To conclude…

 

Referring to my module guide, I must now conclude my week with the Fish ‘n’ Leather ladies, specifically with an analysis containing the following points:

  1. Summary of major experience
  2. Major skills developed or learnt from the practitioners.
  3. Critical reflection of their own input and how effective they were.
  4. Impact the experience has had on their future development.

I know, the fun and games just never ends in my house…

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Ms Andrews always insisted it was a very good place to start, and who am I to argue?

I was called upon to carry out the role of Stage Manager for a small production of the 3 woman show, Fish ‘N’ Leather, taking place in a large pub on the outskirts of Hull. The role was to include usual SM tasks, such as propping, set dressing and keeping the backstage area tidy and organised. As explained throughout my blog posts, I carried out the role of SM to the best of my ability, with little assistance from elsewhere and with the initial nervousness soon dispelled, thankfully! I could waffle on more here, but I’d like to think my ramblings over the week has filled in any gaps in experiences, so I’ll move straight on to the 2nd point for discussion…

Patience? Tolerance? The major skills for an efficient SM are those relating to organising and communicating. The issue of publicity calls during the week clearly demonstrated a need to develop my communication skills further, to avoid similar issues from occurring in the future. I am fully aware that my personal confidence is generally to blame for my lack of speaking up, and I continue to hope that as I progress into the industry and become more comfortable with my working practices, that my confidence will also develop. I always feel more confident in speaking up when I know exactly what I’m talking about. As Mark Twain, or possibly Abraham Lincoln, no one is quite sure, explained ‘It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.’ This has always been an issue for me…

Keeping everything organised in the backstage area was no problem for me at least; with such a small area, there wasn’t the space to make a mess! I had bags for props, bags for defunct props, a cool bag for the edible props, and my small SM tool bag, which proved vital on every day, for one thing or another. Being an old lady with children, it’s been second nature for me to be prepared for any and every possible eventuality of a situation, and this ‘skill’ transfers into the role of SM remarkably easily. Knowing the overall requirements of a production is an expected minimum for all members of the teams involved. Providing baby wipes backstage for the performers who had forgotten such a basic, or handing them that all important safety pin to save their modesty on stage; that’s the sort of skill that allows a good Stage Manager to stand out from the crowd that little bit more, and hopefully impress someone enough to be offered another job!

Critically discuss my input and effectiveness? Well, I’d like to think I was very effective in my role here with a significant improvement to the show due to my involvement. However, that makes me sound incredibly big headed and that’s just not me. As my blog posts before will confirm, I provided numerous items for the show, went the extra lengths necessary for the right outcome, went a little further than was expected to add more to the show, and kept up with the relentless changes in demands: I’d say that was effective behaviour. Keeping a positive disposition despite the relentless changes and providing everything that was asked of me left me feeling that I had been a significant and positive addition to the production, whilst always bearing in mind that any half decent SM would have done the same. That’s the point of being a good Stage Manager; being flexible enough to change direction at a moment’s notice, without losing momentum, and providing whatever the production needs in order to realise the creative vision of the Director to its fullest potential.

Will that do for that bit? I’m going to say so…

Which brings us to the 4th and final point for discussion; the impact the experience has had on my professional development and future plans.

I covered much of this during my ramblings from the weekend, but I’ll reiterate them here, just to make sure I’ve covered all bases.

One of the major things I learnt from the experience was the confirmation that theatre is a fickle creature and flaky Directors are not my cup of tea. Whilst I fully understand and accept there will invariably always be a number of creative practitioners above me, hierarchically speaking, the apparent lack of understanding for the roles of the technical and production teams is a cause of annoyance that I prefer not to have in my working environment. I love theatre, I really do, but it can be incredibly frustrating at times, with tradition and so many egos in a high-pressure situation. The often-slow pace that a working day can go at, with repeated stops for technical issues to be dealt with, or a wardrobe malfunction that needs attending to urgently. All these elements combine, eventually, to create a wonderful spectacle of imagination and creativity, whilst the crew are often worn out, worn down, and looking forward to the end of the run. I don’t like wishing my life away and I’ve done far too many naff jobs in the past to want to continue with an unhappy working environment.

