This year was the 26th year of our annual village show. I’m not talking fruit and veg here – although maybe a few lemons – but a variety show taking place at the end of November where village residents get up on stage and sing a song, do a sketch or come up with other ideas to keep the audience entertained, amused and returning year after year, raising money for charity in the process.
Tickets go on sale for the 3 performances at 9am on the first Saturday of November and, like Take That, Saturday night is usually sold out by 9:15 with Friday being sold out shortly after. No reports of Ticketmaster web servers crashing although Cyril’s cuppa gets cold sometimes.
It’s a great event that raises a lot of money for local good causes, typically about £3,000 a year, and it never ceases to amaze me how many secret talents people have. For instance this year saw the solo debut of young Dominic Hawes, aged just 10, after his first performance last year with his Dad Richard. He debuted his first solo performance singing to a backing track, and rather than just singing sweetly in the middle of the stage he wowed the audience with a great performance as he commanded the stage showing amazing confidence in somebody so young. Incidently on the day after the final show, Dominic went for an audition for Britain’s Got Talent in Cardiff. Although results are not known yet as there are thousands of hopefuls, signs are encouraging so keep your eyes open for him.
There are many other great acts including monologues, sketches, a David Bowie tribute act and also a rousing sing-a-long finale in good old variety show tradition, this year lead by Woodbury’s own diva Michelle, who took to the stage as Britannia.
Its easy to congratulate those on the stage and appreciate the hardwork they do in practising their act, but what about the others who work invisibly tirelessly behind the scenes to make the show happen? The 3 producer/directors Phil, Judy and Sara who make the whole thing happen every year, the stage managers Norma, Keith and Pete who organise the acts and their props so that the show runs smoothly without delays. The army of cooks and waiters behind Dave Whitton who keep the audiences happy with supper. How they do it I really don’t know. Front of House greeting the audience and keeping order, the MC, this year Mike Bull, who keeps the show continuity going and fills the gaps inbetween acts Support from others including businesses, the list goes on and without them the show wouldn’t happen or be the success it is.
Ok, I have to admit a vested interest here as I am the show ‘techie’ running the lights, PA system, and any pre-recorded music not played live by the resident pianist/organist maestro Nigel Alcock. Having made a fool of myself on stage for a number of years as a performer, I took the move to the back of the hall about 6 years ago. I mean, it can’t be that difficult can it? Turning a few lights on and off and pressing play on a CD player occasionally? Oh how wrong I was!
My preparation for the show starts in the New Year as I begin to mull ideas about what I am going to do. I like to make things difficult for myself by trying to make the next show different, more spectacular and professional than the last. Trying out new technology and equipment I have not tried before to continue my learning. Towards the end of the summer preparation starts in earnest as my ideas take shape on a piece of paper and a draft design is put together and, more importantly costed to see if its within budget. Every cable, connector, light, microphone is specified – bit difficult as I still have no idea what the acts are going to be. Once costs are cleared by the Directors, I document the design and an order placed with a stage equipment hire company, and the wait begins for the delivery date, the Friday before the show’s first night on the following Thursday.
As the show is in the village hall, and the hall is used by the community almost constantly, trying to get in the hall do build my light and sound rig can be quite a challenge. Especially as the Sunday after the Friday delivery is the day of auditions and the first glimpse I get of the acts……. and their demands!
So the hard work begins pulling in cables, mounting lights, testing equipment, trying to work out how to use equipment I’ve not used before and start playing with ideas as to how to use all this kit to make the show look great for the audiences and help the performers look fantastic and compliment their performances.
Hopefully I am more or less ready by the time the auditions start on the Sunday afternoon but frequently a few snags need rectifying inbetween the acts being on stage. The demands of the performers anxious to get their music and cues just right, and trying to fix snags is very stressful. Especially when people expect it all to work straight away and have no idea how much work is involved. Still that’s my own fault as I make it difficult for myself as I push the boundaries of my learning each year and as frequently they don’t see how much work is involved as for 80% of the time I am working in the hall alone.
The final (and only) rehearsal is on the Wednesday night before the Thursday opening night. This is the first time I can sit and experiment by putting my creative head on and building the light sequences and music cues as we run through the show in the right order and under show conditions.
Then its opening night and we welcome about 400 people through the doors to enjoy the 3 nights of the show.
Before you know it, its 11pm Saturday night and I begin to remove all the equipment, (enlisting some helpers), installed just a week before, and pack it up, check it against the inventory, and make ready for collection on Monday morning. Finishing at 1am and visiting the after show party just as its coming to a close.
Over the 10 days from equipment delivery to collection this year, I put in 40 hours of work frequently being the first person to arrive and the last person to leave, on top of doing my day job. It is hard work and can be stressful at times, but do I enjoy it? You bet!
So next time you go to an amateur or professional performance, take the time to appreciate not just the people on stage, but the army of people who work hard to make sure the show goes ahead who you never see.
Especially the sound and light men and women who sit front of house with their consoles pressing buttons and making the performers look and sound amazing and remember they will be there long after you’ve gone home taking the equipment down. So let them know they are appreciated, it will mean at alot.
Photographs of this year’s show, and previous shows, can be found at the following link.