Ever since I have been heading out to the theatres across the North East region, both as a viewer and a reviewer, Live Theatre has had a massive grip on my senses.
The warmth I have felt as soon as I walk through the door, leading to one of the most intimate theatrical spaces is second to none.
I have always been a bit inquisitive, always trying to peak behind curtains and see what the production staff/actors are up to...what do all of these wires do?...and what about all of those buttons?
Well there is no better way to find out what happens behind the scenes, than having a tour...no ordinary tour either, Live Theatre is celebrating 40 years since Geoff Gillham, Val McLane and amongst others, actor Tim Healy had this great idea to capitalise on the great acting and production talent in the North East by laying the foundations and setting up the company, so this tour, a promenade one, is a warts and all trip down memory lane, to uncover all the little nuances...and to almost become part of the theatre itself.
Setting the scene is larger than life Deputy House Manager Michael Davis, a welcoming figure, always towering over you with a broad smile. He told us of his involvement from his early days to the now, splashing us with his humour as he brought to life the sounds and the smells of the theatre.
Michael's introduction told us that the main part of the building was once a bonded warehouse, with evidence still on show today of the history left behind. A tale of recent building works to one of the the main structural walls was brought up, with the operatives encountering a massive crack in the surface, with grain spilling out.
This led us onto the theatrical side of the tour, with Michael handing over the reigns to Live's excitable ushers who all proclaimed that a secret party was to begin. This is where our audience participation began and went well hand in hand with the company. The blowing up of balloons was our job, with the ushers dashing around and creating a great chaotic mess, saying great games were ahead.
We were then split up into four groups of 10, to begin a tour of the dressing rooms, with the zaniness that went on before it, we didn't know quite what to expect, so like excitable children we climbed the stairs to the awaiting rooms. Each different group had a specific actor recalling stories of their involvement with Live. Our particular actor was Abigail Moffatt, who used to work at Live and now a successful actor in her own right, she performed brilliantly, acting out a shy but enthusiastic character just about to set foot on stage for the first time. This brought about a sense of realism to the proceedings, that all of us soaked in. Moffatt's character informed us, that we would be ourselves going on stage to take part in the celebrations, and a spot of breaking your leg took place.
In the dressing room adjacent to ours we could hear loud tales being told to a very giggly audience, something that only another addition tour will let you take part in.
We were then led down the stairs, past the enticing Green Room, past lots of wires and buttons to the stage area. The stage was awash with chairs and stools that had been used in previous productions, again not sure what to expect we filed in with excitement. The ushers again were in an excitable mood and helped set the scene for what followed.
We sat down on our chosen seats and listened to more tales of the actors and production staff that started out and have graced the stage at Live. Some pre-recorded memories were played for us, interspersed with accounts from the live actors sitting in the audience seats, jogging their minds for gold titbits that had our ears pricking up for every last detail.
We were then hustled and bustled off the stage, after a theatrical emergency took place, leading our way to the unseen areas of the courtyard. This was the grand finale, where the whole cast took part in merriment, singing happy birthday and the unfurling of banners showing us all of the plays that have been performed and produced at Live.
This promenade tour has been born out of the creative minds of Annie Rigby (Unfolding Theatre) and Amy Golding (Theatre Auracaria), who have worked very hard on this task, brilliant stories (some maybe a little far fetched) and brilliant acting that made the 70 minutes just fly by. Live Witness is being performed twice a day until 25th May Michael Hunter