Despite having only minimal experience of festival working so far, the insight I have had continues to interest and excite me. I know there will be obnoxiously long hours, heavy work, and the not-so great British weather to contend with, but that still doesn’t deter me from pushing for a career in the music festival industry. My great love of music and nature, combined with my raison d’etre to be a Stage Manager, points to one thing in my mind, and that is to SM on festies. Walking into a theatre will still always feel like home to me, but spending a weekend in a field with non-stop music; that’s where I really belong.

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Thank you, and good night x

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Last night!

So, here we are, Saturday and the last performance in this short run of Fish ‘n‘ Leather. It’s been a peculiar week, to say the least, but on the whole, I’ve enjoyed it. There’s certainly been plenty of opportunities for development, on a professional level, and it also served to confirm my previously vague assumption that I don’t really want to be a Stage Manager in a theatre setting. I’ve loved carrying out the standard SM tasks, like propping and organising, but dealing with flaky directors and hitting endless issues due to lack of planning; I’d rather not actually, if it’s all the same with you. I will always maintain my deep love of theatre, and my happiest memories will forever more include those generated during my time as backstage crew at York’s Joseph Rowntree Theatre, when I was still a teenager. Working as a Stage Manager in that environment now though? No thanks, I’ll continue my plan to head into music festivals as an SM and leave the theatre to someone else. I love going to festivals and the fast pace that stage management clearly work at appeals to me so much more than the often slow, staccato style of working which can grind a person down, after the 15th attempt to correctly carry out a simple task… I’ll still be more than happy to work in theatres as crew, but I feel confident that my post-graduate progression will not include theatre stage management.

Anyway, back to the show…

Another 4 p.m. call saw us unable to enter the backstage area when we arrived at the venue, due to Fish being up to something. The subterfuge was later revealed, when large bouquets were handed to the Director and other lovely lady of the cast. Jonno and I were given a thank you card each, which was nice; it’s fairly standard to not receive much praise for what we do, so it’s nice when it does happen. This isn’t an industry for those who need regular praise and pats on the head for good work; that comes from the self, with the knowledge that they’ve worked hard and created the best end result possible.

Still, it was nice to get a card…

The final show went ahead as expected; lots of family and friends again demonstrating their appreciation for the final outing from Fish, Leather, and Miriam. Last night speeches, as is traditional, saw the Landlady of the venue and the Director’s friend and assistant being thanked and given a large bouquet, with the usual other thanks from the Director for all and sundry. Jonno and I were missed out on this round of thanks, which was a slight poke in the eye, but that rather confirmed my earlier point; we don’t do this job for the praise, that’s for the performers to aim for. We do this work because we love it, because it’s what we love, even when we’re hating it. The long hours, the crazy requests and unreasonable demands is all a part of the work that we feel compelled to do. Even on the 16th hour of a shift which may have only seen one 5-minute break and now has feet that are audibly humming, I’d rather be doing this than working in an office. It’s where I know my progression after this ruddy degree lies, and I don’t mind if that means no thanks; I know I’ve done a good job, and that’s what matters.

As the lovely ladies enjoyed their post-show glow, circling the audience to bask in their personal glories, Jonno and I were busy striking the ‘set’ and gathering together everything that needed returning. The LEDs and associated cables were tidied, as were the numerous props and dressing items that were to return to college, or my house. Some were left for the Director to take on to further productions, and the car was loaded up with the smaller items that were mine. Plans were made for the return the following day to remove the larger items and after a long and strange week, I returned home to enjoy the last couple of hours of my Saturday night.

Sunday saw me returning to the venue to collect the bench, office chair, lectern, table, and LEDs and cables. The bench was dropped off en route to home and the rest came home with me, to be taken into college the following day.

