Sept 2008 – Behind the Curtain at the New Wolsey Theatre

SEPTEMBER 2008 REPORT

On the second Thursday in August, instead of a meeting, Kirton and Falkenham W.I. held a Ploughman’s Lunch with food provided by the committee and various other members. Afterwards we turned our hands to knitting and sewing Christmas decorations for the Christmas Tree Festival that is due to take place in Falkenham Church in December. Everyone had a really enjoyable time.

‘Behind the Curtain at the New Wolsey Theatre’ was the subject tackled by our speaker Mrs S Jenking at our September meeting, an Irish lady who herself works behind the scenes on the marketing side. She told us she had a few scruples about revealing the nuts and bolts of a theatrical production for fear of spoiling the illusion for the punters. I don’t think she needs worry. There is something called ‘the willing suspension of disbelief’ which audiences bring to a play or film, which over-rides any knowledge of what goes on back-stage.

In the year 2000 people re-entered the Wolsey Theatre building, two years after the original theatre closed down to find a rather creepy scene – half drunk cups of tea, books scattered about, a huge pile of costumes on the stage gradually rotting away. Changes were needed if the new venture was to succeed. Instead of a rep. company, a producing and visiting theatre was envisaged, a more economical way of operating. They in fact only produce six of their own shows a year.

Mrs Jenking finds the stage managing branch of the company one of the most fascinating. The Company Stage Manager looks after the production of the show and the welfare of the cast. The Deputy Stage Manager sits in on all rehearsals and notes on the script everything, props, position of actors, etc., that is needed. The Assistant Stage Manager chases up appropriate props by trawling through sites such as E-Bay. We were amazed by the attention to period detail, especially in the production ‘Vincent in Brixton’ (about Vincent Van Gogh) where the set is a kitchen and actual cooking takes place on stage.

Mrs Jenking has been in love with the theatre ever since seeing a production by the Bolshoi Ballet in Dublin as a child and is pleased that the Arts Council is keen to promote education whereby new generations can be introduced to live performance.

V.E.Bines