Rankin reveals the magicians behind the scenes of the theater: “The audience would be shocked! | Theater

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TBehind the scenes heroes of London’s West End were documented by photographer Rankin in a portrait exhibition celebrating the resilience and creativity of the theater industry. Stage managers, technicians, storefronts, wardrobes, wigs, sound design, puppeteers and stage doormen are among those featured in Performance, alongside stars, directors and producers.

“Everyone who works in theater has a story to tell of their experience over the past 18 months, inspiring stories of hardship, persistence, patience, innovation, despair and joy,” Rankin said. The project, supported by the Society of London Theater, aimed to “celebrate the jewel in the crown of our unprecedented cultural sector – embodied in those countless faces and voices who form the backbone of London’s theater community and will be the iron launch of its post-Covid recovery. ”Proceeds from the performance will go to the Theater Artists Fund and London homeless youth charities.

Dario Cacioppo – chest of drawers, Les Misérables

We get the costumes ready and help the actors get in and out at ridiculous speeds, often in the dark with a headlamp. Some productions use a lot of velcro and poppers, but in Les Mis there are a lot of buttons and corsets, and jiggers – like a male corset – on the backs of pants and vests.

You are a cog in a giant wheel. It takes each person to make sure everything runs smoothly. And it gives you adrenaline and excitement – every night is a whole new experience and the audience will only ever see one performance. I wish the audience could see what goes on behind the scenes, it’s like a whole show with its own storylines in itself.

Ben Hart – Magic Consultant, Magic Goes Wrong

Ben Hart, Magic consultant for Magic Goes Wrong at the Apollo Theater in London. Photograph: Rankin

I started out as a show magician, but I started to invent my own tricks. And in the world of magic, it doesn’t take long for the news to spread.

I develop the equipment, design the accessories, organize the manufacture of the accessories, coach the actors who are not magicians, and take care of the technical imperatives of integrating magic into the scenography and the lighting design.

The average audience would be shocked if they saw just how complicated a machine it is behind the scenes, and what extreme precision it takes to run a show. I am sad that the audience cannot see this beautiful ballet unfold as well behind the scenes as on stage.

Alice Afflick-Mensah, Assistant Sound Director for Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theater, London.
Alice Afflick-Mensah, Assistant Sound Director for Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theater, London. Photograph: Rankin

Alice Afflick-Mensah – Deputy Head of Sound, Hamilton

I studied music technology in college, but didn’t know what to do. A friend who worked there told me to go see the theater world and get some professional experience, and I haven’t looked back since.

We come a few hours before the casting to do a full soundcheck. We make sure all microphones, speakers and other equipment are working. During the show, we control the amount of music and the amount of cast you hear.

No one really notices until something goes wrong. And then they realize that there is a real person who takes care of the sound. Behind the scenes, we are a huge team. We are all working to make the show happen.

Tinuke Craig, manager of Baylis at the Old Vicm, London.
Tinuke Craig, manager of Baylis at the Old Vic, London. Photograph: Rankin

Tinuke Craig – director, The Old Vic

I’m the oldest of a lot of kids and used to put on shows for them so I guess I started early. Now, there is no typical day. Maybe I’m reading plays, working with designers, or mentoring young people. Other times you’re in rehearsal – it’s the best, the most creative. I always forget how difficult a show was the second it ends.

The containment was really tough and we all panicked over how we were going to survive: 70% of our industry are independents. But the crazy treadmill is gone – which would have been liberating if we weren’t so worried about actually eating.

Sylvia Addison, West End Orchestra Contractor.
Sylvia Addison, West End Orchestra Contractor. Photograph: Rankin

Sylvia Addison – conductor, Phantom of the Opera (also works on Mary Poppins and Les Mis)

My job is to book musicians for the West End pit orchestras and then manage them on a day-to-day basis. Now we have all the Covid-related administration that we have to deal with, which is a lot of extra work. Musicians do a lateral flow test every day and if someone is positive we have to bring someone else in.

A live orchestra is essential for a show. He is there to support the scene. Pit orchestras are made up of very good musicians, but they are different animals from actors. It’s about the music, not the fame.

Liz Flint, vocal coach for Matilda the Musical at Cambridge Theater, London.
Liz Flint, vocal coach for Matilda the Musical at Cambridge Theater, London. Photograph: Rankin

Liz Flint – vocal coach, Matilda the Musical

I mainly deal with the voices of the children and adults of the cast, teaching them vocal techniques and how to maintain their vocal stamina. Audibility, articulation, clarity, projection, singing techniques. I teach them all about their voice because they run our show. Children are sponges, they take in information in a remarkably fast way, it’s so rewarding.

People think that children are magically able to speak on stage, and to be heard and understood. But there is a lot going on under these ducks swimming on this lake.

Pat Mitchell, stage gatekeeper for The Mousetrap at St Martin's Theater, London.
Pat Mitchell, stage gatekeeper for The Mousetrap at St Martin’s Theater, London. Photograph: Rankin

Pat Mitchell – stage doorman, The Mousetrap

I take care of the backstage, look after the needs of the actors and part of the team, manage the mail, keep the keys, ensure good harmony.

I try not to come into work in a bad mood. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t make a clown face and don’t play. But once they step outside the stage, no matter how stressful they’ve been, they may be in the right frame of mind to continue their work and enjoy it.

I worked in the theater for a very long time – as a stagehand, and I did the box office; I worked in the wardrobe. I like working in the theater and I feel appreciated.


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