And that was that. The crazy week for my work placement module was over and I had my life back again. Sort of. The return to degree stuff loomed ever more ominously and the events of the previous week were soon replaced with the ongoing plans and requirements of my course…

Fish Friday

 

Day 6 into my work placement and we’ve made it to Friday. TGIF doesn’t really apply here, but we did have a later call for today, which allowed a slighter slower paced start to the day, which was nice. Not needing to be at the venue until 4 p.m allowed me to catch up on some housework and see my youngest munchkin for more than 5 minutes.

After a pleasant, relaxed day, I arrived at the venue with some paper rose petals I’d bought earlier to replace the sequins from the previous night. The visual effect, as the sequins were thrown across the stage during one particularly silly part of the show, was great, by all accounts. Unfortunately, the high heeled Leather almost lost her footing on more than one occasion due to the slippery nature of the little discs of plastic. I did wonder if that would be an issue for the performers when I suggested them, but as with most of this show, it was a trial and error thing which didn’t work out. I returned to an earlier thought I’d had after seeing the part in question and knowing that flower petals would be ideal. Luckily for us all, Valentine’s Day was just around the corner and the purchase of cheap paper flower petals was no effort whatsoever.

I love it when propping is both cheap and easy…

I showed my latest acquisition to the Director and she loved them. Of course. If I have a good knowledge of the production I’m propping for, I generally don’t have a problem knowing what I need to source and, often how to do so too. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman of a certain age, maybe it’s because I’ve led the sort of life that has often necessitated resourcefulness, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I enjoy analysing a script, watching rehearsals progress, and heading out in search of weird and wonderful items to complete the props list. A regularly changing props list isn’t unusual throughout the earlier stages of the pre-production process, but doing so throughout the actual shows; that got a bit silly sometimes. It often felt that the show was being made us as we went along, despite it having been originally produced nearly 20 years ago. That said, I was able to keep up with the constant changes and alterations to the requirements and provided everything that was needed, and sometimes things that weren’t…

The show tonight went ahead to a much calmer audience than the previous night, but it ran smoothly, with the various alterations being successfully implemented and my scene changes smoother; after a request for Fish to take the half full wine bottle off stage with her.

A more notable event from this evening was the near fire that was only narrowly avoided after I noticed one of the napkins on a table was looking lop-sided and precariously close to the candle that was on the table. Indeed, upon closer inspection, the red napkin was found to have a small black scorch mark on it, and was dangerously close to causing a bit of bother, to say the least. Suffice to say, I kept an even closer eye on the tables until the dining guests started to arrive, after that incident.

The near miss from Mr Sands aside, it was a fairly uneventful day really. The show was OK, the audience were OK, everything was just, OK.

Final show tomorrow night and then it’s the final clear up and on to pastures new. In my case, it’s back to the harsh reality of my omnipresent dissertation; to try and regain focus on academia, and the numerous other, course related things that I need to get back to doing.

I never like to wish my life away but, my god, I will be so glad when I’ve finished this degree; I just want to do the job and not have to write about it all: is that too much to ask?

For now, yes, yes, it is.

 

 

 

 

Thirsty Thursday

It wasn’t really a liquid deprived day; the venue has been lovely and provided us each day with as much tea and coffee as we can quaff. And quaff it we have been doing; it’s starting to become a somewhat tiring week. The relentless changes to the script, cues, prop requirements and setting of items is proving to be quite tiresome, but everything for a reason… I’m not entirely sure what that reason is, but the lists keep being made, alterations contained therein actioned and the show goes on, again, in yet another form. Never a dull moment on this job, I tell ye!

After making some publicity calls to the BBC and Hull Daily Mail, I felt more comfortable that I had made amends for my earlier misunderstanding which resulted in my not making all the desired publicity calls on Monday. The Director reeled off a long list of things to do and remind her about on the Sunday, but I wrongly assumed I was there in the capacity of stage manager and as such, not responsible for publicity work. I’d never had to do that sort of thing before and felt woefully unprepared for what I considered a rather important part of the entertainment industry; one which should be undertaken by trained professionals in order to work the system to the best advantage. Thankfully one of the lovely cast ladies explained the situation to the Director, whom she referred to as ‘old school’ in her expectations of a Stage Manager, and I was excused.

