Recently I was lucky enough to be invited on a backstage tour of Salisbury Playhouse; two theatres in the centre of Salisbury that show many of their own productions as well as touring productions and events for the Salisbury International Arts Festival.
We started in the Salberg, the smaller of the two theatres, which seats 150. It is currently showing ‘And Then Come The Nightjars’, which was selected from 1500 scripts as winner of the Theatre503 Playwriting Award and received six Off West End nominations, including Best New Play. The Salberg is a really intimate venue, and I felt that you’d be completely immersed in the story if you watched a production here.
We made our way past the saddle and riding boots (ready for Clare Balding’s book signing) across the yard to the Scenery Workshop. We met Tim, Kat and Laura busy at work on all sorts of scenery including a coffin for the forthcoming production of Frankenstein and a rocky outcrop for the Christmas panto, Aladdin. The team are all highly skilled, having trained at theatre school. Tim talked us through the process of building the scenery and everything they have to take into consideration such as understanding how each piece will be used (will an actor be climbing on it?), whether they will have special effects such as water or lightening, and even which theatre it will be used in, because those in the Salberg require much more detail as the audience is so close.
We visited the Dressing Room used by some of the actors in the psychological thriller Night Must Fall, which is now on national tour. It is was really interesting to see all the 1930s costumes ready for the evening’s production and how the cast members make the space their own in the short time they are there.
Next was probably one of my favourite parts of the tour; Wardrobe.
Salisbury Playhouse is a production theatre, so they have their own costume department.
Just look at the detail on this wig!
The team had started getting ready for Aladdin, with these brightly coloured costumes.
They certainly stock hats for every occasion!
Eventually I managed to tear myself away and saw the Main House, a much bigger theatre than the Salberg, seating 517. I loved that we entered the Main House backstage – we saw the props table set up for the evening production of Night Must Fall, and all the walkways and rigging above us.
We were allowed on stage to see what it was like to see it from the actors’ perspective. I was astonished at the level of detail on the set and how far into the wings it goes so the audience can’t see backstage.
We even went up to the Control Room where the technicians operated all the sound and lighting equipment. It was fantastic to be up so high above the stage and seeing it from a whole new perspective.
To finish off our tour, we caught Living Spit (aka Howard Coggins and Stu Mcloughlin) deep into rehearsals for the forthcoming musical comedy, Frankenstein. Howard and Stu are actors with a passion for comedy, and this brand new production is their biggest show together.
When you are part of the audience, you never really think about all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. This tour really opened my eyes to all the incredibly skilled people that put so much effort in to every single production. It was also rather thrilling to hide in the wings, pretending I was about to go on stage!
Keep an eye on the Salisbury Playhouse website for details for forthcoming backstage tours.
Practical details about Salisbury Playhouse
Bookings: 01722 320 333
Address: Malthouse Lane, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP2 7RA
Thank you to Salisbury Playhouse for giving us the behind the scenes tour