If you’d have asked me a week ago what the absolute last thing I could fathom doing in theatre was, I probably would have said “production management.”
But today, I’d say “set design.”
And that’s because, for whatever ass-backwards reason, I’ve suddenly become a set designer, a set builder, and a carpenter. I’m using phrases like “Flame-proof scaff-clad” and “18mm gold screws” and “polythene plastic sheeting” on a daily basis, and the result is that I’ve simply become some cross between a middle-aged construction worker and a complete nutter of a head-case.
Because, let’s be real, if there’s anything I’m decidedly not, it’s a set designer. Alright, sure, if you give me a drill and point to where I’m supposed to use it, there’s a 50/50 chance I won’t actually mame myself. But this scenography bullshit is hard.
Surprisingly, I was the most qualified for this job. I blame this on several production experiences in my college years, in which - quite by accident, mind you - I somehow ended up wielding various power tools when our hypothetical ‘set builders’ didn’t actually exist. Turns out, the several hours I spent hammering nails into drywall qualifies me to be the official Bad Host set designer/builder/fucker-up. To my extreme surprise, none of my teammates have ever seen a power drill, much less handled one (I’m disappointed in Heledd particularly - I expected more from a Welsh woman). Okay, actually, I’ll amend that: Paul has drilled things before. But that seems largely irrelevant at this point.
Effectively, I am responsible for THE SET. But here’s a small problem: remember all those woodworking classes they offered in primary school? I never took those. So, really, in order for this set to enter the plane of existence, I need to make best mates with a carpenter, and FAST.
Meanwhile, I would bet that the people at Travis Perkins would rather lend money to Bernie Madoff at this point than get one more phone call from me. Listen, guys, it’s a learning curve, alright? I’m just making sure that the one-hundred pounds I gave you is going to provide me with what I need to get this godforsaken set built already.
But, maybe I complain a bit too much. Really, if I’m honest, I do like a little dirty work sometimes - manual labour and all that. It feels nice to have something physical and imposing to show for hours of sweat, blood, tears, and a table saw. And hey, it’s skills, isn’t it? I mean, if I can pull this off, I’m pretty sure I can do anything (yes, even production management). Making this company work is going to involve doing lots and lots of things that nobody wants to do. But I think we’re all learning quite quickly that finding solid ground means treading through some mud first.
Luckily, we’ve all got wellies.