Sort of.

I think.

I felt awful when I realised my error, but I never expected to be responsible for publicising the show: I’d come into it at the last minute as a work placement student, as a Stage Manager. I didn’t expect to be responsible for the PR of a professional production, but the situation served to remind me of the need to be ready to perform whatever task the Director requests. Within reason, of course.

After the Director’s feeling were made clear to both myself and Jonno, who had his own situation to deal with, again due to a misunderstanding in responsibilities, we were able to begin another run through of the show with minimal fuss but with a few prop changes again; the sausage roll that had nearly choked Fish the night before was now a packet of crisps. Once again, I thought it was a good thing that the show was only running for a few days, lest the main character, Fish, would end up the size of a house.

The call I made to the local paper paid off with a visit from a photographer turning up just before the doors were opened to dining guests. The nice young man took plenty of publicity shots of the ladies in full costume, and a short video for inclusion on the Hull Daily Mail’s website. The Director seemed happy with this bit of publicity, whilst explaining she would make a call in the morning to their pet DJ at BBC Radio Humberside. It would have been easy for me to continue to feel like I had made a gross error which had cost the production dearly. However, I had simply made a small error due to a misunderstanding and miscommunication, but no real harm was done. As communication is an integral part of the Stage Manager’s role, however, I can use this experience to ensure I fully understand a Director’s requests and expectations before I head off with my initial lists of things to do.

The show itself didn’t run quite as smoothly as yesterday’s opening night, which was just typical. The changes in props made after last night’s show forced me to slow my scene change down to an even more carefully considered operation; I had to take off the smaller table with a now opened bottle of wine, plastic wine glasses, and plates still on it. Removing the 2 chairs after the table was off stage proved impossible in the time available before the next sound cue was forced to begin, due to the actors continuing their dialogue before the change was completed. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t generally happen due to a communications system (comms) and a Deputy Stage Manager (DSM) calling the cues and awaiting stage clearance from the Stage Manger before giving the next cue. However, I had no comms. I had no backstage video relay system to enable me to see what was happening on stage. I had no view of the stage during the performance at all in fact; I was running the show from behind the scenes blind. And it was a bit hairy at times!

Being unable to perform a simple scene change due to inadequate, or in this case, non-existent, communication with other departments, was a minor annoyance for me as I felt it impacted on my ability to perform my role to the high standard I always aim for. However, the situation was not a normal theatrical one, and as such, everyone involved accepted the inevitable issues that occurred and were forced to accept. I confused the Director when I walked onto the stage to remove a chair that was pushed close to my stage left exit last night, only to discover the actor hadn’t pushed it to its designated, reachable position tonight, and instead left me looking somewhat silly when I realised I couldn’t reach the chair without distracting the actors and audience alike, and had to slink back behind my curtain, empty handed. I grumbled via text message to Jonno about lack of comms and looking like an idiot for appearing to walk onto stage, only to walk back off again for no apparent reason, but the damage was done.

Grrr…

Thankfully, there was a packed audience which included many friends and family of the cast, who roared their way through the performance with endless laughing and clear appreciation of the performance taking place in front of them. My tricky scene change, with the open bottle of wine on a less-than-stable table, was noted by a member of the audience after the show, with a congratulations for not dropping anything. It’s a rare day that the efforts of a Stage Manager are noticed, and I took his compliment graciously before wandering off to tidy up the props, post-performance.

