometimes breathtaking moments.
During the three performances we had biting wind (Top Tip: Layers are key!) and rain, but we also experienced a beautiful sunset, stunning views out to sea and overlooking Swanage and, most
memorable, a blood moon! So really, what more could you need?
Some things I’ve learnt:
To sell Running Tickets you need to think outside the box (office…*chuckle) and social media becomes your best friend.
People love the unusual – we had the most hits on social media for this show when we advertised for volunteers to act as Running Nuns!
Layers of clothing totally saves the day – and lots of them at that, plus thermals (Thank you Marks & Sparks!).
Remember to eat! When your stomach rumbles loudly during a show entitled The Company of Wolves, people may start to think you’re actually turning into a wolf…
And finally; check your torch actually contains batteries before taking it with you to a remote location!
Samantha Gillingham, Projects and Promotions Assistant, Activate and Inside Out Dorset Festival: email@example.com