During the Christmas Vacation of my first year (December 2015) I accompanied the University’s European Theatre Group as one of three Fresher Technicians (aka. Frechies). Whilst the tour took us around some amazing and beautiful cities in Europe, the quality of the venues we performed in occasionally left a lot to be desired. But maybe that’s just because I’m comparing them to the ADC back in Cambridge!
Queens College, Cambridge
We had our preview weekend at the Fitzpatrick theatre in Queens College which turned out to be an interesting affair partly due to the fact that the tech was done ad hoc whilst trying to figure the damn venue out but also due to some very strange access restrictions regarding what we could and could not do, assessed by the Queen’s Conferencing Department and enforced by the Porters. Fortunately their venue tech, another student by the name of Henry Dickie, was invaluable!
The venue features an interesting motorised dividing wall that acts as the safety curtain although lowering it in an emergency is presumably not a timely affair. Basically a proper theatre, the Fitz Pat features catwalks and an overhead gallery as well as blue/white workers, although deciphering the control pannel took some time.
First stop on the tour. Didn’t actually perform here but used the overnight as an excuse to go drinking that night and the following morning to explore the city & buy our secret santa presents ready for the chalet!
Performance in an old converted plague hospital that looked deceptively like a church (with its own bar). As it turns out, medieval plague hospitals aren’t the best venues to play host to a performance of Shakespeare; the stage was small, had little masking, few entrances, no SR wing and the tech booth (basically a small area prompt-side with temporary wooden partitions from the rest of the building) had zero visibility of the stage, a feature which particulary enthralled our lighting designer. It did have huge dressing/green room areas down a staircase below the stage however this was countered by the fact that the 63/3 power for the power cube had to be run from a cupboard downstairs trailing across the floor. Also there was no paging system to call the actors to stage when needed.
Since this was basically our dress as the performances in the Fitzpat were more like our techs there were a few rough edges, both from the actors and the techies. Of particular amusement was a sudden loud whining outburst from the radios we weere using for comms mid-performance. Sound wise, the venue had a set of subs and tops each side with a Yammaha QL3 and one of the Rio racks linked via Dante as control. Lovely. Lighting wise, we just used our own rig and power cube but had to have someone on radios standing by at their dimmers to control the houselights, which were either on/off with no dimming controls. Fun. Our trussing was rigged of theirs using gas genies which was just a pain and resulted in the front bar being skewed by about 15 degrees.
Ecole Internationale de Genève, Geneva
Of all the European venues we performed in, this was by far the nicest: lovely big wings, overhead galleries & catwalks, an actual SM’s desk, 2-ring intercom system and a lovely tech booth. Sound wise, Yamaha LS9 (which I personally loathe) and massively OTT L’acoustics line arrays at FOH with monitors on stage. Lighting wise, they had quite a nice rig with an ETC Element which we switched out for our Nomad Puck (with DMX Gadget) which ETC kindly sponsored us with.
I’ll admit – I can’t remember anything about this venue!
Chalet Wildhorn, Anzère
A weekend of rest and relaxation. We all went sledging on a nearby ski slope and had a few winter walks here and there.
Gymnasium de Burier, Montreaux
Interesting venue but also a dangerous one. A lethal overhead rigging gallery. Random “kill all” power switches dotted around the venue. An ‘aus’ lighting keyswitch which I accidentally turned whilst trying to turn out the houselights but which actually just kills all the power to everything everywhere in the venue. A control panel with a legend written in double-Dutch. A booth with a 15 & 35mm film projector.
Lighting wise ended up being a compromise of using their front wash with not much side lighting at all and our back bar of truss. Sound was just my laptop running QLab plugged into their sound system via a mini jack to phono cable. Simple but effective.
Aula Gymnasium Koeniz-Lerbermatt, Berne
Perhaps the most challenging venue that we visited, Bern turned out to be entirely analogue with no way of distributing DMX without us running loads of our own. We also had to run our own soccapex which had to be trailed free-hanging in the air from the tech balcony (no booth) to the grid with our front wash on, which thankfully we could fly in to ground level. On the plus side it had one of the nicest venue techs who was really helpful and apologetic for their outdated equipment which is apparently due an upgrade for 2016.
Lighting was rigged on their massive flying rigging grid above the audience for front wash and then our truss on gas genies for side & back light.
More sightseeing! Finally got to climb (get the lift up) the Eiffel Tower, and then went for a nice meal with the rest of the company.
Koelisse Theatre, Leuven
The Courtyard Theatre, London
More of a box than a theatre,
Odds & Sodds…
All of the people on tour were amazing; especially Sam our Lighting Designer, Ben the CLX, Cat the SM and Sheanna the PM. Ruth & Leah were the other two frechies and they’re now some of my closest friends in theatre. ETG played such an important part of my first term and was such an incredible experience. All the actors and prod. team were delightful. Thank you everyone.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the host families who provided accomodation for me. You were all lovely and it was such a fascinating experience spending time with you. Thank you!