It’s been a strange day; I felt quite dejected and underappreciated as the day began; I didn’t enjoy feeling incapable or inadequate in my role, but I accepted the consequences of my misunderstanding and will learn from it. Flaky Directors are fairly commonplace in theatre and it’s a point I will do well to remember when working in theatrical situations in the future. Communication is everything as a Stage Manager, and the publicity situation of this week has shown my need to develop my skills in this area further. This was my first time working as a Stage Manager with professionals; I mistakenly assumed they would all know what I was there to do and would have other areas already covered, by sufficiently competent people. Never assume anything is perhaps one of the lessons I will take from this week’s experience.

The day started on a bit of a low but it absolutely picked up speed as the evening progressed, finishing on a high with a standing ovation for the three lovely ladies.

I went home and sorted my receipts for props into date order and detailed my expenditure.

Rock and roll baby, rock and roll…

Opening night…

Wednesday started with yet more changes to the production and elements therein; I was getting used to this style of direction very quickly.

I arrived and preset all the items I was able to, but there had been some changes made already: the bench that was being used at the bus stop had been replaced with 3 chairs, due to blocking issues mostly, and the table used in the wake scene was deemed too big and awkward for moving, and a smaller one sourced through the director. A music stand was requested, to symbolise a church pulpit area, but I offered the wooden lectern from college instead, which was very well received. I also provided a small office chair for Miriam to use from college stock, picking up my tutor’s stash of stage cigarettes whilst there also. These were tested by Fish but not only did they taste unpleasant, they also stank the place out worse than the fishy stench that was supposed to be clinging to her after working a double shift at the fish filleting factory. The ecig I had reluctantly bought was tried but also deemed unsuitable, due to the blue glowing tip, and despite the numerous variations of cigarette for Fish that we tried, she ended up using her own ecig during the performance. The whole stage cigarette thing became almost farcical, but trial and error are commonplace in the world of props, and I gave the director multiple options and left the final decision to her and the cast instead, as it should be. The savaloy sausage which replaced the sausage roll of the previous day was again realised to be unsuitable, as once again Fish entered the stage almost choking as she tried to eat and speak at the same time.

The opening night was performed to a packed audience, with no major issues on stage or the technical side of things. Jonno did a cracking job of operating lights, sound and AV, whilst I had a very easy show time as stage manager, with only a handful of small scene changes to carry out. It amused the cast to learn that I was also nervous, as the clock ticked ever closer to show time, but my fears are easily hidden away from the audience, unlike theirs. I checked and re checked the location of all props, pre-set items and setting cues in my script numerous times, before and during the performance, almost ritualistically. As I explained previously, I would ordinarily have settings lists to detail prop and furniture location and movement during a show. However, this production was changing on a daily basis, in all areas, and the small scale of it was such that only brief notes were really necessary for me to be able to carry out my job effectively.

I had survived my 1st experience of being a stage manager for a professional production with relative ease and felt confident that I had carried out the role in a professional and competent manner. Due to the nature of the show and venue, I was without comms or a video relay of the stage area, so was unable to have any visual cues for scene changes. Similarly, if anything happened on stage that needed my attention, I had no option but to wait for the next scene change for the opportunity to rectify the situation. Fish accidentally left her bag on stage at one point, before the slide show, but told me as she left the stage: I collected it from where she had left it and, after turning the projector on, returned it to her before her next entrance. I had no idea where the bag was situated, but was able to carry out my planned task and collect the bag in one fluid movement and get it back to Fish for her imminent entrance. My only communication with the stage side of the curtains was via text message to Jonno. However, he was considerably busier throughout the show than I was and I knew he simply wasn’t always able to respond quickly. This complete lack of visual feedback of the show was a little daunting, and would be unlikely to ever occur in professional theatre, but it was an opportunity for me to develop my confidence further. I was forced to work the show blind, with only my notes for guidance. I am constantly developing and improving my ability to write down everything too, even the inconsequential things, because I’m only human and I do sometimes forget. Writing the endless lists that I do whenever I stage manage a show affords me a comforting reassurance that I’m well prepared and capable of the job in hand. Surviving my 1st professional production as stage manager allowed me to sleep well tonight, comfortable in the knowledge that I was carrying out my role quite well, all things considered…

