A spotlight On Technical Theatre by Connor Strange

South Wales came alive to the sound of Panto in Winter 2019 with Jermin Productions’ dazzling production of Cinderella, seeing performances across Carmarthenshire & Neath Port Talbot. Performances were held in Port Talbot’s Princess Royal Theatre operated by NPT Theatres, Carmarthen’s Lyric Theatre and Llanelli’s Ffwrnes Theatre operated by Theatrau Sir Gar.

And that is where I come in!

In this article, I will be giving you an in depth look into the roles that I worked on through the course of the production, and how important technical theatre is in the world of pantomimes and theatrical productions.

But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Connor Strange, I’m from Ammanford in Carmarthenshire, and I was very fortunate to work on Jermin Productions’ Cinderella South Wales Tour as a Follow Spot Operator & Lighting Technician. I’ll go on to explain more about those roles later.

My journey into the world of technical theatre all started last year. I volunteered during Swansea Pride back in 2019. During this event, I met Mark & Nia Jermin for the first time which gave me an insight into the world of entertainment. This made me think about my future aspirations and made me eventually decide to want to pursue a career in technical theatre & drama. So, I made contact with Jermin Productions and expressed interest in working on their 2019 pantomime – Cinderella.

As someone who is relatively new to the world of technical theatre & drama, I was very excited to receive an email in August from Jermin Productions offering me a position on Cinderella. This was such an exciting moment for me as I had never worked on a professional production before. This gave me an opportunity to develop new skills and create connections in the entertainment industry.

Fast forward to November 2019 and it was time to start work on the most ambitious production that I have ever worked on – Cinderella. As with all major productions, first comes the get in. This involves bringing set pieces, costumes, lighting etc – everything that is paramount to a successful production. Then comes assembling sets, rigging lights, preparing costumes for cast & dancers.

As with any production, you need a team & I was very fortunate to have worked with an amazing team of people throughout my time working on Cinderella. This included Mark Jones who was Production Manager, he has overarching responsibility for the safety & security of cast, crew & equipment on site as well as ensuring that the pantomime runs successfully.

Other colleagues included Grace – Deputy Stage Manager who has similar responsibilities to Mark. Alice, Bryn and Jordan were Assistant Stage Managers. ASM’s are tasked with ensuring props are in their correct positions, costumes changes happen when they should and overall operation of the show.

Now earlier on, I mentioned a very important role that I held during the production – Follow Spot Operator.

For those that do not know, a follow spot operator operates a specialised stage lighting instrument known as a followspot. A followspot is any lighting instrument manually controlled by an operator during a performance. I worked alongside a second follow spot operator, Luke, where we both had to follow a professionally orchestrated cue sheet and following commands issued by stage management and lighting operations. All in all, the role of a follow spot was something that I had never done before but was a fascinating insight into lighting.

Technical theatre has such an important part to play in the running of a pantomime. There are so many elements involved behind the scenes to ensure a pantomime can run successfully & efficiently. These include the Lighting department, Stage Management, Sound & our Musical team. Without these departments and the people working in them, a pantomime could not exist. All of those elements work hand in hand, very much like parts in a car. Without one of those elements, the production does not work as efficiently.

But we must also pay tribute to the Cast, without the cast a pantomime could not exist either. Technical theatre combined with a cast ensures that a production works successfully and delivers a fantastic performance to the general public.

This year’s cast thrilled audiences across South Wales and gave amazing performances time and time again.

The cast of Cinderella:

Nicole Seabright – Cinderella

Adam Byard – JJ Buttons

Lewis Brimfield – The Prince

Jordan Bateman – Bree

Ryan Edmunds – Tree

Bethan Searle – Fairy Godmother

Working with this amazing cast has been an absolute pleasure & has been a real eye opener to how much work goes on to make a pantomime happen.

I spoke to some of our cast & crew about what they got out of working on Cinderella and their experiences working on a Jermin Productions pantomime. I also asked them what they would say to people wanting to start out in performing arts.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

“I got lots out of Cinderella, experience and social were my main ones! I hadn’t worked on a touring theatre show like this before, and I was really lucky to be offered a job by Jermin Productions. I learnt new ways of doing things, tips and tricks to make things easier and even a few life lessons! Socially, I made so many great friends, people I’d work with for the rest of my life. It can get difficult when you’re working together, living together and sharing rooms, but with Cinderella I didn’t get any of that.

If someone asked me if they should go into Theatre tech, I’d definitely say Yes! It’s good fun and you learn a lot of stuff on the job, so if you have a lot of experience beforehand it doesn’t matter! There’s a lot of variety in this industry, which means you can try out different jobs if you’re not sure what to do.” (Ollie Gordon-Rump, Lighting Operations/LX1 – Cinderella 2019)

“What I got from it? I got a great sense of accomplishment from doing Panto with Mark. It’s my second year working for him and it was an amazing experience. It was personal for me as I got to perform in my hometown and even in the place I went to uni. It was a brilliant cast and they are like my second my family. To work with people who were so dedicated and talented was just exceptional. The script was hilarious and we were allowed to add our personalities in the characters and give it our touch.

I’d say to never give up because if you really want something then keep going. I’m a simple boy from Port Talbot whom acts for living. Anything is possible if you believe. (Ryan Edmunds, Tree – Cinderella 2019)

South Wales will come alive once more to the sound of Panto with Jermin Productions’ Beauty and the Beast coming this Winter 2020.

Tickets are on sale right now for Beauty and the Beast in  Port Talbot’s Princess Royal Theatre, Carmarthen’s Lyric Theatre & Llanelli’s Ffwrnes Theatre.

Tickets and show times are available on: https://jerminproductions.co.uk/event/beauty-and-the-beast-pantomime-2020/

A big thank you to everyone who supported me in the creation of this article!

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