Today we went down to the Theatre Royal in Bury S.t Edmunds which luckily for us is only across town, we are very luck to have the luxury of having the only surviving regency theatre on our door step. When we were at the theatre we were taken on a tour and then we met some of the team who work at the theatre. When we were on the tour I learnt some very interesting information about the Theatre Royal.
“The Georgian theatre was one of the vital periods of our artistic history; and these buildings, with their intimacy and their sense of human proportion are masterpieces. Bury’s Theatre Royal is perhaps even more precious than we think.”
The Theatre Royal has been around for over 100 years, it was built in 1819 by William Wilkins who had also designed it. It is the only surviving playhouse from the Georgian regency time period but, only by a year as the regency ended in 1820. Their are many of the theatres original features still intact and in its original condition, for example the ceiling pained like clouds is still as beautiful as the day it was painted, at first however it was a massive issue trying to get it right as the ceiling would weaken easily and would crack which meant constant repairs until it was finally finished.
The designer/builder of the theatre was an architect who was responsible for many buildings including the National Gallery in London and the Downing College in Cambridge.
Who is currently working there?
- David Whitney, youth theatre.
David has three theatre groups for different age ranges, 8-12, 12-16,16-22. He also works closely with the YMCA, this is good because he is reaching out and educating as many people about theatre as he can, he is aware that the YMCA is only down the road from the theatre and most of them have “never been inside a theatre”. His goal is to open up the theatre to as many people as possible.
- Heidi, Costume supervisor.
Heidi runs everything related to costuming. She will meet the director and designer to gather an understanding of what they want their show to look like form a wardrobe point of view. She will also talk to lighting if their are certain colours that are needed/wanted in the production, this is because there are some colours that look different on stage. A common example of this is the colour black, the lights can make it look navy, maroon or even dark green. Fluorescents need to be taken into consideration as well. Heidi also hires costumes to the public privately this also helps funding towards the costume department.
- Nicki Dixon, press and communicators officer.
Nicki does not receive any money for her department. Nick was a journalist before she worked for Theatre Royal, this has many advantages as she has many contacts with the press through her previous job. This means it is slightly easier to make the theatre in Bury to be more communicative with its audience members, Theatre Royal has a section in the local news paper the bury free press. This is very helpful as it keeps the events at the theatre updated and keeps the interest in the theatre flowing though local towns and villages as well as inside Bury S.t Edmunds it self.
- Emma Martin, Marketing Manager.
Emma’s role is very important as she is in charge of promotion and making sure tickets get sold. This can be done in many ways, such as flyers, putting up posters, sending out hundreds of e-mails and newsletters. They oversee their content, design and production and arrange distribution of all printed material.
- Simon Spence. VOLUNTEER duty manager.
The Theatre Royal also has many volunteers that are apart of their team. Simon Spence has a very big responsibility on his hands. He only volunteers a few nights per season which gives the permanent duty manager a few nights off. It involves sorting out the floats for sweets,coffee,ice cream and all the other little treats you can buy at the theatre, assigning the volunteer stewards to their respective duties and opening up the building for when the audience arrives. He is responsible for the whole front of house area of the theatre and has to deal with any customer issues that arise or any problems with in the building itself. After the interval he cash’s up the bar and the float tins, reconcile all of the monies onto a sheet and put the takings into the safe ready for checking by the finance department and then that goes to banking. Usually Simon is on Duty from 5:30pm to until 10:30pm for an evening show but it can be longer. There are usually 4-5 volunteers and two bar staff who are paid.
I aslo asked Simon some questions1) How much pressure is the job for you, the fact that you aren’t paid to do the job would you say the stress is a bit lighter or is it more stressful?
-The degree of pressure depends on the show and how many are in the audience. It does feel a responsibility as I am a volunteer rather than being paid but equally it means you can choose which shows you do as duty manager so I tend to pick easier ones2) How long have you been volunteering?
-“I’ve volunteered for the theatre in various capacities for 15 years. I was on the board from 2000-2007 and have been a volunteer duty manager for the last 5 years I think.”
3) Have you ever wanted/had a permanent position working with the theatre?
-“I’ve never wanted a permanent job in the theatre: I enjoy being a barrister too much!”
4) What do you like about volunteering and what do you dislike about it?
-“I like the contact with the audience and getting feedback from them. I also enjoy working with the theatre volunteers and bar staff, as they are all lovely people and good fun to work with. What I dislike is when some audience members are rude to you. Also, depending on the show, there can be some late nights or some quite long periods when there is nothing to do, which can be rather dull!”