Recently I caught up with our new Production Implementation Manager, Anna Field for a chat. She brings with her stacks of theatre experience, a great friendly ‘vibe’ and a real passion for theatre.
Tell us a bit about you!
A bit about me…Ok, I’ve lived all over the place –last count I’ve had 22 different post codes. I’ve worked in amateur theatre, I’ve worked in professional theatre. I’ve worked in ballet, opera, straight plays, musicals and even a magic show! I’ve got a bonkers family, who I bore everybody senseless by telling them stories about them. My other half Tim works at the Curve and we met at the RSC. So my career has pretty much always been theatre. I’ve been really, really lucky.. Ooo, and I love a nice cake. I like baking and cooking. I can read music…occasionally, when I remember how. I just don’t like being bored. I’m really bad at being bored!
Your previous roles, have they all been backstage? What is your role here?
Yeah they have all been backstage. I’ve worked in props teams, running the shows rather than making props, I did that for about 8 years. I then moved more into stage crew. In between, I was a lighting tech for a while and I was rubbish, so I keep away from all that sort of stuff. So, then, it’s mainly been stage crewing for…the big guns are the RSC and Glyndebourne and then the Royal Opera House in Muscat which is in the Middle East. They opened a brand new opera house! We found out when we got there it was a really mixed bag of people, some who had been doing theatre for 20, 30 years who could, you know, rig stuff with their eyes shut, right from people who didn’t know what a pair of scissors was. So that was crackers going out there…And again that was all stage and props. I’ve done bits of stage managing but I’m not quite organised enough to keep up with it.
So here, my job, as far as I can tell, is to build the sets. So I get the designs from the designers, and then I have a chat with the designers and the directors and make sure that what I see is what they intend. So with some designers, they won’t have completely thought of the practicalities of what they want to do. So I make sure that what they come up with is actually feasible, within the budget, and then we work out how to build it! And then hopefully it looks like the model.
Cos my role is sort of new – I mean I’m taking over from Al but Al was only here 2 days a week; so as far as I can tell and I might be wrong, (and this will be one way of finding out if I’m wrong), is to try to build up the backstage a little bit. I think a lot of people see it as, not an inconvenience but there’s isn’t any razzamataz. So I’m trying to bring the excitement back into working backstage and putting on a show and that the backstage lot should be as valued as the actors. So I’m trying to get more people involved in, so when I found out from the designer of Breaking the Code that they needed a flyman, and apparently people who can ‘fly’ is a really rare thing in the society so I was like, right, I’m getting it out there now, I need a flyman, to do just a couple of cues, it might be more than a couple of cues now, but yeah, I’m trying to get people interested in backstage.
When did you start getting interested on theatre?
I was 4. Amdram, Stratford Amateur Operatics Society. My parents were involved there before I was born. They’ve both had their NODA long service awards, they’ve done it forever, like forty blah years. I started ‘dancing’ around in something when I was four and then I didn’t do anything again until I was nine, then I joined the drama group at Stratford Music Centre.. I played Frenchie in Grease, I looked like Margaret Thatcher, it was a terrible, terrible wig. Yeah so, always done theatre. Lord knows what I’d do if I needed a proper job! Not a clue.
What does theatre mean to you?
It should be exciting, that’s what theatre should be. Even if you are doing a very staid piece, it should still be exciting. It should still draw the audience in and make them think and send them away either thinking or exhilarated, or happy….There should be a definite something that they should get from the experience. If you come out of a theatre and you’ve gone ‘well that was ok’, then they’ve failed. You’ve wasted your money, they’ve wasted 6 weeks in rehearsal, you know even if you come out saying ‘that was awful!’ – why was it awful? At least you are thinking something, even if it’s negative.
What are looking forward to and what would you like to bring as Production Implementation Manager?
I am looking forward to stretching myself, finding out what I can and can’t do in a new environment. As long as I achieve what everybody wants from the design then surely I have won. But it’s going to be a really interesting road to get there. It’s problem solving – it’s trying to fix issues. The actors are expected to put in 6 weeks of rehearsal and a week of show. So I think the crew, with any luck, should embrace it for a week of tech and performance and go ‘I am part of this crew, I am part of this show and it’s gonna be amazing’ and not just go ‘I can only make Thursdays’. And I know that I am asking a lot of people because a lot of people can only make, for example, Thursdays. The more you do the more involved you are and the more you do, the more you feel worth something. It’s about making people feel worth something because its their hobby. If you are doing something for free you’ve gotta feel as if you are getting something out of it.
What has been your favourite theatre experience?
It was amazing it was Titus Andronicus in Japanese, it was part of the RSC complete works season and luckily I had a really good friend who explained the plot to me in English beforehand. They had subtitles, I didn’t need to read it, it was an astonishingly beautiful piece of theatre. So every time somebody got stabbed it was satin ribbons for miles and it was white steps that came down into the auditorium. So when Lavinia had her throat cut, her tongue cut out and her wrists cut it was just yards and yards and yards of beautiful satin ribbon just flowed down the steps as she bled everywhere. It was so simply done cos we were like, ‘It’s a white set, everybody dies, how on earth are we going to get it clean’ and we didn’t have to. It beautiful in really sad, sick kind of way!
I have to disappear I’m afraid. I have to dash off and start preparing the set for Dry Rot. We have 40 sheets of ply to stain!
Want to help Anna and the backstage crew with this season’s shows?
Contact our theatre office on 0116 254 2266!