Tooosday…

Tuesday 7th February 2017

After a difficult day for the performers yesterday, Tuesday brought a more determined attitude and the rehearsals were much more productive. Due to issues with rehearsal space, our call was moved from midday to 5 o’ clock instead. That was great from my point of view as it meant I had more time to source the last few props that were needed. After scooting around a collection of shops, I was still missing some niggly items, but was feeling confident I could resolve them in time for opening night. I went into college to meet Jonno; he had decided to add some colour to the stage with the LEDs that are often used for outside jobs as they’re small. They are, however, unnaturally heavy and I couldn’t let him lug them up to rehearsals when I knew I was getting a lift. Armed with the lights, we arrived at the pub where the increasingly nervous performers were ready to run the show before trying for a dress run.

The 1st dress run through went well and we were all feeling upbeat and positive about the progress which was being made with each successive run through. The relentless changes to script and blocking was a constant source of minor annoyance for everyone, but it was all good experience of working with a director who clearly wasn’t entirely sure of science-of-sound-interior-1numerous aspects of the show and forced me to maintain the flexibility that is necessary for a successful stage manager. One such example is that of the bottle of wine that was needed for a prop. The director wanted a bottle of ‘cheap fizz’, and I knew she was wanting a corked bottle with the wire cage around the cork, like those on champagne bottles. However, despite trying to explain the reality of the cost of such bottles, it wasn’t until she went to the shop herself to buy such a bottle that she was forced to accept that the type of cork fixture was only available on more expensive bottles of champagne or sparkling wine. The decision was made to use the screw cap bottle of cheap fizz I had bought earlier, but I did provide a nice bottle bag and a Christmas gift bag for the items used in the show, to add to the overall effect of the emotional scene that they were in. It was a small item which only made a brief appearance in the show, but it was a situation which I have experienced before and expect to experience again in the future; the artistic vision of the director sometimes isn’t possible to be realised, due to budget or resources, or sometimes due to the forces of nature itself, but it is my job, as stage manager, to take all steps possible to meet the needs and desires of the director.

Another of the props which had to change was the chocolate eclair that Fish is seen eating during one section. The request was for a large éclair and I provided a large chocolate éclair. However, it was soon discovered that Fish was barely able to speak whilst shovelling the oversized cream cake into her mouth and a request for smaller eclairs was made. Similarly, the sausage roll that was being eaten by Fish as she enters was deemed too dry and caused issues with speech, so that was changed to a savaloy sausage. The issue of realistic cigarettes for Fish to be puffing on throughout the performance caused endless problems for me too; the joke shop ones nearly choked her, as she instinctively sucked instead of blew, and an ecig was requested. I had held off buying one of these as I was unsure of the colour of the tip and was being cautious with my budget. The director insisted it was tried, however, and I planned to buy one in the morning to take to the rehearsal.

Overall, today was a series of events which demonstrated the variety of problems that can arise from insufficient planning. It was also an excellent opportunity for me to show my skill in keeping calm and not taking it personally when the director doesn’t like a prop I’ve provided. I felt very much like I had been thrown in at the deep end of stage management and the expectations on me were quite significant. However, I was comfortable with the decisions I made and the props I had provided thus far and was confident I would find the final few items before tomorrow’s opening night.

McMonday

Monday 6th February 2017

Busy day today with lots to do. With a list of stuff to remember to do before I left the house and a shopping list, I headed into college after the school wp-1486419347072.jpgrun to continue my sourcing and to have my script heat bound. The somewhat basic rig, of half a dozen parcans, were in desperate need of some colour in them. I’d assured the very grateful ladies that I’d be OK to borrow some gels from college and would bob into the theatre in the morning to grab some suitable colours. With a collection of straw, amber and red gels, I collected a sound engineer I found wandering the grounds and headed off for a bus to the rehearsal. Jonno had stepped in to run the sound in the show after the previous sound engineer realised he’d double booked himself. After another quick whizz around a few shops to try and find some imitation cigarettes and comedy glasses, we got on a bus and headed off to rehearsal. I caught Jonno up to speed on the bus and after a quick cuppa at the godforsaken golden arches across the road, we pottered into the venue and began another day of lunacy.

