It was Access all Areas for Nescot Performing Arts students on Monday 28th of Feb when they were given backstage passes to find out exactly what goes on behind the scenes at London’s National Theatre on the Southbank.
Students saw how teams of skilled technicians switch enormous, elaborate sets both swiftly and silently between scenes and productions. For first-year students, contemplating a future in the notoriously competitive industry, the trip helped broaden their concept of what a career in performing arts could entail.
‘It was the sheer size of it all which surprised me,’ said Charlotte Nye, 16, from Wallington, who went to Carshalton Girls School before coming to Nescot.
‘All the doors were enormous so they could fit the sets through and the rooms were like warehouses, linked by loads of corridors.’
The students saw ingenious machines designed to create snowstorms on stage before learning how up to three full sets could be loaded into the National’s huge drum revolve, one of only two in existence, which extends down five storeys below the River Thames to allow entire worlds to be created on the Theatre’s three stages.
‘You’d never dream all this was going on behind the scenes,’ said Hannah Jauregui, 16, from Reigate, who went to Reigate School.
‘It’s like finding out how a magic trick was performed.’
Students were also shown the full process of set building, from early wooden frames, to cladding, before painting, decorating and dressing complete the illusion.
‘It moves in a huge clockwise circle, through different rooms for all the processes. There’s so much work that goes into it.’ said Jennifer Reynolds, 16, from Carshalton, who went to Coombe Girls.
All the students agreed that the visit had been an eye-opener and put into context the skills they are learning on their course.
‘It makes me think, now, when we’re learning voice projection, I can see the sheer size of those rooms and realise that that’s what I’ve got to fill,’ said Ryan Cunnew, 17, from Epsom, who attended Beacon School.
With a full programme of events, performances and industry expert visits ahead of them the students, who are all now part of Nescot’s public performance group, UpStage Right, have embarked on a dramatic learning curve which will see them develop their skills to industry standard in two short years.
As part of UpStage Right, they will give a variety of public performances at events and venues across the region, working their way through backstage support, props and set design, lighting, costumes, writing, and directing as well as performing.
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