top of page
  • Info OFS

A Whole Different Level Of Filthy

I didn't know a huge amount about Atlantis when I was originally approached for the job. It was an email from somebody that I knew here saying: ‘Hey, we remember you from two years ago, thought you were great, do you want to come back and do the show?’ And then a few days later I got another email saying: ‘Do you want to also come back and do the Christmas show?’ I was like yeah, sure!

I’m a stage manager/production manager. I spent the last 12 years in the industry, went to drama school, and started out as a performer. Once I left, I started my own theatre company. We were quite prolific, we toured like seven shows over five years. We did a lot of touring to non-traditional venues, so not just comedy clubs and theatres but also festivals and libraries. I think we once performed on the back of a lorry! So I'm quite into the weird and wonderful. I like making shows in places that you wouldn't expect.

I first came into the project during a production meeting where the premise was explained alongside the size of the cast and team. I was like, oh my! This is the biggest show I've worked on in terms of team size, but it really excited me. And also, I was excited to be told that I had an assistant stage manager, which is when you know it's going to be a beast of a production. It’s always really nice to have someone else in your corner.

The obvious and clear challenge for us backstage was the fact that we lost the set designer about five days in. My role changed – everyone's role changed at that point. They basically said: ‘What should we do? Do we get another designer? Or does anyone feel able to take this on?’ And so myself, Lucy (my assistant stage manager), Rachel, Danny, and Becs – we all knew what the director's vision was better than an outside designer would, so we just got it done. I remember us making that decision and being like, let's say goodbye to sleep! We weren’t just making a set in a theatre. Because it was a promenade piece, we were making a set in four, five, six different rooms. At one stage, it was going to be like 12! So actually, it was better than what it could have been.

For about eight days us five were on a mission to fill the place with stuff. And actually, if you're going to make any kind of set on a budget and in a short amount of time, this one was actually quite an easy one to do. It was like Oxford after a flood with rubbish everywhere. You don't have to make anything look nice, which would have been the bigger challenge. For us it was just like, let's find loads of stuff and get it all in the building and then we're going to work out where we will put it. We actually had a lovely time. All of us became hyper-vigilant to skips and palettes. If you walk past a skip, you look in it! We all met up the other day and were like, do you still look in skips? And I was like, I do still look in skips!

We were helped along the way by callouts. You probably got the ridiculous emails we sent, we sent them to everyone. ‘Has anyone got any watering cans, any pallets? Any old mattresses you don't want?!’ Because it was a flood we were after completely random stuff. That was the other challenge, if we borrowed something from someone and it wasn't already dirty, we'd have to either check with them that we could make it dirty, or give it back to them, because everything had to be filthy, a whole different level of filthy. Some of the stuff really did stink! But it all adds to the effect, doesn't it? People lent us things and we were also able to tap into local networks like Creation Theatre, The Story Museum, and Pegasus. They all lent us pieces of set, and in some cases gave us stuff. That was what was really lovely about it. When we reached out for help people were like: ‘Absolutely yes. How can we help you?’

We were doing all that while the rehearsals were happening. So I didn't do stage managing as I would normally do it. Normally I'd very much be in the room on the book, running the room, the rehearsal schedules and things, making sure everyone's alright, being communicated with. But this time I wasn't in the room at all, because we were building this set. I was aware that it was a hard job. We were doing 11-hour days, but we were having a really fun time. It never felt like, ‘Oh God, I'm coming into work and building sets, I don't want to do it, it's not my job.’ We all quite liked chucking our normal jobs in the bin for a bit and being like yeah, let's build a set!

If anyone in the building had a spare hour, they would come down and help us paint something, which was just magic. You wouldn't get that anywhere else. The Friday before show week, a load of us were staying late to get loads of the set done. It was one of our big nights to do it. We had all hands-on deck. But because we had so many rooms, we weren’t all working in the same room at once. And so I was in the main reception area of Crisis, putting sheets up and helping move some lights and speakers around. If we ever had to stay late, we stopped and had a Deliveroo together. So that big night I was like, ‘Oh I'll pop in and see if they're hungry yet.’ I remember walking in and Rachel was testing some lights, and that morning I had attached all of the decking. Everything was really starting to build. But the one thing that we had all been avoiding was the wood, the fake forest.

We'd been gathering loads of wood from parks and people's garden cutaways – that's the stuff that really stank – and we were like, oh God, how do we affix this? And Becs said, I'll have a little go. So we had left her there earlier, just having a look around and putting some stuff up, and I remember coming back in, there were these beautiful lights on the trees and Becs had built the whole forest! ‘You're a genius! Like how did you do that?!’ It had literally just sprung up in the hour and a half we’d been out of the room. At that point, we were all thinking, this set is going to look really cool! It was one of those moments where you realise what people can achieve when they work together.

We always forget how much a set helps the cast. If it's a really good set, they feel like they're gonna rock it because they're like: ‘Well, I only have to do half a job because people are going to be busy looking at this awesome thing behind me!’ Whereas if you've got a really rubbish set a cast can think: ‘Oh, I have to work so much harder, because I need to distract the audience from that.’ But the cast were like, ‘Oh yeah, this is cool.’ That to us was the best thing. They said it feels like we're really in the world now.


bottom of page