It was a lovely, friendly atmosphere today, it’s a shame the performers were struggling to maintain their focus, but these things happen. Another personal issue befell one of the ladies during the morning, adding to an already struggling cast, but they all rallied around to continue. It was lovely to have another familiar face there too; even more so because he was more than happy to be there in a technical capacity.

Hurray, I could go back to being a stage manager!

As Jonno ran through the sound cues with the ladies, I could get my sewing kit out and sort out the fish oven glove that needed a few stitches in it to make it a smaller fit. There’s something strangely calming about hand sewing an item for a performer, it’s difficult to explain. From providing pencils for the endless script alterations to sourcing plastic fish and keeping ever expanding lists, it all feels natural for me. Struggling to route a PA system into a venue would make my brain crash and burn. Production elements, on the other hand… I like doing this sort of thing and I like to think I’m not too bad at it. A far cry from a professional stage manager, that goes without saying, but it was lovely to have my efforts noticed and appreciated. When the writer/director saw the table covered with props, it was so nice to be told that it ‘was a sign of a good stage manager’. I only got the list yesterday and most of it was now on the table in front of her. I love the challenge of sourcing random items for shows and this one is proving as silly as any.

That reminds me, I still need scotch eggs, a bible, and a Christmas card…

The focus of the group was fading and the performers agreed they all needed a breather away from the venue. At no time throughout the day were there any crossed words or moody moments, despite stress levels creeping ever higher, as the opening night draws ever closer. Having witnessed, and sometimes been a part of, numerous ‘altercations’ among performers whilst working shows at college, it was rather lovely to be working with professionals who respect and support their colleagues. The warmth and understanding shown by the 3 women is inspiring to see; in a world in the grip of hatred and misogyny, it’s refreshing to be around people with a hugely positive outlook, despite the difficult situations that the universe throws at them.

The play introduces us to Fish, a single mother working double shifts at the fish factory to provide for her relentless brood of 8, and Leather, the mistress of the managing director of a local business. They meet by chance at the bus stop and, along with Miriam, the alcoholic cuckquean wife, forge a friendship that transcends their respective grievances. The 3 women performing the piece, first performed in Hull 25 years ago, are real women with real lives and it comes off them all in waves. The strength of characters on stage is matched by that of the women off stage; it’s a pleasure to work with such a lovely group for my first experience as a stage manager for professionals and is a boost for my confidence. I know I won’t always be so lucky with jobs but it’s always nice to have a good one, and especially so for the first time.

My lift arrived just as everyone was winding down, to deliver another prop that I knew I could source easily-a wheeled computer chair. That was easy, I’d borrow one from college! Picking up a garden bench on the way home, I sat down and pulled out my list…

I still had a few pesky items to source and make, including the decorative fish for the black curtain behind the stage, a Christmas card to a lover, and some silly glasses. With half an hour before they closed, I whizzed off to Hobbycraft (other craft supplies shops are available) and scoured the shelves for a suitable material to make the decorative fish from. The sheets of A5 glittery papers were perfect and proved to be a big hit with the ladies. It took a while to draw and cut out each skeletal fish, but it was worth it when I took them into rehearsals the next day-the ladies loved them. A bit of sparkly glitter glue on the fish gloves gained appreciative comments too, which was lovely for me as I rarely think that my efforts have been anything special. As I detailed in my SWOT analysis and action plan that I laboured through earlier in the academic year, I have a low opinion of my abilities and worry that I’m not doing enough. After nipping into college and town first thing, then rehearsals, a late night whizz around the shops and a few hours devoted to cutting and blogging, I felt that I should probably go to bed; I’d have to do more tomorrow.

And I did…