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05 May 2020

Behind the Scenes of the London Theatre of the Year with Christine, Head of Production

I’m Christine, Head of Production at Queens Theatre Hornchurch.

As Head of Production I am in charge of the backstage areas of the origination, set, costumes, props, lighting, sound and stage. It is my job to ensure the show goes on in time and on budget.  We are lucky at the Queen’s that we have been able to maintain a lot of the backstage areas. The sets are made in house in the workshop situated at the back of the theatre. Costume are sourced and made in the wardrobe department on the second floor. We also have a Company Stage Manager, Technical Manager and technicians who complete the team.

I joined the theatre full time three years ago. Previous to this I have worked in a number of theatres across the country. I had previously worked with Doug when I was Production Manager at Salisbury Playhouse.

Having volunteered to write April’s blog back in February little did I know where we would find ourselves. I had chosen April as it was going to be an exciting month for us opening a new musical which was then due to go on a short tour. As it stands the theatre is closed to the public and the show postponed to the autumn. Alongside this we had to make the painful decision to furlough all of the production team apart from myself. So I am now a team of one. As I write this I am sitting in my new office otherwise known as my front room. I am still working on the shows putting things in place ready for when everyone returns.

At the end of each year we need to undertake various stock takes across the building. One of these includes counting how many light bulbs we have. Normally this would fall to one of the technicians but this year it was one of my jobs. One of my first jobs in theatre was as Theatre Electrician so I am no stranger to counting light bulbs. It turns out we have 110 different types of bulb in the building. We have also started work on the panto it’s never too early. This year we are doing Aladdin. Richard Foxton is coming back as Designer having previously designed Robin Hood and Jack & The Beanstalk. Before the  lockdown and we had to furlough people we were able to have a zoom design meeting. The Designer creates a 1:25 scale model of the set so we can see how it is going to look. We also use this to cost up materials needed for the show to check that we can afford it. This first meeting is called a white card meeting. However Richard had put quite a bit of colour on the model. Once the show has been costed and we can afford it the Designer will then go on to create the final model this has more detail on it and it will be painted in the colours that you will see on stage.

As well as getting on with the forward planning for future shows I am also trying to finish off a number of small capital projects around the building. One project is to replace the small foyer stage and make it accessible to everyone. This has proved quite a challenge. Although the stage is only 50cm high the length of ramp needed for wheelchairs to access this turns out to be 6m long. So it has been a struggle to get it to fit. There is a distance of 7.50 between the silver pillars but by the time you add in a turning circle at the top and room to get on to the ramp at the bottom you run out of space. We think we have a solution but are going to mark it out in tape on the floor so we are all happy with the proposal before committing to spending the money.

As we start May and I look back on the month one of the strangest I can remember there have been some positives. I enjoy my one minute commute to my desk. I don’t miss the 1hr commute down the A12. I enjoy catching up with the rest of the non furloughed staff at our virtual zoom coffee break each afternoon. I miss the rest of my team. Ultimately I miss the Queens and being part of an amazing team creating fantastic work for everyone to enjoy.

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